Barringtonia racemosa (Powder-puff Tree)
Racemosa suggests that the flowers hang in racemes, hence the name. A most beautiful tree up to 10m (it could reach 20m in certain conditions). The stem is tall and straight, with the branches high up in the forest. It is shorter and stockier in the open. The bark is smooth, with raised dots or lines, greyish-brown or mottled. The branches are marked with leaf scars. The leaves are in spiral clusters on branch ends, very large and obovate.
The flowers are in hanging racemes. The buds are shiny-red. Large "powder-puff" flowers stay open all night and fall in the morning into water below the trees and give off an unpleasant smell in November to January.The shiny, coppery-reddish fruit floats downstream. It is the foodplant of the Red-tab Policeman butterfly. Used against fever and the bark as fish poison. Quick-growing from seeds and tolerates wet and dry conditions. Sensitive to frost.
Curtisia dentata (Assegai)
Very scarce, so if you find one, please let us know. This tree is currently under threat due to bark harvesting for the medicinal plant trade. Timber exploitation also played a roll, harvesting young trees for furniture. For example, between 1899 and 1900 41 432 trees were felled in Knysna, i.e. 3452 trees per annum in that area alone.
This is a tall, sraight tree with rough, brown deeply fissured bark. The young stems are smooth with lenticels. The leaves are opposite, ovate to elliptic, leathery, shiny, dark green, below paler with prominent and leaves have pointed tips. Margins are coarsely serrated. The young leaves are velvety and covered in bronze hairs. Flowers are small, cream and velvety. The fruit, to 10mm, are red, round and bitter and eaten by monkeys, birds and bushpigs. Heavily used for stomach ailments, diarrhoea and as a blood purifier and an aphrodisiac. A good screening plant. Does best in damp cool places. Grown from seed.
Mimusops caffra (Coastal Red Milkwood)
Medium to large tree up to 25m. It has a neat, dense soreading crown, except when it is subject to strong sea spray, where it then grows more like a shrub. Normally it grows high with a short bent stem and tall and twisted. It has a rough, dark grey fissured bark. The young growth is covered in velvety reddish hairs. In exposed areas the branches are low. The leaves are spiralled, small, usually obovate and leathry with a round or bluntly pointed
tip which is often notched. The leaves are paler below with white to brown flat hairs. The flowers are creamy white and the fleshy fruit is red and oval up to 25mm. The edge of the leaves are thick and rolled under. They flower and fruit all year round. The wood is pinkish-red, heavy, hard and is used for hut building, knob kieries, boat building and fishing traps. It is common as a small shrub along the coastline in dune forests. Essential for stopping surf erosion.
Pittosporum viridiflorum (Cheesewood)
This tree is deciduous at high altitudes but not on the coast. It reaches almost 20m. The rounded crown is dense. The bark is rough with horizontal markings. It tastes bitter with a liquorice smell. The leaves are spiralled at branchlet ends, often deformed, mostly obovate, leathery, shiny and dark green. The leaves are paler below with translucent veins and wavy margins. They have a resinous smell when crushed. The scented flowers are small and creamy in August to November. The fruit is more or less round, about 6-10mm in diameter. The seeds are in shiny, sticky red flesh in November to May.
The seeds are eaten by birds. The bark is widely used for stomach complaints, pain, fever and as an aphrodisiac.
It tolerates frost and is fast growing from seed.
Podocarpus falcatus (Outeniqua Yellowwood)
Always one of my favourites. All the yellowwoods are special. These trees can grow to 40m but very rarely do. They tend to grow in swamp forest in KwaZulu Natal. The stem is dark purplish-brown with flakes in rough patches in mature trees. The branchlets are round to square. The leaves are spiralled, small and narrow and light yellowish to bluish-green. They are straight or slightly curved. The mature leaves tend to be slightly twisted at the base.
This is the Big Tree in the Knysna forest. They may live to 1000 years.
Birds and animals eat the fruit. It is an important food tree for the endangerd Cape Parrot. The wood is pale, fine grained and saws and seasons well. Used at times for ceilings, flooring, panneling, furniture and boat building. It is prized today for furniture.
Quick growing and frost tolerant. Potted plants make a good Christmas tree.
Podocarpus latifolius (Broad-leaf Yellowwood)
This tree has been declared a national tree of South Africa and is therefor protected.
It can groe up to 30m, but grows exceptionally slowly and therefor produces a high quality wood. In exposed areas they tend to be stunted. The strap-shaped leaves are generally 25 - 40mm long on mature trees, but on vigorous young trees can reach a length of 100mm.
The bark is kahki-grey to brown and longitudinally fissured in old trees, peeling in strips. The leaves are spiraled to sub-opposite, crowded toward the branchlet ends. thick, leathery, glossy dark green to greyish green, margins rolled under with an abruptly taoered tip. The male tree produces 8 - 20mm solitary cones in the leaf axils and longer once pollen is shed. The female produces blue-grey to dark-purple seeds about 10mm, on fleshy-pink or reddish-purple recepticles which swell as the seeds ripen. The receptacles are eaten by people, maonkeys, birds and bushpigs. It is the most common and most used yellowwood in South Africa. It produces a fine-grained pale yellow timber.
Prunus africana (Red-stinkwood or African Almond or cherry)
This is a canopy tree 40 - 50m in height. These large diameter trees have spectacular spreading crowns. Itis moderately frost tolerant, requires a moist environment and is light seeking. The corrugated or fissured and scaly bark is dark-broen to black. The leaves are alternate, simple 8 - 20mm long, elliptical, bluntly or accutely pointed, dark-green above and light-green below and has mildly serrated margins. The 20mm stalk is pink and grooved.
The fruit is purplish-brown +- 10mm in diameter in branched bunches between July and November. The flowers are white and strongly scented and occur singly or axillary sprays from April to July. Birds eat the fruit. Crushed parts smell and taste like bitter almonds and are reputed to be very poisonous and to have magical properties.The bark is collected throughout Africa and exported to treat prostatic hypertrophy.
As with other members of the prunus genus, It posesses extrfloral nectaries that provide antiherbevore insects with a nutrient source in return for protecting the foliage. In addition to its value for medicinal and timber properties, it is an important food source for fruit-eating birds and mammals. Early studies on the effects of bark harvest have shown that the harvest affected population structure. Later studies
have shown a highly reduced fruit production and poor seedling survival suggesting a bleak prognosis for future regeneration in harvested populations.
Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)
This tree's generic name means "iron-wood" in Greek because of the extreme hardness of the wood. It is the only member of the sideroxylon genus in South Africa and several specimens are provincial heritage sites. It is highly illegal to damage ordestroy these trees!
These are sturdy broadleaf evergreens with dense foliage, with displays of white bisexual flowers and edible blueish-black berries.They have leathery spiral leaves which, like the berries, contain milky latex. The branches and young leaves always have fine hairs. These trees can grow as high as 15m. They have considerable value in traditional medicine and attract numerous birds, monkeys and other animals for the berries and flowers, including bats. They make an effective firebreak and are cultivated for that purpose.
The Post Office Tree in Mossel Bay is believed to be over 600 years old. Closer to home is the Fingo Milkwood in the Eastern Cape where in 1835 the Fengu people signed a treaty of alliance with the Cape Colony.
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