Special Report – A Story of Jeju’s Trees Growing on Oreum Part 2
Date of report: 2016
Culture reporter: O Yeon-suk
Where should we go to find berries that grow from trees? The answer is “Visit Mt. Halla.” Cousa dogwood gros anywhere in the mountain. If you feel like visiting a road sidelined with the trees, I recommend the Gyorae Intersection. The trees are aligned from the Gat Museum, passing by the Jeju Stone Park, reaching the Daeheul Intersection. They recently have red-ripen fruits dangling, offering an amusing sight for visitors. As its fruits resemble strawberries, Koreans call it ‘Santtal Namu (a strawberry tree in the mountain)’.
Cousa dogwood belongs to the Cornus kousa family, a deciduous arborescent that grows to 6 to 10 meters high. Its green leaves looking up to the sky have white flower-like spots, which are in fact the calyxes that were originally leaves before being decolored. Four white calyxes have 20 to 30 blossoms bud in groups, as if they were one big flower, which represents an evolution to attract pollinating insects. The calyxes turn from green to white gradually. The four calyxes are overlapped to form a cross-like shape, giving the tree a nickname of ‘a cross tree’. An old tale says that this tree was used to make the cross where Jesus Christ was iron picked. To my surprise, Christians consider the tree holy as its flowers look similar to the True Cross.
Hiking the mountain, you may have wondered, saying, “What are those white butterflies covering that tree over there?” This tree would be the answer to your question. From late May to early June, people are surprised with an awe by the scene as if a tree is perched with white butterflies. The innocent and clear view brings great pleasure to the hikers.
The bark has quinine, a medicinal substance used to make fever reducer, invigorant, and antidiarrhea. Having clearly marked patterns and growth rings with a smooth texture, it is widely used for furniture. The strong and sturdy feature makes it a good material for drums, agricultural tools, sticks, hammers, and pounders. It is even used to make woodwind instruments (i.e. oboe, flute, etc.).
It is beautiful not just when blooming blossoms but also when growing fruits. In a sense, its fruit looks like the planet where ‘Petit Prince’ lived. They will also remind you of a soccer ball, or a bat for Dokkaebi (a Korean traditional goblin). Growing with crane-like pedicellus makes it look a big arrogant as it creates a unique view of soaring fruits. Turning from green to orange gradually, the fruit suddenly burns under the autumn sunlight. When turning burning red, it still stretches upward, falling reluctantly beneath the leaves in late autumn. A strong-minded tree, isn’t it? Fruits of American breeds grow downward and look similar to jujube, which makes it more distinguishable from the Korean one.
The fruits that fall from the tree look, when placed on the palm, as if they are strawberries. The sweet juicy fruit is especially favored by birds. The fruits eaten by birds are digested well, with the solid cover gets softened with acids. It is helpful for both the birds and the trees to prosper.