Weird and Wonderful Trees of the World

Director and Landscape Architect, Mark Bentley returned from a recent trip to Portugal and shares with us a particularly strange looking tree he saw during his travels.

I recently spent a short break in the Lisbon and stumbled across this weird and wonderful looking tree! Located on a tight street corner in the Alfama area of the city, close to the Cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, I was amazed to see this tree with its gnarled trunk and roots nestled neatly into the cobbled street by the side of the historic E28 tramlines.

Elephant Tree Header

Transport this tree to England, with its protruding roots and uneven paving, its bulging trunk and gnarled branches, it would quite simply be in the way!

However, sat in its Western European home, in the historic cobbled streets leading to the 11th Century São Jorge Castle, this tree has been loving left to grow old and slump comfortably into its surroundings.

After some later research (how did we manage before Google?), I discovered the tree is a Phytolacca dioica, or commonly known as Ombú or Elephant Tree.  This massive deciduous tree in the Pokeweed Family is native to the Pampas of South America and will comfortably grow up to 18m tall. It is a fast growing tree with soft, spongy wood that makes it popular for bonsai growing because the wood is very easy to shape and train.

Ombu Elephant Tree

Written by Mark Bentley, Director, Encon Associates Limited

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