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Published:  2014-12-07 Views:  967
Author:  WAAIGRAS
Published in:  BushTalk/VeldTalk
VeldTalk: Tree-Trumping The UK

From the Article by VeldTalk on 6 Nov 2014: helen.duigan@veldtalk.co.za

Tree-trumping the UK

It is with great glee - oops, grief - that we have to announce that one South African hill has trumped the entire British Isles - again.  The Tree Walk on 18 October in Vlakfontein in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy netted 40 indigenous species of trees.  The UK has 38 indigenous species.  

Cheryl Dehning of the Tree Society led the leisurely walk up World’s View Hill with its breath-taking views.  To the north stretched three misty mountain ranges - the Schurveberg, the Witwatersberg and the Magaliesberg beyond.  To the south the banks of the Jukskei River created a bright green swathe through the grasslands.

View over the Jukskei River

The list of trees recorded by Cheryl makes for interesting reading, even for a tree-layman. Google a jaw-breaker such as Zanthoxylum capense and it comes up with 53 names in English, Afrikaans and several black languages.  (If you don’t believe it - check.)

Zanthoxylum capense

It’s common name, Lemon Thorn, sounds quite straight-forward - “Zanthoxylum capense is a small tree with small, glossy leaves that have a lemony smell when crushed.”  Fine.  But where did Perdepis, Maagbessie, Perdepramboom and White-Man’s-Tit come from?  

“The fruit is used to treat colic, flatulence and palsy. Peeled twigs are beaten flat to make effective toothbrushes. Other uses of the plant are as a remedy for snakebite, as a treatment for colds, as a mouthwash, to relieve toothache and for gastric and intestinal disorders.”  Clearly, no garden should be without it.  Anyone who would like to try the toothbrush?

Cheryl was asked about an attractive, low-growing plant with bright red berries.  “This is actually a tree,” she said.  Really?

Underground tree

“It’s a Lannea edulis, an underground tree. The trees we know have their roots underground and the rest of the tree is above ground, exposed to wind, frost, fire and drought. Underground trees (pyrogenic geoxylic suffrutex) have most of their growth below ground, leaving only the tips of the branches, the flowers and the fruit exposed to the elements.”

All these suffrutices are believed to be many thousands of years old. "They are essentially immortal; nothing can kill them, except for habitat destruction.” says Professor Braam van Wyk, plant taxonomist from the University of Pretoria. “Grazers cannot kill them, fire cannot kill them and they are drought resistant. These trees are believed to be the oldest plants in southern Africa.”


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