Monday, August 1, 2011

Typical SA Trees

The Mopane is a typical southern African tree with its distinctive butterfly-shaped leaves (= each leaf consists of 2 leaflets) - sometimes also said to resemble a camel's footprint. The mopane tree is also referred to as "ironwood" & is an important fodder tree for game (esp. elephants) - it's also fed upon by the so-called "mopane worm" (in actual fact a caterpillar = emperor moth) - a protein-rich 'relish' which is eaten fresh, roasted or dried.

The Mopane is a pod-bearing tree & the pods are flat & kidney-shaped. These seed-pots are nutrious & the seeds/kernels are sticky from the resin covering them, so they tend to "stick" to the feet/hooves of animals, which then "distribute" the seeds. The seeds inside the leathery pod are said to resemble tiny brains!?

A Yellowwood tree is a typical (indigenous) South African "giant" in nature - found in "rain" forests & mostly along the southern coast's Garden Route (= Tsitsikamma & Knysna forests), where some are "sign-posted" as 'Big Trees' - reaching heights of 60m & up to 800 yrs old. These are known as Outeniqua yellowwood, which is 1 of 4 local species = all 4 species are evergreen.

Yellowwood represented the chief source of timber for early colonists, who found a diversity of purposes for it. Because yellowwoods were over-exploited through the years, all species are now protected by law.

Yellowwoods are easily recognisable by what is known as "old man's beard" = lichen 'draped' over the branches of these trees.

Probably there's no other tree that embodies the spirit of Africa as a Baobab does & as legend has it, it's the tree that was planted 'upside-down' (= has that look esp. in winter, when leafless branches look like the tree's roots). In ancient times African leaders tended to meet under these trees - said not only to provide shelter but the spirit of these trees helped the leaders to make wise decisions. In actual fact these trees are succulents & consist of 80% moisture & can reach an age of a few thousand years!

Baobabs are also known as monkey-bread tree or bottle tree (resembling a "bottle" esp. when "young"). The baobab is deciduous & has large, waxy-white flowers, which only last for 24hrs, then fall to the ground, where they are food for various antelope species. It can be said that baobabs "swarm with life" = provide shelter & sustenance for various creatures - elephants browse on the leaves & bark; baboons feast on fruits; birds & bees nest in holes of the trunks (= most old trees are hollow inside); fruit bats & bush-babies pollinate the flowers.

Baobab fruit are highly nutritious (= contain lots of Vit C & calcium) & are used to produce cream of tartar = flesh of fruit contains potasium bitartrate & tartaric acid - very tasteful!

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