Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Birthday

I want to join thousands if not millions of people to wish South Africa's favourite "son", Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a HAPPY 93rd BIRTHDAY today!!

To commemorate this special occasion I'd like to share what I think is a very "clever" cartoon created by Zapiro, which refers to the petrol-delivery problem we experience in our country at the moment, yet also depicts how we appreciate the influence Nelson Mandela has on our nation (as it appeared in the "Sunday Times" newspaper yesterday):

Friday, July 1, 2011

Trees in South Africa

Today I'd like to continue where I left off - before I shared my photos of the magnificent Lunar Eclipse "in between" - by concentrating again on SA Flora but now on FLOWERING trees indigenous to South Africa. Leave-wise the Sickle Bush somewhat resembles the "typical" acacia & similarly is widespread throughout Africa (also a native to Asia & Australia). Other than drooping clusters of flowers, this tree has pods growing in distinctively curled clusters, which also are acacia-like.

The flowers of a Coral tree, also known as the "flame tree", usually appear at the end of winter/start of spring & before the season's new leaves, whilst the pods (= this tree's fruit) are slender and black. Locally the red-with-a-black-dot seeds are often used to make handsome-looking necklaces BUT the seeds are poisonous even if they are sometimes used to cure certain ailments in local, traditional medicine.

The flowers of 7 different species of coral tree found in South Africa are all bright-red to scarlet in colour. In my mind the "petals" of a Coral tree's "cluster-flower" look like the claws of a bird of prey!?

Other than that acacia trees are mostly associated with Africa, I think of the Sausage tree as similarly typical. Of course this tree takes its name from the sausage-like fruits that hang vertically down from its stems, and although a belief exists that these fruits can cure a wide range of ailments, they are said to be inedible - although I've observed baboons, bushbuck & elephants "nibble" on the fruit.

Sprays of Sausage tree flowers "excude" an unpleasant smell but have a pretty maroon colour with yellow markings (= stamen). The flowers customarily appear from August to October (= spring in the southern hemisphere).
An interesting fact about the Sausage tree: it is evergreen in regions with rainfall throughout the year but deciduous where long & dry seasons occur.

The Bauhinia (named after Swiss-French brothers, Bauhin) is known in South Africa as the Pride-of-de-Kaap (= referring to the valley of De Kaap north of Barberton in the Mpumalanga province, where this tree grows prolifically) & as the "orchid tree" in other parts of the world. This tree or bush is also a vigorous climber.

Raindrops on . . . no, not on roses - as the song goes :) - but instead on a typically dark-red Bauhinia flower & as photographed in our garden on the Highveld! whilst it occurs "naturally" in the Lowveld (= under more humid conditions).

Although "generally speaking" the Quiver tree (= 'Kokerboom' in Afrikaans) isn't a flowering tree as such, it's nontheless 1 of those trees that are typically associated with Africa - although it only grows naturally in desert or semi-desert regions, e.g. in the arid Northern Cape (= Richtersveld) & parts of Namibia. This (not very large) tree gets its name from the San (Bushman) practice of hollowing out the tubular branches to form quivers for their arrows (the indigenous San traditionally hunt with bows & arrows).

The Quiver tree's flowering time is mid- to late winter (= butter-yellow flowers) which are aloe-like because in effect this is a member of the aloe family. It also is a succulent (& therefore only "tree-like") = a plant that has adapted to life in areas of low rainfall & extreme temperatures.