TREE LIFE 

JULY 1993

Please note that if  you still haven’t paid your subs ($20) this will be your last Tree Life !

 

MASHONALAND CALENDAR

Saturday 3rdJuly :   Botanic Ganden Walk at 1045 hoursfor 1100 hours. Park at the Herbarium where we will meet Tom Muller

Sunday 18th July :  To Tony Tree’s farm Chirawahoo in the Darwendale area.  A series of holding dams follow the vleis down to the main dam. This gives a lush area which could be full of surprises. Rocky outcrops, Kopjes, tree, birds and perhaps game.

Saturday 24th July : Botanic Interest Walk : 3 pm at the car park of Waterworld – Samora Machel Ave. East. From there down onto the vlei

 Saturday 7th August  : Botanic Garden Walk.

 

MATABELELAND CALENDAR

Saturday 3rd July :  “The Aloe Expedition”. An all-day event to Plumtree and environs  chiefly to see aloes and many hybrids there-of under the expert guidance of Derek Viljoen; but there will obviously be treeing too. Meet at Girls’ College for an 0830 hours departure and bring lunch and tea. Round trip about 300 Kms.

Monday 12th July  : Urban Trails Hillside Dams at 1645 hours for 1700 hours.

Sunday 1st August : A mornings ride in and around Bulawoyo to look at some  historic trees..

Monday 9th August  : Urban Trails

The herald 25 years ago – 15th June, 1968

Reports of severe damage to crops, gardens and plantations, caused by almost unprecedented bitter frosts and high winds on Thursday night, poured into Salisbury yesterday. The damage to vegetables and flowers, and even to water pipes frozen solid by the cold, cannot yet be calculated. Late last night an equally icy spell was feared.

No part of Southern Africa seems to have escaped the cold. One of the worst-hit areas in Salisbury was Rolfe Valley, in Borrowdale. There the frost froze the sap in trees, a Meteorological office spokesman said yesterday.

Reports came from Selous and Inyanga of an “almost unbelievable” minimum temperature of between four and five degrees Fahrenheit – nearly 28 degrees of frost. One Salisbury nurseryman yesterday described the damage as “fantastic”. In spite of every precaution he had lost about 20 000 flowering plants.

 

NGEZI  21 – 25th May 1993

Driving a car with uncertain starting characteristics ruled out a wander in Mopane woodland but a scattered colony of flowering Aloe christianii with towering inflorescenses invited a short stop and a few photographs.

As we neared Ingezi the road condition deteriorated and potholes (of note!) made for exciting driving. Despite the usual complications at the Parks Office etc. accommodation was arranged and we finally drove off to Msasa Lodge seething gently!  Around the curve in the road a surprise awaited us – a large expanse of sparkling blue water stretching into the distance made a stunning contrast to last years puddle by the dam wall.

Shortly afterwards the Hydes arrived and rather jaded Ian and Margaret Mccausland drove up, having endured 70km of bad roads in a 323. At the evening braai it was decided to follow the same pattern as we did in August last year for seasonal comparison and to see if any more exciting species could be seen.

As the lake was now full, the walking distance to Sacred Hill had doubled so on day one the Hyde’s Land Cruiser provided a most acceptable alternative to walking or swimming across the lake! Once in the woodland on the opposite bank we “‘debussed” and wandered along the road trying to keep clear of the vast numbers of the weed Bidens pilosa (Blackjack). Mark showed us using a x10 lens the interesting downward curved hooks that are a feature of this weed species. Autumn’s chill was already apparent and Commbretum molle and Pseudolachnosylis maprounefolia had responded with varying shades of pink to red leaflets.  A thicket of Dichrostachys cinerea  contained several Ormocarpum kirkii with their distinctive fruit – a seed resembling a tightly coiled worm.  A quick reference to CP was necessary on finding a Diospyros looking shrub with an unusually fat petiole which, eventually appeared to be Diospyros mespiliformis.  Our botanical activities were of great interest to a passing fisherman on his bicycle, who, in attempting to see what we were doing nearly rode off the road.

Lonchocarpus capassa. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

A strange looking sapling with a smooth bark and a Cassia leaflet reminded us that sometimes young plants have a few tricks to thwart the enthusiasts, as nearby a large C.abbreviata exhibited these features on its new branchlets. Clambering onto a rocky knoll, a small cave came into view (an evening lair for some predator) the entrance guarded by a large Bridelia mollis. Further on a Ficus thonningii had wedged itself between some large boulders while its white roots locked into every available crevice. A scattered group of Kalanchoe lanceolata made a succulent change to an otherwise arboreal morning until a number of gnarled  Lonchocarpus capassa on an anthill caught our attention and we scouted the termite mound in search of any other interesting flora in the vicinity.

Further the road a well “treed” termite mound was investigated and varied species such as  Boscia salicifolia with its characteristic smooth bark,  Euclea divinorum  many spiny Carissa edulis and several superb C.imberbe were noted as well as the appearance of Acacia nilotica and A.gerrardii .  Our thoughts were suddenly shattered by a loud pop as a passing cyclist suffered a tyre blow-out – quite a day for rural cyclists!

After four hours of botanising and covering about l km in distance the suggestion of a break was endorsed by all, however, an impressive Brachystegia boehmii/glaucesens delayed matters for a few minutes while C.P. was consulted.  The answer was in fact boehmii (due to the pinnae size) – pity; a hybrid would have been interesting.

After lunch and tea wander up Sacred Hill‘s granite flanks brought some Cussonia arborea into view and closer to the summit the colony of Vitex mombassae was once more investigated by enthusiastic hands (we had a collecting permit!).  The view from the summit was magnificent as the lake stretched out below us with its many inlets glinting in the afternoon sun. After some time spent absorbing the details we returned to the vehicle, not forgetting to add a few stones to the rock croft at the hill top. The earlier than normal return to the lodge provided extra daylight hours with which to collate various samples, much easier on the eyes than staring at a tiny leaflet with a gas light or torch.

Day two started with a brace of Acacias near the Ngezi river crossing close to the park office.  An unusual species for Harare residents was A.chariessa with the distinctive features of scattered thorns and small pinnae.  At this point a blue Ford Sierra bearing T.C.E. number plates roared up in a cloud of dust, the occupants being identified as the Dawe family. Overlooking this scene of hurried greetings was a majestic Terminalia randii which then gently waved a branchlet in the slight breeze at the departing car headed for the lodges.

Gardenia volkensii. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

After last years drought the gurgle of water passing through the vee-notch at the gauging station was a delight to hear as we wandered about the river bark examining various species including some very lush Gardenia volkensii, several large Strychnos potatorum and an almost lifeless Ximenia caffra with only a few leaflets protruding from a wizened trunk. On the opposite bank Rhus quartiniana and Combretum erythrophyllum  and clustered near the high water mark while a very spiny Flacourtia indica dangled over the footpath leading to the Kadoma access road.  By now the Dawe‘s had -rejoined the party and we all stopped to have a gaze at an absolutely enormous Securidaca longipedunculata close to the road. Its massive crop of ripening seed was amply supported by a thick, twisted trunk and evidently the local nganga held the tree in awe as there was visible root damage.

Just before the dyke foothills “Tea” made an appearance, most welcome at this stage and gave us an opportunity to discuss “finds”.  Exciting species such as Rhus tenuipes with its delicate but highly serrated trifoliate leaflet to Ian’s find of a (maybe) Cadaba aphylla. This strange dark green plant had a purple tinge to its‘ spine tipped branchlets as well as being totally leafless – different!

Moving on into the road cutting through the Mashaba Hills,  a well wooded spot beckoned us off the hot sunny road into the cool shade. The Brachvstegia woodland contained many familiar species including Dalbergia melanoxylon, Turrea nilotica and many Diplorhynchus condylocarpon.  Nearby a low spreading shrub was noted, with leaflets protruding in threes from short rigid side shoots. The distinctive leaf vein pattern identified it as Strychnos madagascariensis. Prowling around a large group of  Tapiphyllum velutinum brought us to the bole of a grand old Acacia.  However, the leaflets were miles up and even with binoculars and several attempts at climbing; the tree defied all efforts to be identified.

Having parked the vehicles near the river and some food being the number one priority a shady spot was chosen for a break. This part of the river looked suspiciously like the place we stopped at last year, however, the Ngezi River had. changed from  slimy green trickle to a wide deep river. The fish population must have returned as evidenced by the arrival of a rural fisherman who had many negative comments about National Parks fishing charges! As botanising was our interest and not fishing permits, lunch ended prematurely.  Syzygium guineense seemed to be the dominant species noted during the afternoon stroll along this stretch of the river with a few Carissa edulis making an appearance, producing a “Y” thorn every so often to keep us on the alert for small details.

Hopping from rock to rock a shallow part of the river was crossed and a much drier, rocky part of the area came into view. A tiny remaining leaflet on a Commiphora mollis  gave some relief but the general dryness ruled out much botanising.  On the ridge above a Kirkia acuminata with a few remaining seed capsules stood stark  against the blue cloud1ess sky with the usual mixture of  Pouzolzia mixta and Euphorbia griseda clustered in nearby rock crevices and confirmed later, one specimen of  Schrebera tricheclada.

Returning across the river and to the vehicles, none of us realised that the bush was full of “Pepper Ticks” and were not prepared for what was to follow!

Day three dawned and the tick inflicted itches grew and multiplied with only Patrick and Michael being spared, while the rest of us scratched and scratched. Once aboard the Landcruiser we travelled (and scratched) our way south with the Dawes following to the Chombe area. The road was in bad shape after the rains and Patrick successfully negotiated his car over or around many “Deadly Hazards”.  At the low level bridge over the Munyati River the Landcruiser was eased over several deep and suspect looking potholes and parked near a well wooded termite mound. Leaving Linda and the children to organise the “T”, the rest of the party made for a large Olea europaea growing on the anthill.  A stately  Albizia amara and large numbers of Securidaca longipedunculata grew nearby tolerant of the highly mineralised soil.  The chrome ore fines evident on the road may have been eroded from the now extinct  Winsor Ferre –  alloys mine a few kilometers away. Unbeknown to us an armed guard from Moreena Ranch had been watching us, but having decided we were eccentric or harmless walked past and fortunately acknowledged our greeting.

A walk towards the river brought the sandbars into sight thickly populated with Rhus guartiniana and Rhus longipes with Acacia nilotica not far from moister soils. A grove of Phoenix reclinata and a solitary Burkea africana  within a ring of rocks were the outpost of vegetation as the smooth polished black rocks indicated the active part of the river. Flood waters must have rushed through this gorge and hurled the sand and stones into the shallows creating a new course for the river to follow. A trickle of water was the only reminder of the monumental forces that reshaped some of these new sandbars months earlier.

Crossing the trickle of water in the rocky part involved some careful footwork and once safely across we paused for a breather under a Ficus abutilifolia that clung tenaciously to its rocky outpost.  Several small clumps of Ludwigia sp. grew near the potholes in tiny pockets of alluvial soil, their dark green lanceolate leaflets and purple stems making a bold splash of colour. The water in the potholes was now a translucent green enabling us to see the unusual helix generated in the holes by trapped stones spinning under the influence of flood waters. Further up river where the potholes and rapids ended the vegetation became mainly Brachystegia with an exception being a Commiphora marlothii which had wound its green papery trunk around an Aloe excelsa.

Schlerocarya birrea. Photo: Rob Burrett. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

A pleasant midday stop was had down on one of the new sandbars in the shade of a   large (Marula) Schlerocarya birrea. Patrick Dawe received the Andrew Hyde prize (of a mollusc shell) for being the quietest member of the group during lunch. Well done Patrick.

Returning to the lodge to itch/scratch and botanise before the sun went down was a little difficult. However, Flora Zambesiaca had limited effect as an antidote for tick bites .  Prior to leaving Ngezi on day four we stopped on the opposite side of the dam wall to see some ancient ruins. The walls looked as if they had been recently rebuilt and a political message inscribed in some nearby concrete cast doubts on the ancient part of the ruins!

On the other side of the dwala the concrete wall of the dam held back the shimmering lake, which was only a short distance below the spill-way. The wall itself still looked in good condition after some forty eight years of a harsh environment.  After bidding farewell to the McCausland’s the rest of us travelled northward to the Umweswe River where during a few minutes stop, Michael found a master of camouflage lurking in a Dicerearyum seneciodes. A tiny triangular shaped spider had almost identical shades of pink and white colouring compared to the flower. A passing bee fell prey to this cunning action of nature. Near Selous a patch of Mopane woodland was a signal for a stop and a final cup of tea.

Despite a long hard look for Vepris zambesiaca and Cadaba termitaria nothing was found. However, an amazing number of twenty tree species were noted in the vicinity of an anthill including Pleurostylia africana, Ochna schweinfurthiana and a very spiny Flacourtia indica to name but a few. The Commiphoras stole the show with at least three species being evident. An interesting sight was that of a Loncarpus capassa  intertwined with both a Commiphora mollis and C.africana .  The almost leafless Commiphoras including C.pyracanthoides looked odd against the harsh green leaves of the Lonchocarpus. Unfortunately it was all over far too quickly and with a final quick look for any other interesting things that may have been lurking under the Mopane trees, it was time to head for home.

It was a fantastic sight to see a full lake at Ngezi and also to note how the vegetation had recovered after the severe drought. Although not many additional tree and shrub species were recorded it was a really interesting time. Very many thanks to Mark and Linda for organising another splendid weekend.  We were also very pleased that Ian and Margaret had a free weekend to share with us.

-Andy Macnaughton

 

SATURDAY 5TH JUNE, 1993 – BOTANIC GARDEN WALK

For this month’s wall an impulse decision led us to take a look at lowveld trees, in marked contrast to our examination of the Inyanga trees of the last couple of walks.

Pterocarpus lucens, Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

First of all we saw Pterocarpus lucens, a shrub in the Gona-re-Zhou but getting to 30m in a in the Mana jesse.  Often multi-trunked with a maroonish fluted bark, the parallel veins of the leaflets are similar to the other species of Pterocarpus including the next one we looked at P.rotundifolius var. martinii.  This variation of the common round leafed mukwa has smaller more numerous leaflets. It occurs on the basalt bills of the lowveld.

We stopped to look at Euphorbia fortissima which has a very much more restricted range than the commoner E.cooperi from which it normally differs by having a 4 angled stem rather than 3 angled.  It is headquartered in the Victoria Falls gorges, Batoka gorge and around the Deka road.

We passed Kigelia africana, the sausage tree, not yet in fruit, and heard how it is adapted to be pollinated by bats.  Although seen on the high veld it is a feature of the low veld especially in places such as the Mann flood plain.  Its opposite pinnate leaves are typical of the BIGNONIACEAE family. This arrangement contrasts with the next tree,  Lonchocarpus capassa of the legume family, with pinnate, but alternate leaves. This is the rain tree, so called because spittlebugs draw sap from the tree and excrete so copiously that the trees ‘rain’ , and can even form puddles on the ground below. Another legume seen next was Xanthocercis zambesiaca, the nyala berry, also with pinnate alternate leaves. This, along with Cordyla africana   which we saw later, are very different from the normal legumes in that the pod is contained within a fleshy berry or fruit, unlike the bean-pod so typical of the rest of the family.

Next we stopped at the  Kirkia acuminata, a member of the SIMABOURACEAE family.  This occurs in nearly all the lowveld ecological associations, from escarpment to jesse to alahari sand.  It is very deciduous, being one of the first to go into autumn colours of yellow and red. Tom reported that this is an easily moved tree taking well after translocation, and  we heard that the Shona name mubvumira suggests that it is agreeable to being transplanted. It has a fine timber, though hard on tools due to its high silica content.

We then saw another of the BIGNONIACEAE, Stereospermum kunthianum,  the pink jacaranda.  No great sausages for this tree. Instead its dehiseent pods split to release feather light windborne seeds which mature and fly within a couple of weeks  of flowering. The bark peeling off in large flakes is very typical and make the tree easily identifiable. Stereulia quingeloba has a bark which if leafless makes it almost indistinguishable from the near by  Albizia tanganyicensis.  Both have a papery liver coloured maroonish bark which peels-off to reveal  very pale whitish smooth under bark. The similarity even led to a misplanting in the garden!  Both are typical of kopjies in the lower areas.  Usually different is Stereulia africana which shows an under bark which is almost as dark as the peeling outer bark.  It also tends to have larger fruit but smaller leaves than ‘peculiar-stink-all-over’.  This will be found on the basalt soils of the Zambezi valley especially around Victoria  Falls. We also saw S.apendiculata headquartered on the lower Mazowe near the Mocambique border, where one can see 50m giants, with buttressed trunks in a forest mix. The fourth member of the genus is S. rogersii  of the S.E.lowveld, which we did not recall as being much more than a low tree of a couple of metres in height.

Tom showed us Balanites maughamii which is a denizen of the lovweld alluvlum.  It gets to an enormous size producing the large fruit sought often by elephants, the V thorns are forked and the leaves consists of a pair of leaflets.  We successfully guessed the nearby Tamarindus indicus , a large shade tree of the valley, producing the spicy pods which feature so prominently in Indian cuisine.  Some authorities speculate that it was relatively recently introduced from Asia by trade and communications over the sea from that continent.

The refreshingly green lobed leaf of Triplochiton meant that we guessed this with some ease. Of the MALVACEAE, this like so many members of the family produces edible leaves with a glutinous texture like okra.  On the Zambezi it occurs frequently around the Falls, but not further downstream than A camp, coming out of Kariba gorge.

The only Acacia we looked at was Acacia tortilis, being the typical ‘flat-top’ of the lowveld. It is unique having hooked and straight thorns. Also it has the tiniest of leaflets, ‘although perhaps not quite as small as A.rehmanniena.  Being a legume with a pioneering capability it is often responsible for restoring fertility to degraded lands and overgrazed veld.

Last but by no means least, and indeed perhaps the greatest in the Zambesi valley, we stopped by the Ficus bussei formerly (F.zambesiacus) differing in the valley from all the other figs with its long hairy leaves.

The mature trees assume great proportions appearing to be broader than tall. This only occurs in the Zambezi valley. Our thanks go to Mr Tom Muller again for his entertaining guidance.

-Philip Haxen

 

BEACONSFIELD FARM – MARULA 6TH JUNE 1993

It was a crisp, sunny morning as our convoy set off for the Viljoen’s farm, some 95 kms. down Plumtree way.  Turning off at Marula, we headed into the south western part of the Matopos and soon reached Beaconsfield Farm nestling cosily between the rugged hills in a lovely setting. The farmstead overlooks the tranquil waters of a dam where water birds abound and the reeds provide cover for many endearing little flat-foots.

After a welcome tea provided by our hostess, Barbara, we set off under the leadership of our host, Derek, to explore and admire the many interesting features of the area.  We drove to the nearby Tshashane Dam where one of the longest and thickest earth walls in Zimbabwe is nearing completion.  Already a small dam has formed and, when full, will stretch for 7 kms in a very attractive setting, surrounded by rugged hills.  Derek entertained us by relating some amusing and some tragic incidents concerning the building of the wall.  One story concerns an intrepid volunteer who swam to put something in place at the tower containing the spilling shoot and as he approached found himself in a powerful whirlpool which soon sucked him into its vortex and down the shoot. In seconds the water propelled him through under the wall and carried him away downstream where workers were amazed to see a man being spewed out of the pipe like a cork from a bottle. He was somewhat flayed and quite badly injured but we were relieved to hear that he survived and has now practically recovered.

We then proceeded to visit the old historical, but now abandoned, site of the London Mission Society’s outpost called Tjimali Mission. On the way we stopped and admired a fine specimen of Combretum collinum towering above the surrounding bush which here consisted mostly of Colophospermum mopane in its bright golden and russet winter colours.  In fact the bush generally glowed with colour in the bright morning sun.

Soon the stark, red brick walls of the old mission house could be seen hiding in the bush a floorless, roofless ruin, incongrously Victorian in its wild African setting. We explored the house and admired the large fireplaces in nearly every room, the tall chimneys still intact and seemingly raising supplicant parapets to the heaven once adored within its walls. In the principal room there grew Grewia monticola, Commiphora marlothii and Flueggea virosa.  In another room a a young Lonchocarpus capassa has established its habitat along with Euclea racemosa and Bridelia mollis.  In the corridor grew Euclea natalensis and Psydrax livida. In fact throughout the house Africa is busy re-establishing itself and in the erstwhile Victorian-style garden we found a multitude of old friends such as Tarenna neurophylla, Rhus laptadiatya, Pappea capensis, Allophylus africanus, Ziziphus mucronata, Diplorhynchus condylocarpon, Prerocarpus rotundifolius, Burkea Africana, Flacourtia indica, Ptaeroxylon obliquum, Cordia grandicalyx, Homalum dentatum, Schrebera alata, Hexalobus monopetalus, Maytenus heterophylla subs. Puberula, Piliostigma thonningii and a host of others, too numerous to name.

We continued our walk to the viewpoint, a high ridge overlooking a seemingly endless plain for below, well wooded, watered and dotted with historical kopjes such as Castle Kopje, Three Sisters and so on. After listening  to a few more interesting tales about the colourful characters who had lived on the farms in the area, we returned to the farmstead via a rocky outcrop on a river bank where we examined some bushman paintings and found besides an  Ochna pulchra, Boscia augustifolia, Rhus pyroides and Grewia flavescens.

A late lunch was enjoyed by us all, spread out on the green lawns in the shade of lovely trees.  A big thank you to Derek and Barbara for their tremendous hospitality.

-Clem van Vliet

 

FRIDAY 4 JUNE : BEACONSFIELD FARM BELONGING TO BARBARA AND DEREK VILJOEN

With only five electing for a weekend stay, we were told to bring no food, only drink,  as Derek and Barbara would both feed and host us. What a pleasure!

Ken and I arrived at ll.30 am and with Derek wandered around the dam site and cottages in their idyllic setting. Unfortunately Dam Viljoenspoort on the Bembelume River has not filled this year (dead water according to Derek) though other dams in the area have done well, and so the dam level was far below the wide verandah of the main cottage from which Derek loves to fish – large barbel, bream and some introduced bass abound in the dam. The  Acacia karoo island on its termite mound stood well out of the water. Derek says that the termites actually climb the trees when the water level is up so they must place their queen in an -upper chamber of the termitary.   We focused our binoculars on the acacias and saw blue waxbills, common waxbills, red eyed doves, black fly-catchers and a lilac-breasted roller.

Markhania zanzibarica. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Trees in the immediate vicinity of the cottages and kopje include Ficus abutilifolia, my favourite fig, and I was amazed at the size and number of this species in the area, Markhania zanzibarica with enormous leaves, Cordia grandicalyx and numerous Acacia galpinii  and A.rehmanniana.  We scrambled around the kopje, a child’s paradise, to see a minute Bushman painting of an impala. Later in the afternoon, looking out across the dam, we noticed that the white faced whistling duck had abruptly halted in mid air and quietly settled on the water.  Something had alerted them and sure enough a fine fish eagle had flown in and settled on a dry stump on the bank opposite.

When Ian, Margaret, Anton and later Barbara arrived we were treated to a fine dinner of venison superbly cooked by Derek.

Thora Hartley.

SATURDAY 5 JUNE

After a substantial cooked breakfast, we all climbed aboard the Mazda truck and driven by Barbara, went to Fort Luck, next in line to Mangwe of the chain of forts which lined the Pioneer Route.  It was surrounded by a moat and had steep walls.  None of the trees in the area is more than forty years old, as this was an open area giving good, clear observation to the post.

From there we went to Sandown Estates where young Max and Gary Rosenfels have established a Game Camp high up looking westward over the Matopos Hills – truly a World’s View – absolutely breath-taking.

Home for lunch, after which we went out to two special areas on the farm to compare Euphorbia confinalis subsp. rhodesiaca with E.cooperi.   The drought affected both species with many dead and dying specimens and I collected a good number of their spines in the soft rubber soles of my shoes which I had some difficulty in extracting. We compared their trunks, constricted branchlets, latex consistency and smell or scent! Derek and Anton suspect some natural hybridising between the two species. There were lovely views again from the kopje on which E.cooperi grew. Looking through his binoculars Anton thought he spotted a Ficus tettensis growing at the very top of the nearest kopje. He wanted seed so he hared up it like a rock rabbit and was successful in obtaining two ripe figs and a branch of green ones with leaves to prove his find. Quite amazing!

After that the highlight of the weekend — a drive through the Lebonka Game Park. The lodges are built on the edge of a very picturesque dam with a surround of waterlilies in full flower. This dam on the Lebonce River was built by Barbara’s father. We walked on to the wooden pier to obtain the best views of the dam and water birds.   We were spellbound. Then Derek took us on a spectacular game drive and we saw more species of plains game, starting with giraffe, than we have seen in a full day at Hwange . We did not see the black rhino, the sable, a cheetah or a leopard but most everything else. Three ostriches, two males and a female, in full mating plumage kept up with us, criss-crossing backwards and forwards at speed with wings outspread for fully ten minutes. Two very large kudu bulls took not the slightest notice of us, being interested only in the beautiful females of their species, and a herd of young buffalo seemed uncertain whether to flee or challenge us and kept up a start – stop performance. There wasn’t time for treeing.   What a wonderful afternoon.  Home to dinner which Barbara had ready for us.

MONDAY 7 JUNE

We did not leave with the rest of the group on Sunday afternoon being persuaded by Derek and Barbara to stay overnight and visit two Rosenfel farms the next day. Both had beautiful gardens and homes, the first belonging to Pam where we had morning tea, and the second to Ernest and Betty, where we had an excellent lunch.

In the centre of the lush lawn was a large and unusual-shaped Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia in full green leaf and golden berries, whereas all the others we had seen in the area were in their most beautiful autumnal tints of maroon, red, orange and yellow. A berry which had been thrown from this tree had hit the window and had made a perfectly round hole in the pane without any splintering — roughly larger in size that our dollar piece.

In the same garden was a huge  Ficus thonningii  full fruit and feeding there were green pigeons – had the best view of them that is possible. Truly made my day!

Thank you Derek and Barbara for a memorable weekend filled with good food and hospitality and Derek’s numerous, humorous tales of the area and it history.

 

RE: ‘ T0 TOUCH WOOD ‘ ‘

In response to the query in a recent issue of Tree Life about this saying: the1981 edition of Brewer‘s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable gives the following information:

‘An old superstition to avert bad luck or misfortune or make sure of something good . . . Traditionally certain tree such as the oak, ash, hazel, haxrthorn and willow had a sacred significance and thus protective powers. . . these should be the ones touched but this detail has passed into oblivion and any is put to use.

It seems that this superstition has nothing to do with touching the wood of the cross, which is what I always thought it meant.

Caroline Macnaughtan.

 

THE URBAN PAGEANT

We walk the dog (a noisy and indulged Alsatian – sorry GSD) three or four times a week at the Hillside Dams. This rudely healthy activity serves a dual purpose – exercise for ourselves and the animal, and a continuing recce for the event on the Matabeleland calendar) called the “Urban Trail”.  Its portentous billing suggests a pan-bulawayan event. It is nothing of the sort. Only once in the last twelve months have we met outside the environs of the dams. That we do not remove ourselves from the Hillside Dams is the product of the above described symbiosis. But this is only half the truth. The fact that we return again and again is very simple. There is just so much to see up at the Dams. Here follows an account of the few things we have looked at on our trails since July last year.

Rhus is one of the earliest trees to flower in Bulawayo and the large specimen at the drift below the lower dam is no exception. It was laden with sweet scented flowers by early July twenty metres away Rhus pyroides (named for the pear and not the burning wound given by its spines) Rhus leptodictya grow side by side.  They were an obvious trio to study.

August – about the only green sight is on Pappea capensis and the Ehretis rigida and amonena.   So we take a closer look at them. Val Deas tells me the correct pronunciation of the latter is ameena.

By September we are fairly desperate for subject matter. Bulawayo is in total dessication. Wendy Bullock however comes to the rescue with an interesting tree growing in a neglected square in Ilanda. This is initially identified as Boscia matabelensis.  We visit this place with Charles Sykes find the said tree in fruit and flower and other interesting botanical stir-rings in fruit and flower as well.  All this is the more marvellous because not a drop of rain has as yet fallen.  The discoveries are Cadaba terminteria and Maerna juncia and CAPPARACEAE becomes the theme for September.  Incidentally the Boscia matabelensis is revised to B.augustifolia thanks to Bob Drummond.

Early October and some rain has fallen. In knee-jerk response Scadoxus multiflorum pop up everywhere. Their scarlet orbs contrast vividly with the dead grey not of last season’s grass, because none grew then, but what is left of the season before’s grass.  There is also a spreading of green at ankle level. It’s  Talinum arnotii which shyly after four o’clock permits its pretty yellow flowers to open and then to close and die before dawn.  Pauzolzia mixta is in bloom, but a hand lens is needed to get a good look at the flowers.   All subjects are a stone’s throw from the aloe garden car park and as we stand around our selected Scadoxus we see a spike of Eulophia streptopetala studded with brown and yellow flowers.  A good omen – only fortune and good rains sit between us and evacuation from Bulawayo.

Scarlet, mauve and deep cream (Jersey coloured) do not provide a soothing palette but Erythrina latissima grows on the island (now a largish mound in the totally empty lower dam) Elephantorrizha goetzii dots the rocky hill behind it.  Both are in flower. I find this combination more pleasing especially against a monochrome backdrop of lifeless vegetation and syenite (the granetoid rock of the Hillside Dam and incidentally of Mount Mlanje too). The Bolusthanus along the Matopos road are covered with blossom and I suspect that the one growing at the footbridge will follow soon. The colours clash but the family unites – so it will be FABACEAE for November. I pick  Erythrina and Elephaantorihiza flowers at the dams and poach a spray of Bolusthanus from the City Council to photograph for “the Trail” handouts.  I am supremely proud of being totally organised a good week before the event.  Come the day, and the Erythrina has dropped everything, not a flower remains, the  Boluthanthus hasn’t budged and only the Elephantorrizha shows the flag. So much for advance planning, but at best those who came along go home with photographs of once freshly picked flowers if only in black and white.

Good rains have fallen and spirits soar. Small cushion-like plants with delicate white flowers and long purplish—red stamens proliferate. Their leaves are pungent and the aroma is a robust blend of sage, old sweat and burnt rubber.  With one sniff the soft palate puckers and signals Clerodendrum. These pretty alpine-like plants are C.ternatum and so we take in their kin folk C.myriocoides  which had flowered rather pathetically a fortnight earlier and C.glabrum which was to put on the most spectacular display in the new year as our subjects for December.

By January frequent and soaking rains have broken the grip of the drought and the first channel water flows into the Upper Dam. This is crystal clear because it is spillage from numerous small reservoirs higher in the catchment. The veld is a carpet of herbs. Few if any of the perennial grasses have survived the drought, they are regenerating from the soil’s seed bank.  So broad-leafed annuals dominate and the chief of these are the Cleomes and Commelinas.  We look at Cleome monophylla (by far the most common), Cleome gynandra (not very common) and the Commelinas benghalensis, Africana and erecta.

Grewia flavescens is covered in golden yellow flowers which are so showy that I cannot even remember when, or if at all the G.monticola growing next to it at the Aloe Garden car park has flowered.  Anyway we have a look at these two in February teaming them up with Celtis africana growing profusely from seedling though sapling to mature tree very close by the in the shadow of the Upper Dam wall. This has always been a dank and moist place. Soaring Acacia galpinnii  reduce everything else to under story  (mimusops,  Ficus thoningii, Olea and Celtis africana stand below their canopys, but drought has taken its toll. The mimusops is dead and so are at least half a dozen mature  Celtis, their pale bark bleached in death to a luminous ash grey. However, there are many young to take their place but not so for mimusops.  I know of only two others at the dams and they are both dead.

The picture at the low dam (still empty except for a puddle reigned over by a pair of ferral muscovies) is pure van Gogh.  Strong textures and vibrant colour splashed in bold sweeps of acid green, orange, ochre and maroon tell March’s botanical story. Its pigweed, khaki weed, Mexican marigold and underfoot paperthorn but because these common or garden names are so confusing one should perhaps say :

Amaranthus hybridus a.k.a. pig weed or imbuya

Tagetes minuta a.k.a khaki bush, mexican marigold or stinking roger.

Tithonia rotundifolia a.k.a. mexican sunflower

Alternanthera pungius a.k.a. khaki weed or paper thorn. ,

Tithonia is a special favourite.  Its colour is the most shocking in nature’s palette and who can forget the legend of Tithonus or Tennysons poems there on  ”The woods decay, the woods decay and fall”.

April and Easter Monday.  We are at Inyanga visiting Jim and Mary Clarke. Its April and I find myself sitting beside a trig beacon in the Sikoveni Range (Esigodini).  At my feet a stunted shrub pink in petiole, perfect in ovate and opposite leaf pokes itself from a cleft in the rock. I pick and it bleeds milk.  I’ve seen the same thing at the dams but was told that it was exotic.  I am now less accepting of that verdict and specimens from both localities are sent to Harare. The answer comes back.  Acokanthera oppositifolia and not at all as common in Matabeleland as A.rotundata. The latter together with Diplorhynchus condylocarpon grow suitably close to our latest find so in May we looked at these members of the family APOCYNACEAE.

A visit to Ingesi Dam for the Africa Day weekend sparked an interest in Dichrostachys cinerea and so for June we shall be looking at D.cinerea subspecies  nyassana, D.cinerea subspecies africana variety africana and D.cinerea subspecies africana variety pubescence all of which are heavy with fruit.

The season has come full cycle.  We haven’t walked the dog as often as we should have just lately. Neither the early twilight nor the mid-winter chill encourage this activity and nor does the dry and dormant veld.

-Ian Mccausland

 

A STEP BACK IN TIME : AND A CHALLENGE – ASHLYNS WEDZA

On those Sundays when there is no Tree Society outing do you often think how nice it would be to go ‘treeing’ on your own – or just to go on a picnic in beautiful unspoilt woodland.  How lucky we are in the Tree Society in the invitations we receive to visit farms and estates – but this time Mahommed went to the Mountain and to our delight found a jewel set in completely unspoilt countryside.

Step back in time and think of an old country estate, perhaps in England or Ireland; there is the Manor Howe, the Gamekeeper’s Cottage and the Visitors‘ Lodge. We did not see the Manor House because the lord was away but we did visit the cottage and the lodge. A gabled thatched building, chimneys here and there, bright red windows and little buildings dotted around (including a ‘Rhodesian’ boiler house) set in amongst the rocks, trees and aloes: a walk around the side brought into view the glistening water of a dam with a lily-filled cove reaching to the lawn. How we knew we were in Zimbabwe; here was an enormous ‘braai’ fireplace and not so large swimming pool, a wide front verandah with colourful local pottery scattered here and there and even an old grain mortar, housing a fern. A large Gardenia volkensii loaded with fruit, so obviously enjoying the extra care and water it received as part of the garden, added to the picture. We were greeted by Charles and Afric (an Irish name of ancient origin) and as charming as the bearer of it and two little Hamiltons.

The road to the Visitors’ Lodge will not present any difficulty provided care is taken to drive slowly; it suffers from typical farm road syndrome, that is high middle ridges and at this time of year overgrown with tall grass, making it difficult to gauge the height. About a km along there is a rocky outcrop with numerous trees simply inviting exploration; and further on where a boma is built open woodland equally inviting. We had difficulty in selecting a luncheon spot there; it was a toss-up between a fruiting Terminalia stenostachya or a larger than usual Brachystegia boehmii adorned with tree orchids.

Closer to the Lodge Wedza Mountain becomes clearly visible on the horizon; the road then turns right through a grove of Acacia nilotica, at this time of year bearing long strings of beads. The Lodge is a large, large rondavel with an upstairs loft and can sleep four to five, and extra guests can be supplied with tents, camp beds and sleeping bags. The design and decor are most unusual, but perhaps less so than the bathroom adjacent, which has to be seen to be believed. It crossed my mind that too many Irish whiskeys would have to be avoided to negotiate the steep ladder to the loft, but all in all it is cool and comfortable and set in beautiful open woodland. You may be lucky to lunch at the Lodge and what better place to stay for a while to explore the interesting area around; incredible Wedza Mountain, the large granite dome of Mtemwa Mountain, the famous Markwe caves, Imire Game ranch and other “spots”.  Just across the vlei from the Lodge a road leads to a stream and one of the several kopjes on the farm. The birdlife is abundant, especially on one of the smaller dams on the farm — a favourite haunt of Peter Ginn.

There was a pleasing though not spectacular range of species, particularly of the Msasa /Mnundo variety,” of which we recorded 67.  We thought there might be a possibility of seeing such treasures as Olinia or Apodytes and others if we got nearer the riverine area and even with Wedza Mountain only 30 kms aways we found no evidence of the vegetation characteristic of the nickle anomaly.  But we were happy with our finds, all our old friends were there, and we challenge all you dendrophiles to better our score – 67!. Yes, your Committee has agreed to put Ashlyns on our calendar but it would  be fun to see what we can find before the Tree Society visit and you can enjoy a day in lovely natural surroundings.

 

MARLOTH MEDAL – CONGRATULATIONS TO DENZIL CARR

Tree Society members who know Denzil Carr will be happy to congratulate him on being awarded the Marloth Medal by the Botanical Society in South Africa. This medal is presented for the promotion of the indigenous flora of Southern Africa by means of significant publications written by non-professional botanists, and now has been awarded only 3 times since its inception in 1987. Denzils’ two works on Acacias and Combretaceae were judged worthy of the Marloth Medal by the Botanical Society. –

 

SEEDS PLEASE all sorts required by Tom Muller of the Herbarium and Anne Bianchi care of any Committee member.

Please label paper packet with collection date, place collected and collector‘ s name.

 

ANDY MACNAUGHTAN   CHAIRMAN