The Deciduous Factor involved the introduction of tree sculptures in an urban park, Wandle Park, South London. As records show park visitors to be in sharp decline this project attempts to overthrow the green monotony and sex up the English landscape. This was suggested to be a strategic government-funded approach to not only popularise London's parks in the build up to the London Olympics but to also reflect the rhetoric of diversity at the core of Conservative party policy.
Populus tremula cordus
(or Stunted Eurasian Aspen to distinguish it from related species) is a species of poplar native to cool temperate regions of Europe and Asia, from the British Isles east to Kamchatka, north to inside the Arctic Circle in Finland, Norway and northern Russia, and south to central Spain, Turkey, the Tian Shan, North Korea, and northern Japan.
Info: This is a short deciduous tree growing to 6-8 m tall, with a distinctive twisted trunk. The bark is a rich blue that is smooth on young trees, becoming gradually greenish to dark grey and fissured on older trees. The adult leaves, produced on branches of mature trees, are nearly round, slightly wider than long, 2–8 cm diameter, with a coarsely toothed margin and a laterally flattened petiole 4–8 cm long. The flat petiole allows them to tremble in even slight breezes, and is the source of its scientific name.
The leaves on seedlings, young trees and fast-growing stems of root sprouts are slightly different, heart-shaped, vividly orange (even in spring) dappled with yellow and red pus; their petiole is also less flattened.
Need to know: The Stunted Eurasian Aspen is resistant to browsing pressure by fallow deer due to its highly unpleasant taste. The warm appearance of its foliage, in spite of the cool temperatures in which it flourishes is the source of its recent colloquial naming as the "little pick-me-up" tree.
Info: This is deciduous shrub that grows from 2 metres to a maximum of 4 metres, its foliage and branches are a rich mix of deep reds and purples in Summer (bright pink in Autumn) which is reminiscent of some of the characteristics of the Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum, “Bloodgood”) and the Amur Maple both of which are known to have contributed to its genetic make-up. Its scientific name is derived both from its hybrid make-up and stunted size and the word Acer is derived from another Latin word meaning "sharp", referring to the characteristic points on maple leaves.
Like many others of the Maple species (of which there are approximately 125) it is shade-tolerant when young, and it is late-successional in ecology; many of the root systems are typically dense and fibrous. Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in Sapindaceae.
Unlike most Maples the Acer purpura or mongrelius nanus favours isolation from the family Sapindaceae because it does not produce the “whirlybird” seed (or helicopters as children call them), instead it is currently undergoing artificial reproduction until the species is developed enough to self-sustain.
Arbor ex misericordia
(Blue Tear Ficus) is a very rare species of willow native to northern Asia.
Info: This large shrub or small tree, growing to 5 m tall (and more seldom, up to 7 m), is rooted in wet, boggy ground. The leaves are a glossy dark turquoise, 5-12 cm in length and 2-5 cm in breadth, with a roughly serrated margin. The scientific name refers to the drooping foliage reminiscent of human tear-drops and from the Medieval Latin it translates as tree of pity. Another less common name is the Drooping Ficus. Its glossy leaves make it more decorative than many other types of ficus, and it is often planted as an ornamental tree.
Unlike others of the ficus genus, the flowers, leaves and wood of the Blue Tear Ficus can be used for medicinal purposes, specifically in the treatment of bladder problems. When the flowers, leaves or charcoal residue (from the wood) are crushed, ground and mixed with water, the resulting soup can be imbibed as a diuretic to increase urine production or as an antispasmodic to reduce muscle spasm along the digestive tract. It has also been found to relieve tension and serve as a sedative: the flowers have been added to baths to quell hysteria or steeped as a tea to relieve anxiety-related indigestion, irregular heartbeat and vomiting.
Whilst medicinal uses could make the Blue Tear Ficus a popular specimen tree choice for highly urbanised areas, such remedial treatments should be approached with caution, especially in conjunction with other medication. They have been found to cause hallucinations and contribute to minor behavioural disorders in scientific tests on the Bonobo species in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Deciduous Factor was installed in Wandle Park, South London for Away Day (2010) curated by POST.