Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Trees Galore

I did insinuate before [SEE: blog-entry 21 Jan 2010 = Bird Talk] that I'm not a "tree-hugger" but trees do feature amongst my photos on flora - especially if they "reveal" interesting features.

Probably the most recognisable & interesting of southern African trees is the Baobab - which actually is a succulent = storing masses of water in its trunk. It's also called the "upside-down tree" because its stubby branches have a root-like appearance. The baobab is also called the "Tree of Life" (e.g. features as the centrepiece in Disney's "Lion King") because it's capable of providing shelter, food and water for animals & humans alike in the African savannah regions.

In South Africa the deciduous baobab is confined to the northern parts of the country. It has large white flowers, which last only for a single day & are pollinated by fruit bats. Mature trees are frequently hollow (= providing "living space" for numerous animals or humans) whilst radio-carbon dating has measured the age of some trees to be over 2 000 years. A baobab can reach a height (& a girth/diameter!!) of 20 metres & can survive even after its interior has burnt out.

The leaves of a baobab are used for condiments & medicines by the local people, whilst the fire-resistant, cork-like bark is used to make cloth and ropes. The fruit (also called "monkey bread") is rich in vitamin C - the flesh contains potassium bicarbonate & tartaric acid = tasteful. Various legends & myths "surround" the baobab, e.g. that someone who dares to pick a flower will be eaten by a lion; on the other hand, if you drink water in which the seeds were soaked, you'll be safe from a crocodile attack.

I did say I don't hug trees but this guy (= not just any guy but actually my husband) couldn't resist the urge to hug the stem of a Quiver tree - also not really a tree but an aloe (= a tree aloe) & also a succulent plant (because it stores water in its stem & leaves). This tree is confined to & "thrives" in the arid, rocky areas of the Northern Cape province & Namibia. The quiver tree flowers (like most aloes) during winter, which provide nectar for many birds - also favoured by baboons.

In SA this tree is known as the Kokerboom (koker = quiver; boom = tree) because the local people, especially the San, hollowed out the soft branches to use them as quivers for their arrows. The bark of the trunk is cork-like & is "topped by rosettes" of fleshy leaves. The tree usually reaches heights of 3-7 metres and generally has a squat-like appearance.

The pod-bearing Mopane tree "favours" the hot, low-lying areas of the Mpumalanga & Limpopo provinces in SA, & its most distinctive feature is its butterfly-shaped leaves. Its an important fodder tree for game (especially elephants) & is also fed upon by the so-called mopane worms = caterpillars = protein-rich delicacies = collected by the local people - eaten either "fresh", roasted or dried.

From indigenous to "exotic" trees - I tend to photograph whatever appeals to me - meaning I often have no clue what tree (= trunk) I've got in my "visage".

All I know about these trunks is that they are the "lower part" of the one or other palm species (also exotic) & that I photographed them because I thought they resembled the legs of elephants!

Similarly I photographed this tangle of stems & branches (in the Durban Botanic Garden) because I think it has a ghost-like appearance (= also exotic = I have no clue what it's called). Reminder to myself: the next time I'm visiting the Botanic Gardens I'll check what this "tree" is called (because in most Botanic Gardens, the trees/plants are "furnished with name-tags").

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