The Iris and the Cypress

by | Aug 11, 2020 | Love, Shorts | 0 comments

In memory of our own beautiful tree and the speculation surrounding its demise, I thought I would dig out a story I wrote over two years ago for a special person.

“Is it true?” She asked yesterday. Yes Habibti, it’s true😭

The Black Iris or Iris Nigricans is the national flower of Jordan. The Cypress tree or Cupressus sempervirens is native to Jordan and the surrounding countries of the Middle East.

The old tree had stood for over one hundred years in the centre of the village. Through the hottest summer days and the coldest of winter nights, it braved everything the desert climate could throw at it. In turn, it provided shade for the circle of ground below its giant branches. This small plot became fertile and rich in nutrients thanks to the shade offered by the giant tree.

One day, a small green shoot appeared in the rich sandy soil beneath the cover of the cypress. In the following weeks, the tiny plant grew, spreading its leaves with confidence until the culminated in a plump green bud. At the same time the fruit of the cypress began to mature into bunches of green spherical berries. Near the ground, the bud exploded into a flash of purple black as the sun rose one day and above, the berries on the tree swelled, shining in the bright glare.

Eventually the beautiful bloom shrivelled and gave way to a grey pod which opened spreading the tiny black seeds onto the soil below. At the same time the fruit grew heavy on the branches of the tree and gravity did its work as they cascaded to the ground. Both were picked up with relish by the ravenous birds, gorging themselves before the lean winter months.

One of each survived the aerial onslaught, the tiny iris seed burying itself deep in the soil surrounded by the roots of the giant tree and the cypress berry under the shelter of the Iris plant, each returning the favour to the other’s offspring.

By the time the plant had died back for the winter, exposing the cypress seed, the birds had left, and the shiny black sphere was spared.

A small entourage entered the village with much ceremony. Four heavily armed men accompanied a small boy who began to play under the Cypress. One of the men, a pale red headed Englishman, picked up the seed and pocketed it. As quickly as they had arrived, the group left speeding off in the armoured Land Cruiser. The village had been graced with a visit from the Prince of the country and no one had batted an eyelid.

Six months later, the young Englishman completed his tour of duty guarding the Royal Family and returned home to his temperate climate in the North East England. Sorting through the many gifts and souvenirs he had received from various members of the Royal household, he came across the small black ball that he had picked up in the village that day.

The ex soldier planted his find in the dark peaty soil on the Northumberland moors near to the northernmost outpost of the Roman Empire; Hadrian’s Wall, close to a huge indigenous Sycamore.

The following spring, the seed burst open in its black winter home and a pale fetus-like shoot gorged on the rich soil. Eventually the anaemic bud took on a bright green hue and broke the surface gaining identical twin leaves.

For the next thirty-five years, the shoot transformed, first into a sapling, then a strapping young tree and eventually a king, in sight of its indigenous queen. Travellers came from far and wide to see them, near to the ancient Roman monument, Arabian royalty in the heart of Christendom. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away,nestled in the tangled roots of the Cypress, the minuscule black Iris seed slept.

The huge digger arrived one morning and the operator jumped out removing his hard hat and scratching his head. “What do we do with this big fella? The boss said everything had to go for the new visitors centre”. His voice echoing in the wide Northumbrian valley. Returning to the machine, he fired up the engine. He selected the appropriate appendage, that with the chain saw attachment. Like a giant praying mantis, the contraption set about the regal invader. The peaceful moorland was penetrated with the buzz of the whining two stroke engine of the saw. As the creature reached high into the canopy, the top branches were the first to go. The majestic King was reduced to a pile of leaves, twigs and branches surrounding the thick naked trunk.

Needless to say, the errant operator never worked for the company again, having, single handed, destroyed one of the main attractions of the visitor centre. He was joined by his manager who had been late for work on the fateful morning of the tree’s destruction.


The lumber yard was filled with identical logs of sitka spruce like giant matchsticks in a box. However, in the corner, like a cuckoo in the nest, lay a stocky impostor, which even stripped of its bark outdid the pallid appearance of its pine cousins. The Chinese dealer recognised the wood immediately and offered way over the asking price for the piece, being many times more than the plain pine. This was still a fraction of its actual value, even in the raw state. When it was converted into furniture, it would make a tidy profit for the dealer.

The factory that made the exclusive furniture lay on the outskirts of Shanghai. The container was unloaded and a selection of timbers of all colours covered the yard. Inside, the factory was as clinical as a hospital ward. The huge cypress trunk was rendered into twenty identical sheets of rich brown timber planks. The cabinet makers could not believe the material they had to work with. It was like pure gold, like nothing the forests of China could have produced nor which could have been imported from the Middle East. They knew exactly what they were going to make as the order from the foreign King had been there waiting for the right raw material. When the dealer revealed the source of the wood, the head cabinetmaker exclaimed, “England? You have to be kidding!”

The telephone rang and the private secretary of the Royal household gave a beaming grin at the news from the Orient. He couldn’t wait to tell his Royal Highness.

The Chinese cabinetmaker sized up the beautiful pieces of rich timber and immediately visualised the end product. It fitted exactly with the Royal design, as if the King had known that this unique wood was going to arrive eventually when he designed the huge cabinet. Who could have predicted that a seed, shed in his country, from one of its indigenous trees, would thrive in a far off land in unsuitable soil and that the resulting tree would be felled in error producing this one off timber.

None of the workers at the factory had seen anything like the intricate work of craftsmanship that was loaded into the container bearing the coat of arms of the Jordanian Royal Family. The ceremony was personally attended by the King and an elderly foreigner with grey hair that had just a hint of copper. There was a broad grin on the handsome features of the monarch while there seemed to be tears in the eyes of his companion. The King rarely showed emotion, unlike his late father, but he was visibly shaken by by the final product of his childhood dream, over three decades earlier.

While the royal cabinet was being crafted, the tiny seed stirred within the roots of the giant tree. By the time the royal jet had landed with is priceless cargo, the new plant was in bud. The village received another visit from a royal entourage. The Princess begged the rugged bodyguard to excavate the beautiful plant with its green buds. Borrowing a shovel from the bemused villager, the soldier extricated the delicate bloom from its sandy home with the skill of a surgeon and cradled it all the way back to the Royal Palace.

“Abi! Abi!” The young Princess ran the length of the huge palace corridor to greet her father. “I’ve missed you so much!” The King scooped the tiny child in his arms and looking over her shoulder saw the awkward looking guard cradling the plant in his arms like a baby. His eyes then wandered over to the cabinet and tears came into his eyes. He knew where the Iris had come from. They were reunited at last.


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