This year we saw eight Sully trees that we hadn’t seen before; two of these were trees we hadn’t known about before: a kind and knowledgeable lady in the Egletons (Correze) Tourist Office told us about them. We also saw the lime tree at Menoire (also Correze) which had been planted a few years ago by the community to replace their Sully tree which died earlier this century. Ah, exciting times.However, these sights threw up more questions. We are used to lime trees and their symbolism and we know about some elms although we’ve only seen one from Sully’s time that was till alive. However, four of these trees, all of which are claimed to be Sully trees, are oaks. These are the trees in Murat, Puyhabilier, Sounit, and Tarnac (all in Correze). We’ve only ever seen one Sully oak before this and that was in the middle of a forest; I had assumed it was a survivor of a replanted forest from that epoque. But these four oaks pose a question. Did Sully simply tell communities to plant a lime tree or an oak, or even an elm? That’s what some people in Correze think.I’m just not sure. Oak trees live a long time and I would have expected there to be more of them surviving if the choice had been left to the communities. And elm trees are notoriously susceptible to disease as well as being inappropriate trees to plant to celebrate peace between religions; so I wouldn’t have expected elms to have been a popular choice. They were, after all, trees of war, used for making gun carriages. As I keep saying, more research is needed - and by someone whose French is better than mine.The villages in Correze seem to look after their trees better than most. At Bonnefond, for example. Many communities would have chopped it down by now. But here, it has been carefully pruned, the trunk is supported by being filled with concrete and boulders, and the branches are held together by metal ropes. This tree is treasured.Three plaques excited me particularly though they are confusing rather than enlightening. None tells the whole story but they all provide bits of the jigsaw. The one at Puyhabilier (Correze) interested me particularly. It states what I have thought for some time though I can’t remember ever seeing it stated before. According to this plaque, Sully ordered every community to plant a tree. The reason given here is that it marks France’s attachment to the land and agriculture. I’ve never seen that reason suggested before, though the bit about tillage and pasturage being the two breasts of France is a well-known quotation from Sully of course. But what has the planting of a tree got to do with either of them? No mention of the Edict of Nantes. And why the three trees, limes, oaks and elms? What about all the other reasons for planting these trees that other communities think were true?The plaque of St-Pierre-d’Exideuil (Vienne) tells a quite different story and one I’ve seen often in my travels. There is a theory that these individual trees were all planted to celebrate the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes which ended the Religious Wars, at least for the time being. But, as we know, other communities have claimed other reasons for their trees.But the Montalembert (Deux-Sevres) plaque muddies the waters again. Same quotation about tillage and pasturage and general remarks about all the trees planted under Sully’s orders. This community thinks most of them were elms or limes. Well, we know Sully ordered trees to be planted for at least four reasons. He wanted forests to be replanted after many had been partly destroyed. He planted trees alongside roads for shade. He wanted elms to be planted in order to ensure enough wood was available in the future for gun carriages. And he ordered communities to plant a tree in a place of importance, usually next to the church; these are the ones that interest me. But this plaque becomes very vague at that point and mentions just limes and elms. (The rest of the text, by the way, is little more than an advertisement for a book written by a local man.)So, there you have it. Or, rather you don’t. Confusing, isn’t it? We have added the new trees to our photo gallery.
Below are photos of the tree at Bonnefond and the plaque by the tree at Murat.