June 1993

If you haven’t already done so, please send in your subscription for 1993/94 ($20) before the end of May.



Please note that for the next three months our Botanic Garden Walks will take place on Saturday mornings at 1045 hours for 1100 hours.  Please park at the Herbarium.

Sunday 20th June :  To that that scenic part of the country Mutepatepa where our hosts   are John and Lillian Cottrill.  Our previous visit in 1991 was most interesting and John has more to show us.

June 25, 26th and 27th :  ALOE SHOW AND PLANT FAIR AT THE MUKUVISI WOODLANDS.  In addition to the usual collection of cycads, aloes and succulents, Ann Bianchi and Kerry Wallace will be selling lots of indigenous trees so here is your chance to buy that “special” tree.

Saturday 26th June :  Botariical Interest walk.   1430 hours at the Ruwa Scout Camp whose entrance is exactly opposite the 20.5 Km peg on the Mutare Road.

Saturday 3rd July :  Botanic Garden Walk.



Sunday 6th June: Beeoorsfield Farm and Tjimoli Mission is an all day trip. Meet at Girls’ College car park for a prompt 8.30 am departure. We will have tea immediately on arrival and then move on to the old L.M.S. mission and Shatshani Dam.

Monday 14th June : Urban Trails Hillside Dams at 1645 hours for 1700 hours.

Saturday 3rd July : Please note change of date. This is done to enble Brian Viljoen to lead us at the height of the aloe season into the Plumtree and Nofa areas.

Monday 12th July : Urban Trails.

TREE SOCIETY OUTING ;  April 4th, 1993.  Fort Marquand and Cyrene

There was a splendid turn-out and a day to match on the first Sunday of April. Before the A.G.M. at‘ Cyrene Mission, we spent the morning blending Botany and History under the superb guidance of Alison Ewbank, who conducted us on a tour of some of the forts set up by Selous during the Matabele Rising of 1696. The object of the forts was to keep the road to the south via the Mangure Pass, open for help to arrive from Cape. The only other route South via Tuli had already been cut by Lobengula’s Impis.

Our convoy stopped just outside Bulawayo, across the Umganini river and gazed respectfully at the first of these, Fort Dawson, now a featureless mound about to be engulfed by a new township. The second, Fort Khami, passed unnoticed by at least one member of the party, but the third, Fort Marquand, across the Gwaai river, was conveniently situated near a lay,-bye, where our thirteen or so cars drew in.  Some of the group, apparently under the impression that this was Fort Khami, elected to stay in their cars, but the majority forged their intrepid way along cattle tracks, through thorny Acacia ataxacantha, A. arenaria and Dichrostachys cinerea back of the kopje locally known as Mabakuthweni.

This lies on Cyrene Mission and was finally identified as Fort Marquand by Alison and her fellow historians from its resemblance to a photograph in Selous “Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia”.  Little remains of the Fort but some stone walls and a convenient slab which served as a gun emplacement, but a strict class distinction was indicated, we were told, by the remains of bottles found on the site, beer at the bottom, graduating to champagne at the safest position at the top.

We pushed our way to the pound seats past the dominant Commiphora genus represented by C.mossambicense (generally bare of leaves), marlothii, mollis and schimperi and were rewarded with a splendid view of Two Tree Kop (a famous rendezvous) to the north, and of Fort Molyneux, a pimple on the southern horizon. To our east wound a succession of wooded kopjes harbouring, we were told, most interesting rock paintings. A herd of cattle tinkled their bells below us and two kudu does and a fawn suddenly broke cover and sped gracefully away. On reaching the bottom again we discovered what had startled them: on an exposed slab of, rock seven members of some religious sect were intoning stirring hymns in the vernacular.  We sat and listened in the shade of a noble Lannea schweinfurthii until we were called down from the top, and when we reached the cars were told by the stay-behinds that all seven (four men and their women + baby) had emerged from 3 small grey Datsun parked nearby.  Rumour has it that two emerged from the boot!

After a quick cup of tea, we retraced our way along the cattle tracks in order to inspect some really fascinating rock paintings, featuring masked figures of the most delicate workmanship, some of whom sported what looked like the head of a praying mantis.  Looming over the site were magnificent clumps of somewhat sinister Synadenium,  never before encountered by the undersigned, who took it to be an exotic escaped from some distant garden, but it was firmly identified by Anton Ellert. A few hundred meters further east, just past a prominent Gardenia volkensii was a faded but unmistakeable rock painting of a cheetah, another highly unnatural encounter. Altogether, the morning had proved most rich and strange, but we were now more than ready for lunch, so proceeded as fast as possible to Cyrane Mission and picnicked in the shade afforded by the church of St Pancras with its delightful murals.


At Fort Molyeux and Old Figtree

The real problem was that everyone (except Alison Ewbank) thought “the figtree” was in today’s Figtree.  An extended convoy of ten cars entered the railway village and departed with only eight. The two tail-enders had lost sight of the vanguard before it exited the village and indeed before these last two cars had entered the little township itself. They spent a fruitless half hour patrolling the only three streets and asking the locals awkward questions about a figtree before giving up in despair and heading homewards. The main party waited further down the road until our search vehicle returned unhappy and unrewarded.

The turn-off of Old Figtree branches from the main road about six and a half kilo-metres south of the present-day Fig-tree.  The track heads due south and on the way one posses Fort Molyneus.  This lies just inside the boundary of Welldene about two hundred metres east of the farm road. The kopje, sufficiently small in height to sit unrevealed by any contour line on the 1 50000 map, has nevertheless a commanding view especially northwards where on the horizon some seventeen kilometre away can discern the twin humps of Fort Marquand.

The excellent copies of the 1896 photographs brought by Alison show a hillock stripped of vegetation, its distinctive profile broken by most and a fluttering Union Jack. Today the same profile is veiled with shrub, tree and creeper. At the summit, we found Schrebera alata, Acokanthera rotundata, Ziziphus mucronata, Pterolobium stellatum and sunken into solid rock the steel base of the troopers’ flagstaff.   Shrubs grow in profusion on the flanks and we pushed our way through Ehretia rigida, Vangueria randii, Grewia flavescens and Tarchonanthus camphoratus before finding a short stairway hewn by the nineteenth-century defenders into a softer and less cohesive layer of granite.

The approach from the west is over sodic soils and through Mopane woodland and it was here on our return to the cars that we found Vepris zambesiaca.  East of the  Fort the land falls way a little more steeply to a stream from which the soldiers of the Queen would have drawn water.

Montgomeries Plot, the site of Old Figtree, lies slightly more than half a kilometre from the fort.  There is a luxuriant thicket (Mimusops zeyheri, Berchemia zeyheri, Peltophorum africanum and many more),  growing on the west side of the road a mere twenty metres from Welldene‘s southern gate.  Through the low slung branches of the Peltophorum you will see the familiar outline of the Pioneer-Society cast-iron grave cross. Hero lies Trooper Egau who died of fever aged nineteen at Fort Molyneaux.

From this point, the road curves gently eastwards to cross the upper waters of the stream which passes at the foot of Fort Molyneux.  We left our cars here on the west bank because the drift was only passable to four-wheel drive vehicles and walked the rest of the way. As we moved out of the blind ground of the stream depression we saw about a hundred and fifty metres ahead not just a building, but a government building at that, of the old Southern Rhodesia post office variety.  And, in front of it an enormous Ficus glumosa.

In the nineteenth century no hunter, trader or missionary would proceed beyond this venerable tree without the King’s permission.


Inyanga Visit  Nyazengu, Good Friday, 9th April 1993

Our first full day started at 9 am at the car park at the base of Mount Inyangani where we assembled from our various holiday accommodation. Here we sorted ourselves into the more robust vehicles which were to take us by rough road to Nyazengu, the start of our day’s walk. It was a pleasure to have Bob Drummond in our party, especially so for the further flung Tree society members from Bulawayo and Karoi who are not so fortunate as we in Harare in having him “right there” with his unique experience and knowledge.  As well, Jonathan Timberlake was on hand to be our guide for the day.  His speciality is the ecology of forests, so who better to give us a wider look at what we were going to see, not just the identification of species, but their why and wherefore.

Widdringtonia rodiflora. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Our first stop, not far from the start was at a patch of dry woodland and to inspect a stand of Widdringtonia nodiflora.  Down an embankment, over a stream and up a  precipitous wooded slope, we were immediately testing ourselves on species we had been revising in our two previous Botanical Garden walks with Tom, preparatory to this outing. We identified Curtisia dentata, a small and smelly Clausena anisata and in one fell swoop every Zimbabwe member of the MYRSINACEAE family. These were Maesa lanceolata, (here a tall tree), the small, tiny leaved shrub Myrsine africana, (Cape Myrtle) and Rapanea melanophloeos (Cape Beech).  Then up to the first widdringtonias  large trees obviously protected from fire to have grown this tall, as their high resin content makes them susceptible to fire damage. This is one of the few indigenous conifers, a member of the CUPRESSACIEAE family together with another “special” which we were to see the next day. On our way again we admired a heavily and colourfully laden Ilex mitis beside a stream before arriving at the “car park” near Stonechat Cottage.  Here two unsuspecting guests who hitherto had thought  themselves alone in Africa, watched as 26 adults and 6 children kitted up and set off in single file along the base of the Mt. Inyangani buttresses. Our path led us through aromatic grassland and small patches of shady forest. It had been thought that these were the remnants of a more extensive mass, but Jonathan explained that the vegetation on this drier western slope has probably always flipped in and out of wood/grassland depending on quite small changes in climate (rainfall) and such factors as fire. The areas of trees we entered were all confined to the wetter gullies.

Haleria lucida. Photo: Rob Burrett. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

We identified  Halleria lucida, Rhamnus prinoides, Schefflera umbellifera in flower and many Peddiea africana, a single flower helping to confirm its identity.  The predominant understorey species here was Psychotria zombamontana.

As we curled around to the south of the mountain we encountered a different kind of forest. The south-east moisture laden winds crossing Mozambique from the ocean hit the eastern slopes of Inyangani causing cloud and mist which with drainage from the mountain, produces, especially in the gullies, an environment in which moist forest can be maintained.  A different world this, with soft Seaginella moss carpeted forest floor and everything with something also growing on it; rocks with moss and Streptocarpus sp., and trees with lichens and orchids.  We were looking out for Afrocrania volkensii  and found it only by recognising its distinctive curving veins high up against the sun. A special in the first patch of forest was a small  grove of Cyathea manniana, the spiny tree fern. Along the way we had been seeing the more familiar C. dregei.  An interesting observation: sometimes the crushed leaves of  Piper capense smelled strongly of citronella, while those from a neighbouring plant were quite definitely peppery.  Other species seen were Podocarpus latifolius (another conifer), Prunus africana and many Diospyros whyteana, endearingly familiar in this (to us) unfamiliar territory.

Sidetracking a little, we reached a grassy grade for lunch after which our party split, some to return the way we had come, and others to plunge down through clammy forest to the Nyazengu river to a point just before it plummeted 600m or so into the valley below. Our path continued up the opposite bank, still in dense cover, where we added to our list Syzygium masukuense and Lasianthus kilimandscharicus.  This latter had fluorescent blue berries which, at Bob’s suggestion, we collected for Tom Muller.

A 3km walk was ahead, excitingly down into and up out of the many meanderings of the Nyazengu tributaries; one minute in dense and now darkening forest, and the next on grassy upland until at last we came to a road where we were grateful to find truck transport waiting to take us the remaining 5 km to the vehicles and the rest of the party waiting near Stonechat Cottage.

What a. day: No-one can say that Tree Society members don’t walk; from 7 to 70 something, we all did just that, Caroline and Rose walking almost the entire 12 km With Masters Michael and Robbie du Plessis, I can truly say “the bush is mush”.


Easter Saturday: Nyahokwe Ruins

The climb up from the Nyazengu Falls on Good Friday had convinced me that I was totally unfit to be walking (staggering) up or down any mountainsides.  Nevertheless, Saturday found us up and out at 0800 hours and off to rendevous at Nyanga Village Green.

Our first stop was Nyahokwe Ruins where the resident custodian led us on a conducted tour first to the lower enclosure where there was a partially destroyed smelting furnace (traditionally operated by the men) and a pit with a tunnel entrance to a passage where livestock could be housed, then further up the hill to several walled terraces on which the cultivation of crops such as sorghum, rapoko and millet had occurred. On the last gradual slope before the final ascent to the summit, was by far the largest enclosure showing vestiges of pits with stone faced tunnel entrances and an elevated stone slab upon which the chief apparently stood to address the people, after they had been summoned by the blowing of a horn in times of danger.

Indogofera rhynchocarpa. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

There was non-stop botanising as we made our way up the hillside, passing numerous Euphorbia matabelensis and Vitex payos interspersed with Albizia antunesiana, Azanza garkeana, Burkea africana, Combretum molle, Cussonia arborea, Dalbergia nitidula, Dodonaea angustifolia, Flacourtia indica, Hymenodictyon floribundum, Rhoicissus revoilii and R. tridentata. When we entered a narrow belt of Brachystegia woodland we found Indogofera rhynchocarpa, (otherwise called the hockey stick tree as the pods hang down in a row looking not unlike same, or possibly Christmas stockings). Just along the path was Monotes engleri. As we emerged from the woodland we beheld a patch of chest high Cassias  in full bloom and dotted around, Pterolobium stellatum in a cascade of pink and red. The main purpose of the visit was to see the ONE AND ONLY known specimen of Juniperus procera  in Zimbabwe, the nearest locality where they grow, being the Nyika Plateau in Malawi.  Once above the ruins the ground rose steeply to the base of the rock dome, along which we made our way in a westerly direction until we reached The Tree. The mountaineers (like Shirley) the exuberant (like Phil) and the irrepressible (like Andrew) climbed to the first ledge on the rock face to the point where the lowest branch spread out some 3m above our heads. (Dave, Andrew and young Michael later, climbed right to the summit). Growing beneath the Juniper was a Tarachonanthus trilobus and Nuxia congesta.  To reach it we had passed an Erythrina latissima and taken a right angled turn at a Heteromorpha trifoliata.  Towards the eastern face Maureen saw Prunus africana.

Below the Chief’s Enclosure an Acacia sieberiana and a large Flueggea virosa, provided shade for those who had decided not to attempt the final assault after Friday’s exertions. Shortly before we reached the cars, we noticed a most attractive tree from which Ian and Fiona procured a sample with difficulty, only to discover a much larger specimen in the car park with accessible branches. Fiona was able to identify it as Pleurostylia africana.

Ziwa ruins

Once the group had reassembled, we drove to Ziwa Ruins where we had our lunch. There was a well laid out museum with a model furnace in pride of place, complete with the female figure giving birth as described earlier by our Nyahokwe guide. The ruins looked overgrown and unkempt and appeared to comprise a series of walls and enclosures, but a super abundance of grass seeds made for very unpleasant walking for those wearing socks. Parties moved off in various directions identifying trees and reporting back to Maureen, who compiled the checklist.

As with our morning visit, we found many trees with which we were familiar. One sample with pink-petioled leaves caused much discussion until Tessa identified it as Berkhamia discolor.

It was a wonderful weekend, great to renew acquaintances with and to meet for the first time, various members of the Harare contingent and an enormous privilege to have Bob Drummond to share a cottage with us.  I only wish I had the ability to absorb all the pearls as they were cast.

Thank you to everybody who planned and organised the trip. All of us from Matabeleland enjoyed it immensely.

Margaret McCausland

Easter Sunday

Today the Tree Society went neologistic with the invention of a new acronym —EDBU. No, this is not the mind of a Nigerian expatriate, but rather the new body position of ‘Eads Down, Bums Up‘. Members will recall that this position relates to the study of plant life living at an altitude of about 24 inches above the ground; species such as trees being conspicuously absent in favour of the delicate floral arrangements of the Nyanga, Downs. A new species ‘Domicilium’ had as_subspecies ‘Faith’, “Temperance’, ‘Joy‘, ‘Peace’,  ‘Patience’ and ‘Love’ and these energising factors stimulated us to the new heights of Rukotso. Relevant botanical species which were observed included: Ursina montana subsp. montana with yellow petals but some appearing to be white, Bob did explain why, but as usual the memory is faulty; the yellow Sebaea longicaulis,  a member of the Gentian family,  white Hebenstretia oatesii subsp inyangana which by now all were recognising from our previous walks; the lovely mauves of Selago thyrsoidea var. austrorhodesiaca; Walafrida goetzii and the more pinky mauve of Vernonia bainesii.

Hypericum aethiopicum. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbababwe

 Dainty Geranium nyassense provided ground cover and the-never-before-noticed-by-us (as Tom would say ‘Our eyes are closed‘) Hypericum aethiopicum – only 4cm off the ground.  l took the white dainty lace-like flowers of Pimpinella caffra or was it  stadensis of Umbelliferae to the Herbarium but took no leaves, so it remains unidentified.

Pink Disas delighted but they are specially protected so could not determine the species, as are the beautiful Dieramas (Nyanga. hairbell) and Aloe nyangensis. Moraea carsonii also enjoyed the shallow soil over sheet rock of the summit, too “Beautiful and too rare” to pick but not for some. The yellow Senecio latifolius  were everywhere; they are toxic to cattle, there were lots of signs of cattle too -perhaps the farmer is aware of supplementary feeding at critical times.

The rock garden that rewarded intrepid climbers at the 2404, the 7m beacon was a delight, the blues  of Solenostemon lanuginosus, pinks of Aeollanthus buchnerianus grew side by side with Aloes, Dierama, Moraea and of course, many Helichrysum.  Thanks to the time given by Bob Helichrysum herbaceum, lepidissimum, odoratissimum, cephaloideum, and umbraculigerum were identified.  There are over 40 species of Helichrysum (meaning ‘golden sun‘) in Zimbabwe. While some changed the inevitable Dawson puncture on the way down, others noticed the maroon ‘drumheads’ of Zaluzianskya tropicalis had opened to reveal their white petals.

Those rambling in the rear with Bob Drumnond were bombarded with Bob’s botanical boffinery and also treated to zoological zanneries.  For example, did you know that there are as many species of dung beetle as there are birds in Zimbabwe (over 600)??  While most people were fossicking at ground level, at least one person was lucky enough to be overtaken by two secretary birds strolling through the rocky terrain, before they soared off over the valley. An augur buzzard was also observed and Long Crested Eagle sitting at his own ‘world’s view’.

A thoroughly enjoyable day, memorab1e for the beautiful rock garden near the Rukotso Beacon, the sight of young children scrambling around the rocks barefoot and Bob, alone on the mountain, refusing all offer of lifts, quite prepared to meander the long way home by himself.

Ramblers in the rear.



About 15 people met at the Herbarium on this slightly chilly May evening. Tom was away and Kim, barefoot and with Baby Theo well wrapped up on his back, took over. As Kim had  only arrived from Norway the day before, this was at somewhat short notice.

Close to the Herbarium grows a Screw Pine, Pandanus utilis, so called because its leaves form a surface which spirals upwards towards the branch in the manner of a screw. This tree produces a large number of aerial roots – some bearing root caps which give it a most odd and distinctive appearance.

Kim explained how the branches in and roots of dicotyledons (the group which includes most of the trees and shrubs in Zimbabwe) are able to grow fatter, whereas  monocotyledons are not capable of this.  For example a Ficus species (a. dicotyledon) produces an initially thin aerial root, which in time grows thicker. Pandanus, on the other hand, produces thick aerial roots to start with -and they grow very little fatter.

Next we moved on to another odd-looking monocotylednn – the tree-like Draceana draco, a native of the Canary Islands. This particular tree was c. 4 metres tall and 21 years old.

A famous tree of this species grew in Tenerife, where it was, at the time, believed to be the largest monocotyledon in the world. It blew down in a hurricane in 1868.

The Dracaena had another feature of interest – namely that growth is terminal until the terminal point produces flowers. Once this happens, no further growth is possible from this point. After flowering, buds appear simultaneously below the flowers and further growth takes place from them. As a result of this, branches are formed in whorles.

In the forest section, we saw a fine example of this, the Eastern Districts tree, Polyscias fulva. The whorls seemed to be mainly in threes or fives a feature I had never noticed before. The same pattern could also be seen on  Anthocleista grandiflora, although as the branches hang down more, this tree has a rather different general appearance. Anthocleista (Loganiaceae) and Polyscias (Araliaceae) are botanically unrelated but ‘both are pioneer species in tropical forests.

Which species of plant has the largest leaves?  Is it the Raphia palm or is it a climbing fern (Lygodium) where the leaf extends and ascends to great height in trees.

A final detour in the fading light took us back to the Herbarium via the fever trees.

Our very grateful thanks go to Kim; for standing in so brilliantly at a moment’s notice. .

-Mark Hyde



Despite the counter attraction (?) of Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, a respectable number of members (happily including Rob and Philippa from Harare) turned out on a perfect  Saturday for the morning excursion to the Leopard Kopje area near the Khami water works.  We were welcomed by Chief Parks Warden, Mr Georg, who extolled the beauty and interest of the site, once occupied by an even earlier culture than that of the ancient Khami Ruins.  It is planned to make a nature reserve here which will be linked by road with the Mazwi and Umguza reserves, providing a very pleasant round trip for nature lovers.

There was certainly plenty of interest in the area for the Tree Society, and the group led by Mr Georg soon lost the more ardent dendrologists, who were delayed at the outset by a lively argument on the identity of a baffling little tree was it Psorospermum febrifugum? Not supposed to grow in our area, Combretum collinum.  Only time — the fruiting season – or the Herbarium will tell.

 A tempting kopje harbouring Figus tettensis and Ochna glauca caused another distraction, so by the time that the stragglers reached the Khami river, there was no sign of the others, no doubt already back at the cars imbibing tea.  After an all too short survey of the delights afforded by the river bank, in the form of Salix mucronata, Acacia galpinii, Tinnea aethiopica, and the little shrub Ruspolia, An attractive flower, the party retraced its steps rapidly to the cars, refusing to be distracted from the call of tea.

The combined observation of the two groups listed over 70 trees, some of which are not often encountered – Albizia tanganyicensis, Brachylaena huillensis, Dalbergia melanoxylon, Ehretia amoena, Euphorbia matabelensis, Ficus abutilifolia, Lannea schweinfurthii, Margaritaria discoidea, Markhamia zanzibarica, Rhigozum brevispinosum, Vangueria randii and a single Vitex payos at some future date and explore it more thoroughly.



Nyarupinda Catchment

Until the fire guards are prepared, walking in the bush is agony at this time of year, farm hacks earn their keep by enabling us to roam the wild, they have their limitations too. It is remarkable that neither man nor beast has been troubled by ticks during the past six months.

Clematis brachiata, Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

April’s four showers are just a memory. Across the valley of the Nyarupinda golden brown leaves of Sterculia quinqueloba on the kopjes show that the cool dry season has begun.  Clematis brachiata, Travellers’ Joy, smothers trees and shrubs and scents  the evening air. A young Calpurnia, a gift from the Bianchi’s has flowered intermittently ever since Christmas, its sprays of Papilionaceous blooms soon become pods, those are removed so as not to burden the little tree. Some pure white flowers against dark green foliage suggested something new on a temitarium, they looked good enough to pick but many slurp spines were a deterrent, it was the shrub Maytenus heterophylla.

The 1991/92 drought suited weeds at the expense of grasses, suddenly a community of Solanum incanum grew up and hid the one and only  Lepistemon shirensis  for miles around, it twines along a paddock fence, for may years its only competitor has been grasses. A victim of the drought was a massive Ficus sur.  A traditional  use for its soft, light wood we broke blocks for wagons and floats for fishing nets and lines; now a days population pressures threaten freshwater fishing and netting is banned. The huge dead tree will provide fuel and a sizeable wood sample, if the wood were stronger it could be whittled into a hippopotamus.

Heard but not seen from the house are two species of Tchagra, the cheerful descending cadence of the Three streacked Tchagra, and the drunken whistle, otherwise interpreted, “you’ll freeze here, you’ll freeze here,” of the Black crowned Tchagra. A Mocking Chat was first sighted here on 5th May, will it stay and entertain us?

The other half of the story – Ring Porous Wood

Practical evidence of a ring-porous hardwood is the difference in hardness which shows where late wood is left proud of early wood after being sanded. Every growth ring consists of two parts, that is, the zone of large vessels (pores) in the early-wood which cuts cleaner than the zone of late wood which consists of dense fibres and narrow vessels. Theformer is msde when the tree flushes with growth, the latter occurs when growth slows down. Timber from trees lacking growth rings eg Lannea discolor;  those with indistinct rings as  Julbernardia globiflora;  those with few, minte or indistinguishable pores Colophosperum mopane cannot be semi/truly ring-porous.

With reference to the most recent Field Card of the Trees and Shrubs of Mashonaland  there are twenty one semi-ting porous species,  seven species Acacia, three species of Ekebergia, two species Erythrina.  The singletons are Boscia salicifolia, Clerodendrum glabrum, Cordia abyssinica, Dombeya rotundifolia, Holarrhena pubescens, Markhamia acuminata (new name?) and Pterocarpus rotundifoliusCeltis africana and Vitexc payos are the best examples of ring-porous timber in Zimmbabwe.  These facts may be checked in the “Zimbabwe Bulletin of Forestry Research.”


Our midweek trip to England revealed that the Guards’ Chapel is next to the Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk in South West London. As we were almost the first to arrive we were placed in the third row of pews and were the last to leave,  we were not aware that the beautiful Memorial Service was attended by more than six hundred people. Colonel Sir Henry Abel Smith K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., D.S.O. loved all country pursuits.

Another discovery was a pale blue glass bottle of the “World’s Finest Dry Gin” which owes much to the ‘Botanicals’ used during its distillation.  All ten of these were illustrated on the label and were as follows:  Grains of Paradise from West Africa;  almonds, liquorice and Cassia bark from Indo China;  Orris (Iris root) and Juniper berries from Italy: cubeb berries from Java: Coriander from Morocco, Angelica (root) from Saxoy and lemon peel from Spain. Information gleaned from “Tropical Planting and Gardening (with special reference to Ceylon) is that cubeb berries are ‘corns‘, the plant, a_vine is Piper cubeb which belongs to the pepper family Piperaceae. Its stalked fruits are aromatic, a stimulant, diuretic, expectorant and curative of certain lung trouble when smoked. The vines require support and are grown on trees of Erythrina indica. Let us leave Grains of Paradise to the imagination.

An Innovative Art Form

In an English newspaper “Language of Wood” caught my eye. It was about David Nash an artist who lives in Wales in the wettest inhabited place in the British Isles which has 120 inches of rain at year. He makes sculpture out of unseasoned fallen timber,  surfaces are left rough and raw, never polished but sometimes charred to give them a soft velvety finish.  Giant-bowls and spoons, crudely wrought tables, misshapen ladders, woody  caverns like portals and a pair of triffid like objects with sinuous necks cram the Victorian-built Nonconformist chapel where he lives.  The wood he works still has an echo of its life processes, it will continue to shrink and crack and change colour. He compares his work with carving stone, when the sculptor is in the presence of time on a huge scale, “when you work a piece of wood you are closer to human time”.

Even more original are his growing living sculptures; he made an avenue of outward- bending oak trees in a park in Holland, this shape was achieved by fletching (cutting wedges out of the side of the trunk) and bending and pruning to redirect the trees further growth. The best known of these living sculptures is his Ash Dome at Caen-y-coed. This is composed of 22 ash trees, (Fraxinus sp.) in a 30ft circle planted as seedlings in 1977 which he trained to grow at an angle, so that in a, few years they will meet to form 3 canopy. The Dome was made on a four and a half acre piece of neglected woodland which David Nash inherited.  His works have been exhibited in a one manshow at the Krcller-Muller Museum near his avenue of leaning oaks. If anyone is interested Nash’s sculpture are at Annely Juda (wherever that is) until 19th June 1993.

The victims of the drought lives, Ficus sur  has sprouted some leaves on its bole. As regards its use for firewood there may be some aversion by the locals because some, fig trees and Parinari curatellifolia have been left for generations because they are associated with rain. The loss of a fig tree is an ecological disaster.  Some young farmers regard them as a nuisance and have them stumped out of the lands.  Pericopsis angolensis  have suffered a similar fate.  These tree trunks were rescued and set up in the Nyarupinda dam when it was nearly empty, they attract several species of birds, including the Fish Eagle. Faurea speciosa has begun to flower and the search for likely pollinators begins.

Sometimes something happens within hours of finishing this letter. On May 8th conscience made me continue Protea Atlassing.  This requires minute attention to detail and ‘things turn up‘. Namely a paper wasp’s nest of record size on a tall Faurea speciosa (new specific name imminent) well out of reach luckily; a colour- ful spider like a serrated simple leaf close to the underside of a Carissa edulia leaf to which it flattened itself when touched with a piece of grass. Its web had  a white ladder, the guy ropes of the web were golden yellow. The spider’s dorsa- ventrally flattened abdomen was mottled grey and yellow below and yellow with five horizontal grey bands on top, two pairs of grey/white banded legs were forward and two pairs stretched backwards, a typical stance.  It seemed to be like the ones we saw on S.S. Ranch this time last year. Another spider was hidden in a web- sealed folded  leaf. Its abdomen was like a pearl and its legs were beige coloured. A diversion from the spent blooms of  Protea gaguedi and flowerless Faureas  was  a fight in a bush clump close to me, between the big dog and a Selena Mongoose. Intervention was impossible both were intent on survival, the air was charged with musk and screaches. The dog was unscathed and the mongoose killed. What a sad end, the mongoose had a beautiful appearance, especially its white tipped bushy tail. There is a photo and the skin as a memento to show it really was a Selous Mongoose.

-Benedicta Graves


Annual General Meetings’ are so often avoided by members so it was very pleasing to record an attendance of some forty-five persons at the meeting held at Strathmore Farm Goromonzi on Sunday last. Due to such unpopularity most Societies hold a business meeting only, but as has been proved at Tree Society A.G.M.’s it is possible to mix business with pleasure and never more so on this lovely sunny day in a picture postcard setting with the blue hills of the Nora Valley in the distance. Despite the absence of the owners we were invited to make ourselves at home, so in a circle of rocks, flowers and large Parinaris, Euphorbea ingens and Acacia sieberiana  we found dappled shade and after copious cups of tea and mouth-watering cakes we settled down to the business of the meeting.

The first item on the Agenda was to welcome our guest of honour for this day – none other than Kim, here for a short visit.

The Chairman’s report was circulated in the May Tree Life so there was little need to elaborate on the outings enjoyed by us during the past year. However a most interesting and informative discussion did take place arising out of the report in that George Hall, by virtue of his long association with the Society and excellent recollection of events, very ably prompted or corrected by Dick Petheram, was able to give us the comparatively new members the background firstly to the birth of Tree Life and secondly on the Botanic Garden walks. One of my bridge friends always refused to keep a diary, saying she kept all the ‘dates’ she needed in her ‘digit box‘ and it did indeed surprise me what George has stored in his ‘digit box’ and was able to recall. This “modest monthly publication” mentioned in the report, which keeps all our members informed and together, was in the beginning part of the Rhodesia Science News and George felt that it was at the time when Kim and Meg started writing up specialist informative articles that it really came into its own right and today many others, like Benedicta Graves, continue to contribute many articles of interest. He also paid tribute to our friends in Bulawayo for their contributions, he was at one time stationed in Bulawayo during his period of service with Government and thought he knew the area well, yet he is continually surprised by the most interesting places visited by that Branch.

The Botanic Garden walks came about as a result of a stroll around the Gardens in the company of Tom Muller and was so enjoyable that it was suggested that it should become a regular event and over all these years the enthusiasm and knowledge of Tom Muller and Bob Drummond has rubbed off on members of the Tree Society and we are grateful to these two knowledgeable gentlemen.

George mentioned too, the part the first members of the Tree Society played in the allocation and hence preservation of the Mukuvisi woodland as a nature reserve, without which intervention there would not be the attractive and most essential educational centre established there today.

These reminiscences are indeed very important, as later on in the meeting by popular acclaim a young and vital chairman was elected and perhaps a younger committee will follow, and so it is wise for them to know something of the background to the Society and also comforting to realise that they can turn to George and Dick for information and advice.

Arising also out of the Chairman’s report, regarding conservation work – the question was asked about the severe destruction of woodland to make way for the planting of non-indigenous trees like gums. George was able to recount how one of the worst examples of such destruction had indeed taken place in the Poti Valley where an overseas organisation had done just that, and the Tree Society had been able to contact the organisation and bring to its notice this deplorable state of affairs This particular organisation had received permission from Government to go ahead with their plan to plant gums but had done no research into the project or into the value of indigenous timber so ruthlessly uprooted and the necessity to conserve the environment. George, did point out that persuasion was better than trying to hammer home non existent laws, but there was little we as a Society can do in such matters apart from bringing to the attention-of those responsible their lack of consideration for the environment and as he put it we should “not be seen to be doing nothing. ‘

This was to be Joy Killian, our Treasurer’s last AGM as Treasurer as she had resigned after seven years of loyal service. George thanked her for her devoted and efficient bookkeeping and welcomed Rosemary Greig, who will be taking over. As Joy’s second love is orchids she was presented with an orchid grower in the form of a tree-trunk, which caused her some puzzlement at first thinking it was a lampstand.  She expressed her thanks to all those who had made her spell on the Committee so enjoyable and of course we will continue to see her on monthly outings. The remainder of the

Committee is unchanged with power to the incoming Chairman, Andy McNaughton, to co-opt members if he so wished.

Under any other business a suggestion (and a request) from the Bulawayo Branch was presented and discussed. After twenty years it was unfortunate that as a result of an incident that Branch now considered it necessary to make an addition to the Constitution regarding a defaulting member who could by reason of his or her default be asked to resign, and the meeting was in full agreement with the request and the wording suggested by Bulawayo to implement the request, which will be ratified at a Special General Meeting to be held later this year.

The meeting closed with a vote of thanks from the floor to the outgoing Chairman and the Committee and all dispersed down to the Special Sanctuary and lunch by the river, about which Fiona will tell you more.

-Vida Siebert

STRATHMORE – Afternoon walk

The business part of the day completed, we piled into those vehicles with the highest clearance to descend steeply through the wildlife Sanctuary to the Nora River. Here, on a hillside overlooking it, we gratefully found patches of shade for lunch.

A leisurely walk afterwards along the river bank yielded typical riverine species like Myrica serrata and Salix mucronataSalix is the genus which other species are named after if they have long, narrow leaves, e.g. Faurea salignaBoscia salicifolia and Breonadia salicina.  On our recce the week before we also found an Olea europea var. africana.  On the river path we came upon Pittosporum viridiflorum and noted its clusters of green berries hanging beneath rosettes of leaves. It had typical lenticel-dotted, pale bark and, as Phil pointed out, the occasional diseased terminal leaf. Both features are good identification guides. Celtis africana and  Ficus sur were here present as coppice growth. Away from the river and up the hill we passed through a grove of Monotes, mainly  M. glaber but with M. engleri among them, showing its more discolourous leaves and without the persistent stipules that give M. glaber its whiskery look. We walked in a circle back to where we had left our picnic things adding Diplorynchus condylocarpon and a very large Vangueria infausta to our list.  On a termite mound, always a rewarding site, we found a very corky barked Boscia salicifolia, a large, multi-trunked Ehretia amoena and a Strychnos potatorum with green fruit. Not far from this was a minute Pappea capensis which, by its bristly appearance, was definitely saying “‘wha’ daur meddle wi me” or its Shona equivalent.  At a stop further up the hill, half way back to the house, some of us stopped for a fossick around. On lovely flat, rocky outcrops we found Ochna schweinfurthiana and the smaller leaved granite species , O.puberula , again as with Monotes in small groves.  There was also Ekebergia benguellensis, Diospyros nitidula, Brachystegia glaucescens, Faurea saligna and F. speciosa.  The remainder of the drive up the ecarpment to the house took us through areas of Uapaca kirkiana many hundreds of which, according to our hostess, had died in the drought.

It is a pity that our “treeing” time was limited as we had to miss out the kopjes behind the house, a rich source of species from past experience.  I leave to last the splendour of the Hymenodictyon floribundum the aptly named fire bush.  A sudden glimpse through the all green vegetation of flaming red or a fiery splash on far off kopjes. What a pleasure.

Our many thanks to John and Jill Marr-Levin for their generosity in leaving their home for us to use and for the privilege of allowing us to enter and enjoy their Wildlife Sanctuary. It was an excellent venue with a magnificent view for our AGM. We are most grateful.

Thank you too to all who provided the delicious spread for our morning and afternoon Teas.