Monday, June 2, 2008

Sometime "Pretty" just isn't worth it...

You'd think we'd love this time of year, when the Hawthorne trees bloom. We have 5 of these trees on our property! Aren't they lovely? They really are quite pretty to look at, and each little white flower becomes an equally pretty little red berry that are wonderful to see during the cold winter.

Alas, all is not what it seems with these beautiful trees.

It took me a while to figure it all out. For the first three or four Springs we lived here I smelled "a smell" that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Truth be told, I thought a raccoon had crawled up in to the rafters of our garage and died. Every time we would walk out the door for about 2 weeks each Spring the assault was striking. "Oh My God, do you smell that? I tell you, something has died around here!" Then, like magic, the smell would disappear. One day it would just be gone. I wouldn't think about it again until the next Spring... and like clockwork, "WTF is that smell??? It smells like death."

I think it was year 4 in the house that I was pulling weeds in the back yard and stood up to stretch and take a deep breath - right next to a branch of a Hawthorne tree in our back yard. I almost gagged - it's the TREE that smells like that? Those pretty flowers? Oh Good Lord! Are you kidding me? How can something so attractive smell like putrid, rotting flesh? So, I turn to the internet. I need to find out what is up with these things, I think our tree guy called it Hawthorn once... I'll start there.

Turns out, Hawthorn trees have a very myth filled past. The traditional may flower garlands were made from hawthorn branches, and faeries are believed to live in their boughs. People used to decorate their doorways with them. They are believed to be what Christ's Crown of Thorns was made of, and their leaves and berries are still used in Chinese medicines to this day. (Good for lowering blood pressure.) All fine and dandy, I thought, but didn't anyone ever notice the odor? Then I found this:

Medieval country folk also asserted that the smell of hawthorn blossom was just like the smell of the Great Plague in London. Botanists later discovered that the chemical trimethylamine present in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue. In the past, when corpses would have been kept in the house for several days prior to burial, people would have been very familiar with the smell of death, so it is hardly surprising that hawthorn blossom was so unwelcome in the house

Ah ha! I'm not crazy - it literally does smell like something died out there! Vindicated! Husband can no longer roll his eyes at my description - and he should actually be happy that I'm not going to make him rip down the dry wall on the ceiling of the garage to locate the fictitious dead rodents.

For 10-15 days each Spring my neighbors and I are treated to the smell of the Great Plague each time we leave our homes. Very nice! And, of course, it is considered very bad luck to chop down a hawthorn tree... I suppose because of some faerie curse.
Who The F$%k keep planting these things?
On purpose.
Knowing what they smell like every Spring?
(Other than the guy that lived here before us - who probably ended up selling the house because he was afraid to cut the trees down and couldn't live with the odor every year.)


Colleen O said...

Wow - it makes me appreciate my Choke Cherry!

Mrs. Kravitz said...

I think I'll go outside right now and take a deep breath. Ahh... spring in the cul-de-sac! I can live with the temporary smell though, because you know how much I love the berries in the fall and winter!

ganelle said...

And, don't the berries bring birds? Who poop all over?

A gem of a tree...

(But, they are really pretty.)

OHN said...

Found you through sitting in silence and about died when I read this post. We have one right beside our garage and just two weeks ago I asked my husband if he found a rotting animal anywhere because of the smell....the tree has always smelled funky in the spring but this year was the WORST!