3 DECEMBER 1948, Page 14

IT is almost traditional now-abouts for writers -on natural history

and diarists to refer to the catkins of the hazel nut, which indeed are wont to anticipate the spring by a wide interval. But there are a number of other bushes and trees which are quite as precocious; and they are today more than usually in evidence, especially in gardens, some of them, especially Garrya Elliptica, well worth growing, especially in the male form, for their catkins alone. The wealth of pollen is so excessive that the waste of a large percentage by untimely production does not matter. Another tree that rivals the hazel is the birch, which this year is already compact of catkins well advanced towards ripeness. There are several Latin tags about nature suggesting that nothing is in excess. What is most remarkable is on the other hand the enormity of the waste. Almost always on many plants a number of the male flowers precede the female and toss their pollen about before it is of any use even to bees. An exception in this regard is the ivy. It is the last to flower, and in the late warm weather gave the last bite of food to all manner of insects, including queen wasps and even butterflies, as well as flies.