If you’re asked to think of a tree, the first words that might pop up in your mind are ‘tall’ or ‘green’. In fact, throughout much of your childhood, that is probably how you thought of trees – tall, green things to climb on or to hang rope swings from. We are so used to characterizing trees by their colour that we’ve just assigned the word ‘greenery’ to vegetation, even though the word could have been used to depict any general green-ness of things. No other colour has an equivalent word associated with it, not even blue. Which is strange, considering the fact that blue is clearly the dominant colour of this planet – it even has the moniker ‘the Blue Planet’.
What if trees didn’t have to be green? There isn’t anything wrong with green per se. But how nice do deciduous trees look in autumn? Although it’s just a shift in the colour palette from green to orange, the change is just beautiful to behold. Autumn has clearly left a sizeable impact on us humans, seeing as it seems to bring out our poetic side. John Keats’ Ode To Autumn, Shakespeare’s sonnets are just some of the countless poems and literary works written on the subject. But even autumn is tainted with death and passing, as the brilliant coloured leaves fall at its close, leaving the tree bare and empty.
What if the leaves didn’t have to be of a single colour? How nice would trees look then? Life would look like a painting, and paintings would border on the psychedelic. The vivid greens in Van Gogh’s Trees and Undergrowth would be a delightfully bizarre mix of different colours and hues, even more so than it is already. Perhaps Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile wouldn’t be as famous anymore, with a bright colourful landscape replacing the seemingly unremarkable background.
Of course, this would mean every plant would exhibit a variety of colours, including grass. Every carefully manicured lawn would be a splash of colour, and gardens would be a treat for the eyes. Even the common lingo we use in sports would either change or be non-existent. The umpteen references to the ‘green’ in golf wouldn’t exist anymore – in fact, it might be hard to spot the ball what with all those bright hues competing for the attention of your eyes.
A world where trees are multicoloured seems fantastic, but will it not just become the norm again? Is it variety that we desire most, or do we simply have a yearning for change? In the myriad of colours that our senses will observe, will we lose the ability to appreciate each individual colour?