Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Bastard Tree

Our local poetry group, 'Guernsey Poets', has an open mic evening once a month. This evening's event was themed 'Trees'. Initially I thought about writing a poem on the beauty of trees or the horrific impact of deforestation or even the importance of trees as the lungs of the Earth but as I was putting pen to paper a vivid memory of a particular tree came to mind.

As a young Captain I was lucky enough to serve in Belize (Central America). I spent some time working in the Jungle near the Guatemalan border. It was here that I first met a tree, known colloquially as the Bastard Tree. The following poem explains all;

The Bastard Tree

‘The path knows to avoid me
It skirts my trunk as if to flee.
Its muddy course bending round
my fallen leaves upon the ground.

The steep slopes I enjoy the most
as better vistas they do boast.
It’s here I get a chance to play
a little game upon my prey.

My trunks a mass of needled spikes
A bit like ancient soldiers pikes.
I’ll catch anyone who deigns to touch
and they won’t like it very much.

Here he comes; his feet are slipping
my unseen roots prepare to trip him.
He reaches out to stop the fall
And that is when I hear him call.’

‘Yep that’s me….’

John Carré Buchanan
18 May 2011


  1. what is its real name?

  2. Hi, I believe the tree is also known as a 'give and take tree' as it can both inflict and relieve pain, The leaves have a sticky substance which can reduce pain, bleeding and infection. If I have the right tree it is the; Chrysophila argentea, PALMAE. But I am not an expert.

  3. i remember this tree very well painful memories, but you can also eat the inner core of the tree as well.

    1. Dear Anon, Thank you for your input. I did not know that the tree was edible, although I am aware that a number of palm trees do have edible cores. Fortunately when I was in the jungle I did not have to resort to eating the trees, that said I did eat a number of interesting meals whilst in Belize including, Wild Pig, Armadillo, Gibnut (Agouti Paca),Parrot, Turtle, Snake and a whole bunch of cooked insects. Oh those were the days;-)

  4. My troop completing Jungle survival training in Belize so bastard trees, fire ants, and the fer-de-lance, bring back memory of hot humid days, snake that taste like chicken and our trainer Winston Henry a Mayan who taught us to see the jungle as a supermarket and to be honest was always more tasty than the ratpacks and also had the added advantage of not leaving you bunged up, if you know what I mean.

    Although it is well over 20 years +++ ago as the years have tumbled by I still look back with fond memories of Belize, the jungle, the friendships with the BDF and the long sugar cane machete which was so much better than our standard issue, dive that was the Rose Garden and the rain that just appeared to bounce back up, Dam I loved Belize so much better than a tour of NI

    1. I remember Winston sharp eyes and great fun.

      I was there around 1991/2 and I had a ball. Tours was back to back with NI. Loved time out on San Pedro and Mountain Equestrian Trails. Oh how I miss those days.

  5. I was there in early 90 I miss those days as well, care free youth and future unworried, without morgage children and the weight of responsibility.

    I was a grunt not in the class of the officer back then so my off was fuelled by pelican beer and trips to the keys.

    After more than 8 yrs at uni and more letters behind my name than in my name i pay thanks to the education officer at my corporals exam that recognised my dyslexia for what it was and did not just label me thick as all the rest had done.

    The dreams i have about my days seem small payment for that label the education officer gave me that allowed me to over come my biggest hurdle.

    I really liked the Bastard tree i hope you have done more.

    1. Paul, If you check out http://johncbuchanan.blogspot.com/ you will find more of my work. Check out the Archive page.

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