Ombu Trees


Far Away and Long Ago, by W. H. Hudson, is the second book I read for Melissa’s Expanding Horizons challenge. I really enjoyed the book, and look forward to reading some of his other works, which includes the novel Green Mansions. I vaguely remember watching that movie ages ago, starring a very young and beautiful Audrey Hepburn.

Yesterday I posted about Far Away and Long Ago, his memoirs of his childhood in Argentina, and mentioned that Hudson’s birthplace was an estancia in Argentina named “Los Veinte-cinco Ombues,” which means “The Twenty-five Ombu Trees.” I had never heard of an ombu tree until I read this book, and I loved his description of them, so I went searching for photographs. What amazing trees!

The house where I was born, on the South American pampas, was quaintly named Los Veinte-cinco Ombues, which means “The Twenty-five Ombu Trees,” there being just twenty-five of these indigenous trees–gigantic in size, and standing wide apart in a row about 400 yards long. The ombu is a very singular tree indeed, and being the only representative of tree-vegetation, natural to the soil, on those great level plains, and having also many curious superstitions connected with it, it is a romance in itself. It belongs to the rare Phytolacca family, and has an immense girth — forty or fifty feet in some cases; at the same time the wood is so soft and spongy that it can be cut into with a knife, and is utterly unfit for firewood, for when cut up it refuses to dry, but simply rots away like a ripe water-melon. It also grows slowly, and its leaves, which are large, glossy and deep green, like laurel leaves, are poisonous; and because of its uselessness it will probably become extinct. Like the graceful pampas grass in the same region. In this exceedingly practical age men quickly lay the axe at the root of things which, in their view, only cumber the ground; but before other trees had been planted the antiquated and grand-looking ombu had its uses; it served as a gigantic landmark to the traveller on the great monotonous plains, and also afforded refreshing shade to man and horse in summer… 

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5 thoughts on “Ombu Trees

  1. Robin

    Nymeth, I keep asking myself if I saw some of them when I was in Argentina forty years ago, but I don’t remember! I’d love to see them now that I know about them!

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  2. Gentle Reader

    I read Green Mansions years ago, and was just thinking about it the other day, trying to remember what it was about. How funny that you mention it! I’ll have to dig it out and reread…

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  3. Robin

    Gentle Reader, I’d love to read Green Mansions, and have ordered it from the library.

    Hi Heather. They are amazing, aren’t they!

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