The Tree Society Committee would like to wish all members a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous, tree-filled New Year.

Saturday December 2nd: Botanic Gardens walk. Meet in the car park at 8.30am. Come and spend a delightful hour and a half in the Gardens at this beautiful time of year. There are plenty of trees in flower, lots of interest.

Sunday December 10th: Christmas Party, The Rondavel, Mukuvisi Woodlands.


  • 10.00am Tea
  • 10.30    Moosh in Da Boosh presentation
  • 11.30    General Knowledge Team Quiz
  • 12.30   Lucky Dip
  • 13.00   Bring and share lunch & social

Please bring some Christmas fare to share for tea, a plate of lunch food to add to the ‘bring and share’ lunch table, plates, cutlery, chairs and a wine glass. The Society will provide some wine for those who would like it, but please bring any other drinks of your choice, together with appropriate glasses. For the Lucky Dip bring a small gift of not more value than $10, suitably wrapped to be placed under the Christmas tree.

We hope to see you all there.-

There will be no other outings in December.



Spring was upon us and we traveled lightly to the Eastern Highlands for a Tree Society outing. Our base would be the old Mutare Club, a beautiful old building with a bell tower and full of nostalgia from the pioneer settler time. The friendly welcome from Lesley (Club secretary and manageress) and the old quiet rustic charm that suffused the clubhouse with a feeling of dignity and wisdom – that you also get from standing under an ancient tree – made us humble and thankful to be accommodated there. This trip was an initiative from Mary and all organised by John Meikle.

Immediately upon entering the car park one’s attention is drawn to a very old Jackfruit tree,  Artocarpus heterophyllus, still in winter sleep. It’s tasty and healthy fruit is the biggest in the world (up to 35 kg). After checking in some of us had coffee on the balcony, with a view of the nearby mountain range.

In the evening we were welcomed by John Meikle who had put together the programme for the next two days. He joined us for dinner, a three-course menu with choice between three main courses – all good, simple and hearty.

Next morning at 07.00 the ten of us lodging at the club met for a proper English breakfast. John was already awaiting for us in the car park, a few others joined us (some residing in Mutare) and we were on our way to Burma Valley. Even though I had been several times to Mutare and the Vumba with family or friends, I had never before been to the Burma Valley. The plan had always been there, but the problem was where to go and where to stay.

At our first stop on the 1000m descent to the Valley (altitude about 700m), we immediately began to feel the lush humidity of the rainforest, a welcome change from the dry Harare conditions. John showed us some huge trees – Breonadia salicina, easily mistaken for a Quinine tree, a Bridelia micrantha and Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia (both bigger and taller than I had ever imagined they could be). Another huge tree Filicium decipiens, Fern-leaf, had a winged rachis, like Sapindus saponaria,  Soap Berry, which is introduced and common in Harare. Bilal found a Peperomia pellucida, a saprophyte which Meg explained to us.

At the second stop we went down to a flowing river and a small dam. We saw Dovyalis zeyheri, Apricot sour berry;   Englerophytum magalismontanum, Stemfruit;  Ficus sansibarica, Garcinia huillensis, Friesodielsia obovata, and Pterolobium stellatum with its vicious thorns and remarkable red pods, as well as Keetia gueinzii, a climber that I had not seen before. A Rothmannia urcelliformis was also pointed out to us. John led us to a house with a beautiful view of the Valley. A huge tree was growing through the veranda of the house but was still without leaves. Some pods were still hanging and we were told that it was a pear tree (not sure which one). We did some cursory botanising as time was flying and tea was waiting.

We continued our descent and traveled through extensive banana plantations, evoking a tropical feeling although the trees were of a dwarf variety. Then we entered a green tropical cocoon, at the centre of which was a fairy-tale house built at an elevation and reachable by a large natural stone stairway that was straight out of the children stories from the brothers Grimm.

Entering the living room, the tea that Christine Hildebrand had prepared for us was set with an extensive table full of sweets and biscuits and cake, just as in Hans and Gretel. As we were a group of about 30, some had their tea on the steps. Arriving there, Rob Jarvis pointed out a small fruiting tree that I had never seen before – Pachira aquatica with large pods, also named the French Peanut tree because of the nuts inside that taste like and are eaten like peanuts. We saw Dombeya rotundifolia, Khaya anthotheca and Petrea volubilis – this one was pink as opposed to the usual blue-purple flowers – as well as Fernandoa, Newtonia and Jacaranda. 

For our picnic lunch we drove to another house also belonging to the Hildebrand family. Here we had a panoramic view of the valley and mountains. The lawn was lush, green and thick, perfect for our picnic, but we still had plenty of chairs and all were seated. This old house, with its rooms interconnected over the rocks on the mountain slope on which it was built, was enchanting. Extensive flower gardens were interspersed with natural rock formations and the pure mountain air was redolent with all the plant perfumes. Paths led through it, going all around the house. On the side were two huge Ficus lutea trees shading a big pond in the rocks. Looking over the valley, we had our lunch in the shade of a big Ficus ingens. On the cliff edge was an old Afzelia quanzensis, Pod Mahogany,  as well as an Erythrina lysistemon and Sterculia quinqueloba. While sitting there, a flock of silvery cheeked hornbills came to rest in one of the Ficus trees – a first for some of us. Between the shrubs and flowers a stately Rothmannia had one big white flower attracting attention. A Rawsonia lucida (Forest Peach) first aroused some debate as some thought it might be a Drypetes. But a proper examination by Meg showed the inward curving of the leaf edges that proved it indeed to be a Rawsonia lucida.

Next stop on the route was a Raphia palm. Meg explained to us the difference between this and a Phoenix reclinata – the leaflets are folded in different directions. Some other interesting trees were pointed out but by then I had stopped recording them. We went back to the club and freshened up for dinner.

A table was set in a bigger room than the first night because we were now 25 people. John Meikle, who had been organising all the trips and arrangements, now gave us a speech about declining grasslands so important for the savannah ecosystems and we saw some beautiful slides about the area. The food was super again. Later, people retired to their rooms and others went home, while some of us went to play snooker on a priceless, antique, handcrafted snooker table.

Next day was Sunday, the streets very quiet. It took a bit of time for everyone to get a seat in a car as the planned route that day would only be accessible by high clearance vehicles. There was a bit of confusion here and there but at last we were on our way. The plan was to start with the huge Ficus rokko in one of the Mutare suburbsWhen we arrived the local participants were already there. It really was amazing and unexpected for those of us who have seen the same species in the Harare Botanical Gardens. Expecting to see something similar, we were overwhelmed. With all the people present we joined hands all around round the tree. We were about 22 people and, stretching our arms, we could only cover about half of the tree.

We then went on to Cecil Kop Nature Reserve on Christmas Pass, which was a new place for some of us. John once more had everything well organised and the staff were there the moment we arrived. We first heard a short talk by park guard about the Reserve and its challenges with poachers and invaders. We paid the $5 entry fee and started botanising.

Mistakenly thinking we could see another Filicium, we were instead admiring a Bersama abyssinica. In a 10m radius (we didn’t go much further than that) we also saw Ficus sur, Rauvolfia caffra, a Pterolobium stellatum and Vernonia sp. on which Meg did not find any stipular scars and therefore the specific name was unconfirmed. We also came across Toddalia asiatica (the Climbing Orange), an indigenous climber with knobbly thorns and leaves with a citrus smell. Rhoicissus tomentosa is a simple leaved Rhoicissus as opposed to the trifoliolate leaves in the other species. Further on we saw Teclea nobilis, Giant Cherry Orange, another trifoliolate, and a whole group of Catha edulis trees that were growing as pioneers in an area that had been cleared of other vegetation.

John then led the way to possibly the highest point in Mutare. The vegetation and wild flowers were now different and unknown to me. We continued on our way through the relatively dry area invaded by guava trees that were popping up all along the route between the usual shrubs and trees, of which Carissa edulis was one. Negotiating the rough dusty roads, we finally arrived at our destination after a long time of bouncing in our seats, bumping over bad dirt roads.

A pine forest covered the top of the mountain where we alighted from the cars to enjoy the panoramic view of the valley. Before getting there, we stopped at a conspicuous tree on the side of a banana field. It had large leaves and a stout and straight trunk puzzling us for a few minutes before finally seeing it was a Combretum molle, the biggest I’ve seen. Maybe it was here we also saw the Dovyalis lucida.

Another welcome guest that John brought along was Carl. Having lived nearly his whole life in the area, he knew of a few special trees that he wanted to show us. First was a Podocarpus latifolius or Yellowwood with impressive girth. Carl was wondering if it was another species but it was indeed the one, probably planted there long ago together with some Cypresses we saw close by. A little further we identified an impressive Trichilia dregeana. To complete our botanising Carl invited us to his place where we just gaped at a huge Cordia africana, bewildered by its immense girth and ancient history.

By this stage, as most cars had left, car seats were few and Carl proposed to drop us at the club. Driving to town, he pointed out cream white flowers all along the road and informed us that they came from the Tung tree, Aleurites fordii. He also showed us an old road lined with tall Khaya anthotheca at the side of the Mutare Gardens. And inside the park he told us we would find a very old oak tree, which is one of the trees mentioned in Lin Mullin’s “Famous Trees of Zimbabwe”. However, we walked all over the park but didn’t see the tree where Carl had first seen it 15 years ago. By then it was it was already getting dark. Time to refresh, have a drink and a snooker game. Dinner was more intimate with only nine people remaining at the club.

We are grateful to Mary and John for organising this special trip. If it hadn’t been for them I may never have seen the amazing Burma Valley, a place I plan to visit again.

-Jan van Bel



The reminder I sent out to members read: Saturday October 28th: Mukuvisi Woodlands – Blatherwick Road entrance. Because the days are longer and hotter we will meet at 15.00 at the gate. Please be on time so we can lock the gate before we walk and bring a drink for afterwards.

Well, we all know that on Friday 27th, the skies darkened in the afternoon and some areas had rain. It was cloudy and windy all Friday night and all of Saturday. Because I had a key to the gate, I thought I would get there, find no one was coming and just come straight home again. Wrong, very wrong! Dave Hartung phoned me at 2:10pm and said there was no one there – well I’m not surprised, he had arrived one hour early!

In all, we ended up with only one lady – Teig Howson – and the guys: Bilal Khatri, Karl van Laeren, Dave Hartung, Jan van Bel, Ryan Truscott (a new member) and myself. I arrived there early to meet up with Dave and I showed him the termite mound where a +4 metre python had been seen at the beginning of this month during a birding outing. Whilst there on the ant hill, we had a look at the trees and noted nine in all: Lannea discolor, Clerodendrum eriophyllum, Combretum molle, Erythrina abyssinica, Flacourtia indica, Gymnosporia senegalensis, Jacaranda mimosifolia, Pseudolachnostylis maprouneifolia, Senna singueana, Terminalia sericea, a small Vitex payos and some wild asparagus which I used to show all present some tufted leaves. When we were all present, we went back to this anthill to show how many trees grow in such a small area, all benefiting from the added nutrients in the clay of the termite mound.

Nearer the river on the flat rock area, there were some 20 eastern saw-wing swallows, with their white armpits, flying low down just above the rocks. We looked but couldn’t establish why the birds were there, as we couldn’t see any insects on the ground or flying around. But nearby we saw Ficus burkei, Diospyros lycioides, Syzygium cordatum, Azanza garckeana, Peltophorum africanum and Searsia longipes. Across the river we saw Gymnosporia buxifolia, Euclea crispa, Erythrina lysistemon, Faurea saligna, Pterocarpus rotundifolius and Albizia antunesiana. Further along we came across a small tree which had been eaten by the eland – it had rough bark and no leaves and was identified as a Bobgunnia (ex Swartzia) madagascariensis. In that area we also had a look at Parinari curatellifolia, Monotes glaber and Acacia schweinfurthii.

Pavetta schumanniana with new leaves looked like a Gardenia resiniflua but the black dots gave it away – a nearby P. schumanniana had normal-looking older leaves! We saw three Ochnas – O. pulchra, O. puberula and O. schweinfurthiana.

Then it was time to leave and on the way back we had a look at a Commiphora with new trifoliolate leaves and spines. The new leaflets were serrated and the middle leaflet was very much bigger than the other two. The hairy leaves made this a Commiphora africana.

 – Tony Alegria



Nine members took up the invitation by Katrin and Steve to visit their garden in Highlands. For most of us this was the second time in a year that we had the pleasure of visiting this interesting little botanical park, and we were looking forward to it.

We were welcomed by Katrin under the canopy of two Celtis africana trees on the side of the rustic old manor house, impressive and full of history but dwarfed by the green expanse around it. Already the first riddle was the question of whether one of the Celtis trees was C. sinensis instead of C. africana because of darker and smoother leaf.

An attractive flowered path let us to the rear garden for confirmation of an old tree that was possibly Schotia brachypetala, which it was. Ambling down the driveway (which we had skirted last visit, having run out of time) we passed Melia azedarach, Syringa,  and Citharexylum spinosum, Lady Chancellor, sprouting new leaves between the few remaining old ones in autumn colours. Polyscias fulva,  the Parasol tree, greeted us next from high above and beside it a Filicium decipiens with its characteristic fern-leaf label, the last two a welcome refreshing picture for those of us who do not frequent Highlands enough.

Next came Acokanthera oppositifolia,  Bushman’s poison, which was in fruit followed by a row of several Pecan Nut trees, Carya illinoinensis (the name proving its foreign origin, so Tony told us). We saw Melaleuca leucadendron, Johannesburg Gold,  and not far from it the more usual Melaleuca armallaris, Tea tree. Then, past a Eucalyptus torelliana, which Tony spotted between the abundance of green, we came across some more exotic trees and shrubs: Koelreuteria paniculata, China tree / Varnish tree, with large serrated compound leaves. Holmskioldia sanguinea (Cup-and-saucer-plant or Mandarin Hat); Nerium oleander and the blue Petrea volubilis, Pyracantha coccinea,  Firethorn,  Syzygium paniculatum, Brush cherry, Brunfelsia pauciflora, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow).

Other trees conspicuous in the garden were Tabebuia chrysotricha (Golden Trumpet), still with some yellow flowers; Albizia amara (Bitter Albizia) reigning in one part of the garden and a Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig) in another part. We also saw Ficus burkei (Common Wild Fig) and Ficus sur (Broom-cluster Fig). while Queen Palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana) dominated the pool area and some majestic Litchi sinensis with an abundance of fruit were imposing. A Terminalia stenostachya,  Rosette Terminalia, also occupied a special place in the garden.

Many more plants and trees were seen. I copy here from the list which was handed to me by Tony, who lead the party and identified nearly all the trees. We were happy to have Mark with us to confirm identification.

Diospyros lycioides,  Red star apple;  Dracaena steudneri,  Northern Large-leaved dragon tree, as well as some other exotic Dracaenas; Duranta erecta, Forget-me-not tree; Eriobotrya japonica, Loquat; Erythrina abyssinica, Coral tree;  Erythrina lysistemon, Sacred coral tree; Parinari curatellifolia,  Mobola Plum;  Persea americana, Avocado; Prunus cerasoides,  Flowering Cherry; Psidium guajava,  Guava; Rauvolfia caffra,  Quinine tree  Schefflera arboricola,  Dwarf Umbrella tree; Searsia lancea,  Willow Rhus; Toona ciliata, Cedrela; Bocconia sp. Tree poppy; Brachystegia tamarindoides,  Mountain Acacia; Brugmansia x candida, Angel’s Trumpet; Caryota mitis,  Fishtail Palm; Cestrum aurantiacum, Orange or Mango Cestrum; Dracaena mannii, Small-leaved dragon tree; Ligustrum lucidum,  Glossy Privet; Thevetia peruviana,  Yellow Oleander.

Ginkgo biloba leaves

This was not yet all. Bilal wanted to revisit some of the special trees at the bottom of the garden – Ginkgo biloba Maidenhair tree;  and Taxodium distichum, Swamp Cypress. He then discovered an unusual tree and identified it as a Crataegus species, maybe the European common Hawthorn, although this species had smaller leaves and no spines. Mark admitted not to have seen one before on the African continent.

It was time for tea and, returning to the house, we passed Liquidambar styraciflua, Liquid Amber;  and Brachychiton acerifolius,  Australian flame tree). Closer to the house we saw some more Acer buergerianum, Trident Maple, and Eugenia uniflora, Pitanga or Surinam Cherry, which in another part of the garden was planted as a hedge.

The splendour of the tea table was in harmony with the garden and similarly inviting. It had been all very worthwhile thanks to Tony’s hard work and enthusiasm and not least the keen interest and love of their garden shown by Steve and Katrin.

– Jan van Bel



It was a cool damp morning and only nine members arrived at Raintree, which has a beautiful setting on the banks of the Umwinsi River. It is a venue for picnics, weddings and social events and has swathes of green lawns stretching down to the river, with some handsome shade trees and both exotic and indigenous trees along the borders and the banks of the river.

Two very large Plane trees dominate the garden, we could not identify the species but noted the fruit – rough round balls on long stems, hanging like a Christmas decoration the leaves are palmate and the bark distinct.

Several Acacia polyacantha dominate the garden and are tall and straight with a pale yellowish to grey bark, commonly known as the White-stemmed Thorn tree. The bark peels in corky flakes and the leaves have a large number of pinnae. Several of these trees were in flower, with yellowish white elongated spikes. The thorns are hooked in pairs below the nodes. The tree yields a gum that is used as an adhesive and in confectionery, while the bark is used in tanning. The wood is strong and termite resistant. We also found a good-looking Loquat tree, Bilal tells us the leaves make a good tea.

By the river a clump of Crinum lilies (Vlei lillies) were in flower and on the other side there were some Haemanthus, now called Scadoxis or Fire lilies also in flower.

Along the edge of the garden were beds of flowers dominated by Annanas,  the Pineapple Bromeliad, Agapanthus and other perennials. Up on the hill behind were several large trees including a Jacaranda and a background of shrubs, amongst which were some Polygala myrtifolia. Towards the road is a grove of handsome Casuarina cunninghamiana, Beefwood. These are usually rather untidy with a greyish green crown, often planted to stabilise coastal dunes or found invading riverbeds. What appear to be needle-shaped leaves are in fact short branches with nodes, distinguished from pine needles by being jointed. The leaves are minute and brown and can be seen around the nodes. The fruit resembles a small cone and the wood makes excellent firewood for braais. The Casuarina is a native of Australia.

The indigenous River Combretum, Combretum erythrophyllum, has leaves in whorls of three, or alternatively they can be sub-opposite. Several of these trees were growing on the banks of the river. The bark is smooth and grey with large knobs.

Acacia sieberiana, with its long straight thorns and flowers in white or cream balls, were also growing along the banks of the river.

A self-seeded Jacaranda was growing in a bed of Agapanthus. It has large decussate compound leaves with numerous pinnae. Jacaranda mimosifolia comes from Brazil and was extensively planted as a street tree and in gardens in Harare and has become naturalised. It is now considered an alien and should no longer be planted. A Ficus sur had also self seeded and was growing happily by the river.

A grove of Pinus patula with droopy leaves had been planted along the bank. These pines have been introduced from Mexico for their valuable soft wood. They create no problems when contained and managed in plantations for their timber, but they are now invading natural forests in Eastern Zimbabwe and are seriously competing with the indigenous vegetation.

A short way back from the river is a long sloping bank that has been planted very effectively to Mondo grass, Omphiopogon sp. A large Poplar (Populus sp.) growing close to the stream must have been planted years ago when the wood was used for making matches. These trees are also serious invaders. There are more than 25 different species of Poplar – Populus canescens was introduced into Zimbabwe from Europe and Asia. The leaves are very discoloured, being mid green on top and whitish grey and furry on the underside.

Syzygium cordatum, the Waterberry, has opposite leaves and when young the stems are square. The leaves vary from elliptic to almost circular and are crowded at the end of branches. The lobes surround the petiole which is very short or absent. The flowers form in dense heads where the stamens are the most distinctive feature.

Celtis africana, the White Syringa, grows well in its natural habitat. The leaves have three veins from the base and are serrated around half the leaf.

The stem fruit, Englerophytum magalismontanum has milky latex and the leaves are elliptic. They are leathery, glossy, dark green above and densely covered with reddish brown to silvery hairs below. They are found in riverine forest.

A Lance-leaved Waxberry, Morella serrata, was growing near the bank. The fruit is a droop – spherical and black, covered with white wax which was once used to make candles and soap. Next to it was an Acacia xanthophloea with its smooth greenish yellow bark and long slender spines. The flowers form bright yellow balls.

We walked across an open field to the base of a kopje were there were Pterocarpus rotundifolius, Combretum molle, an Asparagus fern with tufted leaves and thorns, as well as Ochna schweinfurthiana, Brachystegia spiciformis, Cussonia arborea and Faurea rochetiana with a vein running round the outside of the leaf. We also found Vangueria infausta, a deciduous shrub, together with Turraea nilotica and a small tree which Tony identified later, the Violet tree, Securidaca longipedunculata, all growing on the side of the rocky hill. Among these was an exotic Monkey Puzzle tree, Araucaria sp.

We then stopped for lunch under a small A. xanthophloea. Thank you to Tony, Bilal and Jan for giving us an interesting and informative day.

– Ann Sinclair.



Msweswe RiverBolosanthus speciosus