The Pattern Still Remains

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Silver Pinecones

Among the most popular Christmas decorations - along with holly or mistletoe - are the pine cones, which are used in their natural state, or are painted in bright colors, or in silver or gold. There is an interesting German legend which explains the origin of the pine cone, widely used at Christmastime. It tells of a poor woman climbing a mountain to pick up pine cones for fuel. She was approached by an elf who told her to “take only the pine cones under this tree.” The good woman picked up the cones indicated and when she arrived home she found that they had all turned to pure silver. Thus, the silver pine cone which we all know today. 

- Sunshine Magazine. The Toastmaster’s Treasure Chest by Herbert V. Prochonow, 1979.

Tree Revenge

I heard of a huge tree in Rhodesia in the 1950s that filled with methane gas generated by decay and blew up its occupants when one of them rashly lit a cigarette.

The Remarkable Baobab by Thomas Pakenham, 2004.

Baobab Fruit

We now know that the baobab’s fruit was on sale in the market in Cairo as early as the 16th century, apparently brought by the slave caravans from the Sudan far to the south… The seeds are like small black beans and are delicious if first roasted. The white pulp which protects the seeds made a sherbet-like drink rich in vitamin C…. If you needed fresh salad, you could eat both the elegant white flower and the pale green foliage.

The Remarkable Baobab by Thomas Pakenham, 2004.

Ginkgo

It may be remarked in passing that the name “ginkgo" is not a genuine Chinese word, even if it sounds like one. Doctor Kaempfer knew that the Chinese word gin means "silver," and he thought that ginkgo meant "silver apricot," a name which might well be given to the seed of the tree. But there is no such word in Chinese; in fact the Chinese poets of the Middle Ages used the rather unpoetical name of "duck’s foot tree."

Dragons in Amber by Willy Ley, 1951.

Hippomane

With the milky juice of this tree the Indians poison their arrows; the dew-drops which fall from it are so caustic as to blister the skin and produce dangerous ulcers; whence may have found their death by sleeping under its shade.

Salamanders and Other Wonders by Willy Ley, 1955.

Dodo Tree

Although records show that the Dodo Tree (Calvaria major) was common on the island Mauritius when Europeans first arrived, there is no evidence that a single new tree has appeared since the extinction of the Dodo in 1680. Although fruit and seed continue to grow on the 13 remaining 300 to 400 year old trees, no sapling has ever been produced, and the trees are nearing the end of their life span.

The Doomsday Book of Animals by David Day, 1981.

Coffee

The annual harvest of an entire coffee tree is required for a single pound of ground coffee. Every tree bears six pounds of beans, which are reduced to a pound after the beans are roasted and ground.

Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts, 1979.