September 1985

APOLOGY:  I regretfully mis-spelt Father Watsham’s name in the last newsletter, no offence was intended.  His talk was most informative and was well attended by the society.



Tuesday September 3rd: Botanic Garden Walk, meet at 1645 for 1500 hours.

Sunday September 15th: Springvale Conservation Area, Marondera : Braai. Marondera is traditionally msasa headquarters and September is flush time.  The venue is an educational area which is being stocked with game by Peterhouse under the direction of Peter Ginn, the well known bird photographer.  In the tree line, where else can you find all three indigenous species of Cussonia?  Old man’s beard hangs like ghostly curtains obscuring the view of balancing rocks.  Peter Ginn promises to organize a lunchtime fire, so bring along your nyama for a braai.  A bus has been booked and will leave from Monomatapa Car Park at 0830 hours.  Fare $10, why not bring a friend?



Sunday September 1st: We go to Woodcroft Ranch, Mr. J.P. Simpson, near Redbank.  Meet at Falls Road Motors at 0845 hours.

On Sunday 4th:August we went to the end of Northway, towards Circular Drive and in spite of the general lack of leaf, we identified some 50 species.

We found 3 Acacias, A .karroo and A. rehmanniana close together, so we could note the differing colours of the young bark, also the different number of pinnae and leaflets.  Later we saw Acacia sieberiana, with a very corky bark, though not actually peeling in this case; Azanza garckeana with deep lobed leaves and mid-rib fissure below, distinguishing it from Dombeya rotundifolia, along the road, coming in, we saw one of these in flower, already, very early, Brachylaena rotundata and Maytenus undata, both very white, Cassine transvaalensis, this very young and toothy, causing some doubts, resolved however on seeing the excellent illustration of juvenile leaves in Drummond’s “Common Trees of the Central Watershed Woodlands”, Dovyalis zeyheri with very young shoots and pale bark, gave us pause; Erythrina latissima were very bare, and some boles incredibly knobbly; Flacourtia indica showing extreme variation in leaf shapes; Iboza riparia in full flower; Mimusops zeyheri was a large leafy tree, although in a dry rocky area; 2 Pavettas, P. schumanniana and P. assimilis; Sericanthe andongensis and 1 Vangueria infausta represented the RUBIACEAE; Schrebera alata was among the rocks, and also some very young Zanthoxylon capensis.




A small but enthusiastic band of Harare members joined the Ayrshire Branch in Raffingora over this weekend for some rewarding botanizing.

After lunch on Saturday we congregated at the home of John and Ann Duffield which the Tree Society has previously visited.  En route we were shown a few examples of Brachystegia allenii, the Brachystegia of the Zambezi escarpment.  We were not all that far from the escarpment as the crow flies, so it was perhaps not so surprising.  The leaves are a pale blue green shade and the leaflets, usually about 5 pairs, are held at an angle to the rachis, sometimes at right angles, giving the leaf a “louvre” appearance.

Crossopteryx febrifuga. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Crossopteryx febrifuga. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

We drove through the farm passing a Crossopteryx febrifuga seen on a previous visit and parked in a kopje area.  Walking through a flat area of woodland below the kopje we were amazed to see a Ximenia caffra as a tree of several meters, for this is usually seen as a waist high bush.  Lack of leaves, flowers, pods or other identifying material caused difficulty in identifying a possible Albizia tanganyicensis.  The flaking paper bark and pale under bark seemed right but doubt was caused by the observation of a pod on a nearby Sterculia quingueloba and the bark of this did not seem greatly different.

After crossing a stream between two kopjes we passed a Faurea which bore fairly narrow leaves causing a little confusion with F. saligna. However, a little further on confusion was clarified with the appearance of another specimen, obviously the same species, but this time with the more usual broad leaves.

The kopje offered a number of interesting finds.  Catha edulis was amongst the lower boulders.  This species is QAT of Somalia and Ethiopia, etc. where it is banned as a stimulant like dagga.  However, in this part of the world the variety or subspecies is quite harmless.

Some small Bequaertiodendron magalismontanum were in amongst the rocks along with Diospyros natalensis, the attractive tree/bush with glossy round leaves the size of the old “tickey”.  A very tall tree reaching for the light had us guessing until a boulder alongside was climbed and its identity discovered as Euclea natalensis.  This has larger, longer leaves, also glossy on the upper surface, but having a dirty soot stained appearance on the ventral surface.

Antidesma venosum the tassel berry put in a somewhat unexpected appearance among these lower boulders.  This had no tassels of fruit on it and without them I confess that an identification by me would be suspect, so I look forward to getting to know this better.

Higher up on the kopje a slender tree had us guessing long and hard.  Eventually Olax gave way to Cassine and in due course we settled on C. matabelica.  Later, at the foot of the same kopje we were shown what was obviously the parent tree of this and a number of others.  This was a large mature tree with a substantial girth.  Die back either from drought or old age had taken its toll, but it was impressive nonetheless.  The bark was flaking off in $1 sized flakes, but the striking feature was the yellow orange pigment which showed under the bark.  According to the literature a yellow dye can be extracted from the roots and the bark is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties.  Parts of the tree have been used as a food flavouring earning it the name condiment cassine.

During the walk back to the vehicles we passed by some sizeable Dalbergia melanoxylon the tree with the hard black heartwood which has with limited success been used in the manufacture of bag pipes.

At the vehicles we were able to wet our whistles with homemade lemon drink and enjoyed delicious banana loaf with it thanks to Gill Henderson and Ann Duffield.

We record our thanks to Ann and John Duffield for supplying an interesting venue and moreover, a vehicle and driver to get us there.  Thanks to Gill and Derek Henderson and Ayrshire Branch for arranging this day and the next, of which Cheryl will note her impressions.

-Phil Haxen



Before proceeding to the ultimate destination we were taken by our mornings host Steve, Manager of the estate, to a site on the Manyame, formerly Hunyani, river bank where we were to leave the cars.  The spot was dominated by two enormous Khaya nyasica trees growing near the steep banks of what appeared to be an ephemeral watercourse. As I recall three person’s arm spans were required to encircle the trunk.  Nearby was an unfamiliar scrambler covered in red and ripening fruits.  Meg was on this occasion fortunate enough to spot the object of interest in time to save the accessible fruit from destruction and consumption.  Suitable shrieks and threats enabled her to return and photograph at leisure at lunchtime.  It turned out to be Feretia aeruginescens, RUBIACEAE, growing in its typical river edge habitat.  Although it has a wide spread distribution north of Harare, it is not often encountered, or perhaps recognized.

We then all climbed aboard Steve’s Landover bound for Ferny Glen.  Steve pointed out, en route, the line of hills from which the Ferny Glen spring flows.  There are numerous such springs along the range but most are inaccessible except perhaps on horseback.  The springs run all year, and never failed, even at the end of the three year drought last year.

A walk through very dry bush brought us to the welcome sound of running water, and a moment later we were within the dense canopy of a narrow strip of riverine gallery forest with towering buttressed Khayas and pale trunked Celtis africana.  Most of the trees were simply too large for reliable identification, though one was certainly Acacia.  However, most notable were the large numbers of very tall Phoenix reclinata living up to their specific name at every possible angle of incline over the stream.  There is nothing else that gives the jungle feel like palm fronds, and the carpet of ferns underfoot completed the atmosphere of this spot.  Much of the under storey went unnoticed by myself, being preoccupied with ferns, phoenix and the vagaries of two babies of ambulatory age.  However, for me the delight of the day was the discovery of lemon trees, presumably Mazowe roughs, growing in this remote spot, loaded with nice fruit.  This of course brought to mind the Dichwe Lemon forest near Mhangura and reminded us to wonder at the perfection to which these trees grow in such deep shade. Having experienced Ann Duffield’s home-made lemon drink the day before and Mrs. Marr Levin’s on last month’s Harare outing, the long walk with lemons in all pockets and children on shoulders seemed worthwhile.

Following a drive back, delayed by the sight of a group of kudu females, we lunched on the banks of the Manyame.  A real feast prepared by Gill and Derek Henderson for their Harare guests, was demolished, followed by a short walk along the river to where the Ferny Glen stream enters the Manyame.  Here Artabotrys brachypetala scrambled over many trees on the steep banks, and in the nearby woodland were large numbers of the tiny leafless epiphyte orchids, their tiny flowers unfortunately over their prime.

And so back to town leaving us only to thank the Ayrshire Branch and in particular Gill and Derek Henderson for inviting us and putting us all up and putting up with us all.

-Cheryl Haxen



Friday 9thWe left from the Samora Machel/8th Street car park having congregated under the enormous Erythrina and were able to be away by 1130 hours.  There was a brief stop at Mvuma to pick up Andy Williams.

Just before Masvingo there were some Acacias with reddish buds.  Knowing that A. galpinii has red to purple calyces which are distinctive, we assumed that to be their identity but having later on during the trip seen A. nigrescens, the knob thorn, with a similar phenomenon I have now discovered that A. nigrescens also has a coloured calyx giving the tree a pink or reddish tinge before the flowers open.

A brief stop in Masvingo refueled the bus and relieved and revived us and we were on our way with that lovely drive to the Lowveld.  It was dark when we arrived and Chris Pullen, the Warden of Chipinda Pools came to look for us. He and his staff were responsible for setting up camp and taking it down afterwards and we thank them for all they did to make us so comfortable.

Having found ourselves a sleeping place either in the big lean to tarpaulin or in one of the smaller tents we were able to slake our thirsts and meet some of our hosts.  Rod and Kevin ran the “pub” and their efforts were much appreciated by all of us.  Supper that evening was impala stew with rice and carrots.  The ladies of the Lowveld Natural History Society must have been cooking and freezing for weeks before hand and we say a very big thank you to Iris, Jill, Wendy, Denise, Maureen and Cathy.  The part you played in the success of the trip was immeasurable.

Balanites maughamii. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Balanites maughamii. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Our meals were eaten under an enormous Cordyla africana, Wild Mango, which was just coming into flower and new leaf and next to several Acacia robusta sub. clavigera also of large stature.  The smaller vegetation below was just as exciting; Thialichium africanum, cucumber bush, with its hard trifoliolate leaves; Dalbergia arbutifolia, climbing into the big trees and adding to our confusion by being in pod and exhibiting the wrong pods for those trees; Euclea divinorum with narrower leaves than we normally see nevertheless had the diamond shaped leaves with a very wavy margin and could not be anything else; they were in bud and coming into flower; there was Balanites maughamii, Y-thorned torchwood, some occurring as scrub enabling us to see the forked spines and others reaching for the sky demonstrating their fluted trunks and shedding their fruit to lie on the ground beneath.  Although the paired spines could be confused with those of Carissa bispinosa elsewhere, B. maughamii has a compound leaf with a pair of leaflets and an oblong fruit, khaki coloured and longitudinally grooved.  The seeds of this genus are said to contain good quality oil which burns with a bright flame, hence the name “torchwood”.  C. bispinosa has a milky latex, a pair of simple leaves and an ovoid fleshy fruit which ripens to red.  Also common round camp and elsewhere was Lecanoidiscus fraxinifolius with its branched untidy habit and pinnate leaves whose leaflets had an entire but wavy margin.  This is called the River Litchi because the seed is completely covered with a bluish white fleshy aril lode.

Entandrophragma caudatum. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Entandrophragma caudatum. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

The first morning was spent within walking distance of camp, some walking further than others.  Although many trees were still leafless we were able to recognize Terminalia prunioides in pod.  Although the pods were not purple that is the only small fruited lowveld species it could be in that locality.  Kirkia acuminata seems to always retain a few of the previous seasons pods which are characteristic.  With a very distinctive pod which left us in no doubt at all was the wooden banana, Entandrophragma caudatum a member of the Mahogany family, MELIACEAE.  There was a tree in bright green leaf in the distance which we were assured was the same thing but we were unable to see for ourselves the paripinnate compound leaves.

Deinbollia xanthocarpa, paripinnate but often with its terminal pair of leaflets twisted and appearing to be imparipinnate was in flower and caused quite a lot of excitement but nothing like the excitement when we found a flowering Sterculia rogersii, the squat Sterculia.  So called because unlike the other two species with which we are familiar this is a comparatively short stocky tree with a very thick swollen trunk which often branches almost at ground level.  Like the other two species S. africana and S. quinqueloba which do not occur in Gonarezhou S. rogersii has a pale cream to white bark, under peeling pinkish paper thin flakes.  The pretty parts of the flower are not the petals at all, petals are absent in Sterculias, but greenish yellow sepals with reddish markings.  The fruit is made up of 3 to 5 carpels and we found both last year’s old pods and this year’s developing fruit.  We subsequently saw these trees several times and it was like meeting an old new friend as at least this was a new species we were able to recognize again.

Seeing Androstachys johnsonii looking just as it had in the Botanic Garden was like meeting another familiar face.  The leaves were rolled up to avoid water loss which from a distance gave the tree the appearance of a conifer.  The leaves are borne in regular opposite decussate pairs and are dark green on the upper surface with their under surface covered in a dense mass of soft white felt like hairs.  Another distinctive feature is the pairs of brown stipules which sheath the leaf buds at the growing tip.  All African names for this tree are variations of “msimbiti” meaning “iron wood” and refer to the hard fine grained durable wood.  This is a member of the EUPHORBIACEAE family and has flowers and fruit characteristic of the family with male and female flowers on different trees.

Canthium frangula. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Canthium frangula. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

After seeing three lovely Fever Trees Acacia xanthophloea and an Acacia robusta in flower, white balls, we passed a Canthium frangula which was characteristically beset with opposite decussate thorns and unrecognized by most of the party.  There were many scrubby Strychnos madagascariensis as we made our way up the dry hillside to the Spirostachys africanum, the Tambotie.  This is another member of the EUPHORBIACEAE family and has 2 glands at the base of the leaf next to the petiole similar to the Crotons and with the approach of the leaf fall there were many leaves turning red and yellow which were distinctive and helped us to recognize these trees again next day.  Our tree there was in flower, or bud, or catkin.  The catkin consists of the female flowers at the base of a spike and the male flowers are enclosed in distinctive reddish bracts which spiral all the way up.  The whole has been likened to a rat’s tail.  The name Spirostachys comes from a combination of Latin “spira” a coil and “stachys” Greek for an ear of corn and alludes to the spike or axis on which the flowers are spirally arranged.  Androstachys comes from the Greek “aner”, male and “stachys” ear of corn and describes the slender staminal column of the male flowers bearing many stamens and so resembling a catkin.  The Tamboti has milky latex which is very poisonous.  Not only does this latex cause extreme irritation to the eyes and skin but smoke from the burning wood can cause nausea and headaches. Ox-yokes make from Tamboti cause sores; wood and sachets make an excellent insect repellant but care should be taken to avoid sawdust getting into the eyes or being inhaled.  Very fine furniture and flooring has been made from the wood.

Of course we saw much more but those were some of the high lights; and some species still have to have their identity confirmed. However, I cannot leave that section of the trip without mention of the magnificent Sabi Star Adenium obesum in full flower adding its own touch of magic and beauty to our trip.

After lunch Peter Taylor gave us a fascinating talk on the Geology of the area we were in and would be visiting the next day which certainly added to our understanding of the types of vegetation we saw.

After tea we explored the riverine vegetation along the Rundi River on which we were camped and found the Drypetes for which Tom has been looking.  It was a good thing that Tom recognized it as I am afraid Drypetes was one of my blank areas; a genus with which I seemed unable to come to grips.  There was so much to see and absorb perhaps our hosts will forgive us for a few lapses of memory.  Here I should like to say thank you to Clive and Cathy who were tireless when it came to telling us the name of a tree over and over again.  And also thank you to Tom Muller whose interest was indefatigable as was his patience.

-Meg Coates Palgrave



Botanizing in Gonarezhou is comparable to standing before Monet’s painting of water lilies, no matter how diligently one examines the numerous reproductions or reads how a particular red patch “draws the eye across the work” one is not quite prepared for the vast expanse of canvas and colour. But preparation is not in vain, it allows one to absorb and consolidate a greater volume before viewers indigestion strikes where upon new trees join the ranks of the hundreds of forgotten art works in endless galleries.  When all the images which have thus far been gleaned second-hand, flood in from all sides there is an inner ebullience, for which we must sincerely thank our hosts.

Heading north from Chipinda Pools we crossed the Runde, Lundi, River and turned south, heading towards Nyamatongwe, a flat topped ridge of Cretaceous sandstone lying between two tributaries of the Runde.  On route we noted the leafless Commiphora pyracanthoides subsp. glandulosa which we mistook for C. africana on its similar high speed bark characters.  C. africana would apparently be out of place in this flat dry woodland habitat.  We also tried to fit the tall Euphorbia cooperi on the hilltops of our image of what E. cenfinalis should look like, but without success.  North of Nyamatongwe we stopped at a three way geological contact site. To the northwest lay Karroo basalt with scrub mopane soon to be dubbed “Wilson mopane” in honour of John Wilson who took great interest in this low scrub formation.  Eastwards the Granophyre formation supported “deciduous dry miombo, lowveld, savanna woodland” with Julbernardia globiflora (Wild and Fernandes Vegetation map of Flora Zambeziaca area, 1967).  To the south lay the expanse of Cretaceous sandstone which we entered to find a grove of Spirostachys africana, tamboti.  The poisonous latex of this EUPHORBIACEAE is notorious although Clive Stockil reports that the red leaves which fall to the ground are readily eaten and porcupine seem immune to the latex and will ring bark the trees.  Between the Spirostachys were few other trees and numerous elephant and giraffe spoor.

Further on a dry river bed yielded a Manilkara in flower which was obviously not the usual M. mochisa which we had seen the previous day.  The glabrous leaves were not in rosettes but spread along the branch.  This was M. concolor, a coastal tree very rare in Zimbabwe, only recorded from these Cretaceous sands.

Travelling eastwards towards Fishan we passed through what must once have been a thick riverine fringe but which had been opened up by humans and animals  In the late fifties when the tsetse fly invaded Zimbabwe from Mozambique, the Tsetse Department decided that the expanse of mopane woodland on the basalt along the northern border of the park would create a natural barrier, if only the patches of evergreen forest along the river were removed.  This led to a major clearing program around

Chipinda Pools and into Lone Star Ranch.  Apparently this project did not extend downstream to anywhere near Fishan, so I do not know who was responsible for all the ring barked trees.  The elephants had turned a number of baobabs to pulp and these lay in large fibrous mounds.  Here, in this disturbed woodland, the CAPPARACEAE seem to have taken over the under storey.  Both Capparis sepiaria with its glabrous, green leaves, and C. tomentosa with greyer, furry leaves form distinct bushes separated by bare earth.  Scattered between these were islands of Thilachium africanum which develops into an overgrown shrub.  On Friday this species was the first new discovery at the edge of the camp’s light and before breakfast on Saturday Meg stood steadfastly alongside the specimen, book in hand, reading a sermon describing how the sepals split horizontally and not vertically.  Well, here they were in full flower with the outer sepal cap doffed to the side and the tousled stamens and gynophores unleashed like Stroebel Peter’s hair.  And then to emphasize the presence of the CAPPERACEAE, the exposed ground is littered with knee high, grey bushes of Courbonea glaucas – Maerua edulis.  This little shrub has the typical CAPPARACEAE flower with long gynophores which protrudes from the receptacle.  Its most distinctive feature is the rats nest smell which the leaves release when rubbed.  The mind is flooded with images of hamster’s straw and the sound of squeaky exercise wheels.

Between these bushy islands of vegetation are magnificent Kigelia africana, each with hundreds of the large liver coloured flowers, as well as Cordyla africana bloom with orange blossoms and the odd fresh green leaf.  Fishan itself is situated in a grove of Xanthocercis zambesiaca from which one looks eastwards down the wide river bed and towards the orange sandstone of the Chilojo Cliffs –Clarendon Cliffs.  The cliffs deflect the river northwards and back to the contact zone between granophyres and cretaceous sandstone.  Where it leaves the granophyres upstream from Fishan both banks consist of sands deposited by the river in the geologically recent past.  By the time the river has returned to the contact zone, just before  Nyahungwe Camp, it is separated from the sandstone of the Cholojo Cliffs by a wide flood plain of alluvial sand which is now 10 meters or more above the present river bed.  Besides having eroded down to this new level, the river has obviously changed its course often in this area.  At some stage Fishan was the riverbed itself and the twisted formation of the Nyayasikana mouth implies a recent development of this extension.  North and north east of Chilojo Camp the drainage lines all run parallel and not perpendicular to, the river itself.  Downstream of Nyahungwe the Pombadzi River now flows in a more recently abandoned channel of the Runde.  Why is this geology important? Because it changes one’s outlook on the small population of Chlorophora excelsa which finds a precarious foothold on the narrow river ban near Nyahungwe Camp.  I had mistakenly thought the Chlorophora were threatened by the erosion of the Chilojo Cliffs themselves, instead of being threatened by the erosion of the alluvial riverbanks.  What is the difference?  Just imagine a unique soil type, for example, which only existed on the edge of the Chilojo Cliffs.  When this habitat eroded away the population on this soil would be lost, but more importantly we would mourn the loss of the habitat.  In contrast if a plant species grew only on the steep cliff face, then when that face was eroded away, part of the population may be lost but a new cliff face would be created, the habitat is thus not destroyed.  Assuming the Runde River is not becoming wider, i.e. changing into a vlei area, as it moves around on the flood plain it does not destroy the alluvial habitat.  The problem is thus not one of trying to protect the habitat which is continuously recreated, but rather to ensure that the regeneration rate equals or exceeds destruction.

What has happened to regeneration? It appears that the heavy game pressure on the river fringe has changed the vegetation markedly. The specimens of Rinorea elliptica beneath the Chlorophora are heavily browsed and the undergrowth is well trampled.  One wonders if there is much chance of a seedling surviving such high pressures.  In addition if this was once a thick riverine fringe forest, then the seedlings would germinate on the forest floor under moister, cooler conditions than those that now prevail.  Chlorophora are also male or female trees, so of the eight trees now present along Nyahungwe, on average only 4 will produce seed.  The only tree we discovered in flower had catkins longer than 4 cm and was thus probably male  The sex ratio of the remnant population still needs to be determined, this could be done within the next month if someone would return to them.  If they are all male then the population is doomed anyway, it is simply a matter of how long it takes.  The faster erosion rate which is reported could also be attributed to damage of the riverine fringe.  Once again the problem returned to overstocking of game and the necessity to cull, particularly the elephant which are such destructive feeders.  National Parks is well aware of this problem.  The tragedy of the Chlorophora does not therefore lie in their being eroded into the Runde, but rather in the loss of the riverine fringe forest due to game pressure.  This problem could be overcome either by drastically reducing the game population or excluding them from local patches at riverine fringe.  At present the latter seems to be impossible.

From Fishan we had crossed the Runde and travelled along the north bank to Fig Tree Crossing via Chilojo Camp. Here the alluvial terrace yielded a number of new species.  I failed to identify a Cordia goetzei despite its square stem and strangely peeling bark, the leaves seemed rounder than those in the Zambezi Valley and the twigs were green instead of grey.  Salvadora sp. grew in profusion north of Chilojo Camp and Rhigozum zambesiacum stood with all their dead leaves intact.  We were most surprised to find out that Gary Sharp had run over to Chilojo Camp in a successful attempt to catch the land rovers and fetch the milk and sugar for the party which lunched at Fishans.  I doubt that I would have been as diligent had our roles been reversed.

Newtonia hildbrandtii. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

Newtonia hildebrandtii. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe

The land rovers had swum through the thick sand at Fig Tree Crossing to the grove of spectacular Ficus sycamores with ghostly yellow trunks on the south bank. Reaching the Chlorophora entailed back tracking along the south bank to Nyahungwe.  Here the road passes through almost pure stands of tall sprawling Croton megalobotrys between the fine Newtonia hildebrandtii and an Acacia welwitschii, then past a leafless, podless Strophanthus kirkii.  After a brief lunch at Nyahungwe we returned to Fig Tree Crossing and continued eastwards where we were flanked on either side by beds of Hyphaene natalensis.  It is strange that so few have got off the ground, I did not think it grew into a multi trunked palm as occurs in the cluster palms like Phoenix reclinata.  But does each clump result from one original seedling which has suckered profusely due to continual damage of the growing tip, or is each patch a collection of sibling seedlings that all fell from one adult female palm that has since been destroyed?  In either case the palm’s growth is very much more stunted than the specimens in fruit which we found on Lone Star Ranch where the vegetation was generally in a healthier state.

Travelling east of Kundani Hill we passed through acres of “Wilson mopane” now on the Cretaceous sands, and then along the stretch of road discussed in John Wilson’s article on the Hartebeest.  Here we found a bushy Boscia foetida subsp. rehmanniana with small leaves that do not have the typical Boscia pipe like pale mid-vein on the ventral side, although the tip bears the sharp aristate point common in the genus.  Alongside it grew Hugonia orientalis of the flax family, LINACEAE.  Hugonia uses stout tendrils in order to climb.  These ram’s horn like outgrowths were plentiful on the long shoots that reach out from the centre of the bush.  Off the road was  Erythrophleum africanum with its bipinnate leaves and Ochna barbosa.  We stopped in a patch of Millettia stuhlmannii, the Panga Panga.  These trees were almost leafless so we were only just able to find the pair of centimeter long stipules on the rachis.  Unfortunately time was limiting so we drove rapidly through the next patch of vegetation, itching to jump off.

One of the great thrills of botany lies in anticipating which plants should occur in an area.  Once you can correctly predict which species are present you obviously understand the plant’s preferred environment  Voicing one’s anticipation is not always wise, my great desire to find Lonchocarpus bussei around every corner led to failure to recognize L. capassa.  Meg felt the urge to twist each new Ochna into the mysterious brachenridgea which neither of us know.  But for once the anticipation paid off at Chidhlambani Pan where I had decided I should find Uvaria gracilipes, a plant I had only read about, and there it was.  Granted it was only ankle height and not even climbing.  Here the viewing platform over the pan is sited in a  Guibourtea conjugata with its pale bark and mopane type leaves.  The numerous Pteleopsis myrtifolia were in full fruit.  In the meantime Tom had collected a fast moving stick in his eye and had a somewhat rose tinted, or haemoglobin coloured view of the world which fortunately did not hinder his capacity for identification.

The next stop yielded Landolphia kirkii, APCYANACEAE, both in flower and with speckled fruit; Synaptalepis kirkii, THYMELIACEAE, abloom with sweetly scented flowers and Hygonia orientalis, LINACEAE.  Although a bush with 4 cm, elliptic leaves had no milk, the way the alternate leaves are held in a flat plain implied EUPHORBIACEAE.  We failed to find the required stipules which may be deciduous.  This was identified as Cleistanthus schlechteri.  The range of leaf sizes in this species still floors me.  Of the two specimens we found at Lone Star, the one resembled this bush on the sands, the other was an enormous specimen with 8cm long leaves.  I am not sure if I would be able to get past EUPHORBIACEAE next time I see it.  We found Albizia petersiana subsp. evansii and Erythroxylum emarginatum at the view site.  Wending our way homewards we stopped to collect a bag of seed from small Acacia exuvialis.  Feeling both exuberant but fatigued these small lobed pods soon took on the form of polka dot bikinis with their lobed appearance and dotted surface.  The collection was not assisted by the long white thorns which guard the pods.  These specimens do not have a peeling bark which apparently exists in the Transvaal specimens.

The sun set long before we reached Chipinda Pools and I relearned a useless lesson, it gets cold on the back of a land rover, even in the lowveld.  I have failed to record the ‘buck’ encountered en route.  I was pleased with my first sighting of the long necked speckled buck since Pretoria zoo and enjoyed seeing a frightened farrow of siblings running in convoy.

The view from the Chilojo Cliffs really aided map reading.  Our hosts, John Wilson and Clive Stockil could not have done more for us, the mileage alone had been great, but without their intimate knowledge of the area we would never have seen half of what we did.  It is indeed a great privilege for us to be escorted by such eminent guides.

-Kim Damstra

On Sunday evening Ken Blake from Bulawayo showed us some of his very excellent bird slides.  Thank you Ken.



On Monday the combined party of Tree Society, LNHS and National Parks members was privileged to visit Lone Star Ranch, kindly hosted by Mr. Ray Sparrow, a well known Lowveld personality and highly esteemed conservationist.

Lone Star, or at least the portion which we visited, is geologically remarkable,. Sandwiched between a broad band of basalt to the south, and a band of “Paragneisses and other high grade sediments …” to the north, lies an outcrop of Triassic Karoo sandstones and siltstones associated with substantial coal seams.  This outcrop appears as a chain of scenic kopjes rising out of the relatively featureless countryside on either side, and provides the habitat for an unusual combination of plant species.

We did not have to wait to arrive at the meeting place to commence our botanizing.  From the vehicles we were able to recognize many common and some of the less common lowveld trees.  Pteleopsis myrtifolia is one of two indigenous species of small genus within the COMBRETACEAE.  The winged fruit maybe confused with a Combretum, but in this species there are usually only two or three wings.  On previous outings to the Chegutu area, we have seen P. anisoptera which usually has four wings.  So the acid test apparently lies in the fact that the bases of the wings of Pteleopsis taper into the stalk, while those of Combretum on the other hand are lobed. From the vehicles we also saw Albizia petersiana subsp. evansii whose flowers resemble those of A. gummifera, although that is really a forest tree.  A. petersiana only has two to four pairs of leaflets which are rounder or more heart shaped than those of A. gummifera, which are somewhat rectangular.

On arrival at the dam site meeting place we soon spotted A. versicolor with much larger leaflets and bearing unripe pods.  These pods are said to be dangerous to stock.

We met our host on the dam wall which spans the Nyavasikana River.  During a short introductory talk we learned that the river is a tributary of the Chiredzi River and normally is a dry river bed.  Ray told us the dam wall was 70ft high and had been built in three stages, having been planned for this height at the outset.  Local sandstone was used in its construction and the final stage, bringing the wall up to a full height, is now complete.  Having achieved what Ray regards as the “swan song” of his personal involvement in the Ranch’s activities, he can be justly proud, for the enormous volume of water impounded has tremendous agricultural potential.  It is also a scenic asset and facility in conjunction with the Safari operation.  Ray hopes to use these facilities for an ecological education program.  The seam of coal mentioned above actually runs under the lake.  The coal, though vast in quantity is poor in quality and, at present, is not worth exploiting.

On the hill at the other end of the wall we were struck by the presence of many large Brachystegia glaucescens.  Those of us from the Highveld might remark “so what”, but in the lowveld these are indeed rarities which are special, particularly when such a healthy population is present.

The next surprise for me was a fig which I casually dismissed at first glance as Ficus sycamorus as a result of the yellowish trunk.  This was in fact F. tettensis the small leafed rock fig, one of the rock splitters.  The leaves are considerably smaller than those of F. sycamorus and those of F. abutilifolia and are somewhat kidney shaped often being wider than long, and with a lobed base.  The margin is wavy and the leaf surface coarsely velvety.  The figs are small and borne in the leaf axils.  The roots can put on a display comparable to that often seen in F. abutilifolia and later we even saw both species closely situated on a kopje for easy comparison.

In the riverine thicket below the dam wall, a tri-foliate mystery was partly solved by the presence of hairy pockets or “arm pits” in the axils of the veins on the underside of the leaves.  This was Allophylus alnifolius which is the lowveld kin of the Highveld A. africanus, from which it is distinguished by its smaller leaflets which are rounded at the apex and which do not come to a point like those of A. africanus.  Here we also found Combretum padoides a scrambler which trails into the branches of other trees, thus forming a thicket.  It is similar to C. celastroides, but lacks the apical peg on the fruit and enjoys a different habitat of riverine fringe and rocky slopes, while the other prefers jesse.

We moved on to have lunch at Ray’s luxuriant Safari camp overlooking a smaller dam.  On the path down from the parking area we found a large Tarenna littorale, until recently called Enterospermum littorale.  The more usual habitat of this member of the RUBIACEAE is on coastal dunes. It does not differ greatly from T. neurophylla but is not quite so droopy.  The upper sides of the leaves are glossy and there are “pockets” of acarodomatia in the axils of the leaf’s veins.  What a pleasant surprise.

After refreshing drinks of freshly squeezed orange juice, laid on by our host, we relaxed on the emerald green lawns while Ray discussed the history of the area and old times in the lowveld as well as the geology and ecology.  The hot dog lunch provided by the forever working LNHS ladies was much enjoyed by all.

A quick scout around amongst the fine Brachystegia glaucescens below the dam yielded Ochna barbosa.  This is another tree also found on dunes on the coast.  The leaves are up to 6cm long and are leathery, but the most tangible distinguishing feature appeared to be the “barbed” feel of the serrated margin, though I do not guarantee that this is diagnostic.

After lunch we were treated to a safari ride though the hills in a collection of open Land Cruisers/Rovers.  The road would have proved impossible for the lorry.  This ride took us past more Julbernardia globiflora and Strychnos madagascariensis, similar to S. innocua but the bark does not rub off in a powder.  A number of the Hyphaene natalensis palms were well established, off their knees, and indeed fruiting.  Dr. Colin Saunders told of how the carefully nurtured and watered fruit he had planted failed to grow, whilst those that had been chewed by the dog, kicked about by the children or otherwise abused, had germinated successfully.

The vehicles passed under a handsome Newtonia hildebrandtii which, despite previous encounters, we still confused with Albizia.  Later we drove under a Schrebera trichoclada, still bearing pods which, once open, look like the toothless gaps of a yawning hippopotamus.  We again saw Acacia welwitschii, which so closely resembles A. goetzeiAlbizia anthelmintica had the white shaving brush flowers which herald the arrival of Spring.  The bark of this species may cure tapeworms.

We stopped near a small dam where we were rewarded by some more “special” trees, a spiny tree/scrambling bush which would have done well as a hedge around Sleeping Beauty’s castle had us guessing for a while.  Then we saw the strange compound fruit which gave it away as Cardiogyne africana.  This, like the Chlorophora excelsa seen at Nyahungwe, is a member of the MORACEAE, to which the mulberry and the figs also belong.  The fruit of Cardiogyne did look like a fig turned inside out.  Perhaps it is more correct to say a fig is a mulberry turned outside in.  One could see each separate flower or fruit packed tightly together to constitute a compound fruit like the mulberry, except rather more rounded than elongated.

Nearby was a very large specimen of Cleistanthus schlechteri.  This brought home what a magnificent tree this can be.  I confess I cannot recall the shrubby specimen seen on the sands above the Chilojo Cliffs the previous day.

A little further along, near an enormous Steganotaenia araliacea from which the paper bark flaked in large sheets, was a single specimen of Stadmania oppositifola.  This specimen delighted us by showing the SAPINDACEAE tendency to swing one of the pair of terminal leaflets around to give the impression of a single terminal leaflet.

As we turned to go back to the vehicles we saw a Brachystegia glaucescens which with no inhibition had twisted two of its main trunks into the most impassioned embrace.

We did not have time to leap out from the vehicle again to examine the very prickly trunk and corky bark of a leafless tree which we were assured was Erythrina livingstoniana.  This member of the genus is a rare lowveld representative.

The list of trees goes on and on, so I have only picked out those which I consider the highlights.  As we drove out of Lone Star Ranch I felt deep satisfaction at the wealth of species seen, and even deeper satisfaction that the vegetation was in such a healthy condition.  The thick bush and tall trees were testimony, in my view, to successful management of the population of large herbivores.  I congratulate the Sparrows, we are indeed most grateful to Ray for this opportunity to glimpse at his Lone Star Eden.

-Phil Haxen

Two members of the Committee, Kim and Joy have birthdays on 12th August and in the evening we had a braai and a case of wine by way of celebration.  Clive Stockil said a few words and Kim gave us a short talk on the high lights of the trees we had seen.  Meg said thank you to our hosts of the Lowveld Natural History Society and Dick said thank you to the Tree Society Committee.



Bird spotting and bird identification on our Tree Society outing to Gona-re-zhou was of necessity “Quick potting” because we were supposed to be “treeing” not “birding”.  In fact on only very rare occasions were the vehicles stopped on account of birds, once to see a large Black Eagle’s nest on a cliff ledge, where we were told the birds had bred successfully every year for many years, and when a Tawny Eagle was seen dropping a snake onto its nest.  This act brought forth the remark from tree expert Tom and he thought it was a big bird getting rid of its tapeworm!!

Nevertheless we enjoyed some super birding together with our treeing.  We were fortunate that not even the noisy deliberations under the camp Cordyla tree seemed to worry the numerous birds seeking nectar.  Everyone was fascinated by the birdlife in the Cordyla africana under which we had all our meals and social gatherings.  It was indeed a humorous picture to see a circle of people sitting with full food plates on their laps and heads bent back looking up at the birds in the tree above them, while continuing to munch away happily at their breakfast.  And what a variety of birds there were to be seen in the tree which was in bloom and its nectar being enjoyed by scarlet chested, black, white bellied and collared sunbirds; black headed Oriels; Yellow white eyes; Black eyed Bulbuls; Yellow bellied bulbuls; Grey headed bush shrike; Red headed Weaver; Yellow throated Sparrow, Blue eared Glossy starlings and Burchells Glossy Starlings, while in the adjacent trees were Purple crested Louries, Common Waxbills and Wattle eyed Flycatchers.  All of these were seen at mealtimes and even the non birders were enthralled and kept asking what each new bird was as they saw it in the tree above and borrowing binoculars.

While having a picnic lunch at the delightful and exclusive hunting Safari Lodge on Mr. Ray Sparrow’s Lone Star Ranch we watched two Egyptian Geese resent the arrival of a Knob billed duck and hasten to drive it off, while noisy Racket tailed Rollers and Hoopoe’s flew overhead.

Along the river White crowned Plovers, Open billed Storks, Hadedahs, Cormorants, Darters and Egyptian Geese were plentiful and two of the latter flew out of a hole in a Baobab tree as the Land Rover drove past.

12 Birds of Prey species including 8 Eagle species were recorded.  A large number of mature and immature Bateleur Eagles being seen.  The Vultures we saw were mostly White backed and Lappet faced.

Some of the species not often seen by us “highvelders” included Wooly necked stork, Brown headed Parrots, Boehm’s Spinetails, Wattle eyed Flycatchers, Yellow breasted Apalis, White crowned Plovers, Marabou Storks and Arnots’ Chats.

At night Pearl spotted and Scops Owlets were heard hooting.  Also Barn Owls and Wood Owls.  It is worth reporting that two of the dormitory tent dwellers, who attributed the calls of a pair of wood owls to the howl of a hyena on the first night, were also unaware that a leopard had been very vocal quite near the camp!  The hyenas called every night and so did the hippos while in the early morning the birds turned on their delightful “Dawn Chorus”.  A total of 135 bird species were recorded over the three days.

Altogether a most memorable and enjoyable few days and our most sincere thanks to all those hard working people who made it possible including our own Tree Society Committee, the National Parks personnel and especially the members of the Lowveld Natural History Society who arranged it all, fed us and looked after us so well and not forgetting their John who drove some of us up the hill on the Saturday evening to see the unforgettable panorama of that long stretch of the shimmering pink Rundi river and surrounding country, bathed in the soft glow of a truly beautiful African sunset.  Who could wish for better!!

-Sybil Duncanson



After grapefruit and porridge for breakfast we were away by 0830 hours.  We had a very interesting walk within sight of the Nyoni Hils details of which will be given in the next newsletter together with notes about the specimens Tom brought back.  At present they are still in the oven.

As we drove back I am sure we were all full of the impressions of the previous three days and filled with gratitude for those who had done so much to give us such a comfortable and memorable stay.

Chris Pullen and his staff at Chipinda Pools, Clive Stockil both in his official capacity as Chairman and with his vast fund of knowledge of the birds, beasts and trees which he was so willing to share with us, Rod and Iris Ellis whose efforts in the “pup” and the kitchen were endless; Kevin North who drove the big lorry with such care and thought for his passengers; John Wilson who supplied and drove one of the Land cruisers and his wife Wendy who was one of the “meals “ team; Jill McCallum, the teacher with the teapot; Peter Taylor who introduced us to the Geology and Dennis helping keep us fed; Maureen and Richard Davey our telephone contact; Mr. Ray Sparrow who welcomed us so warmly to Lone Star Ranch; and of course Gary and Cathy Sharp Cathy who wrote the original invitation and having done so put the whole act together.  A very big thank you to you all.  The organization was tremendous and your efforts were really appreciated, everything went smoothly and we were most contented and comfortable.  Thank you.

A word of thanks to Kim, Phil, Meg, Joy and the Committee for their contribution to the organization of this memorable trip.



When Kim asked to write an account of the visit to Mukuvisi Woodlands through the eyes of a beginner, I don’t think he realized quite how little I know. I shake as I put fingers to the type-writer and venture to put onto paper what I saw, with lots of help from Meg I hasten to add.

We assembled at the main entrance gate and a short talk was given by George Hall on the early beginnings of the Mukuvisi Woodlands Association.  He paid tribute to the tireless efforts of many, including Tree Society members in getting the Association on its feet, most notably the late Douglas Aylen who devoted so much time and effort to the Association, which officially came into being in 1979.

After a short stop at the game viewing platform where we made the acquaintance of Charlie Brown, the white rhino on loan from Lone Star Ranch and two baby elephants, we made our way towards our first indigenous trees, Brachystegia spiciformis, many of which were sporting their beautifully coloured new wet looking leaves and we looked across at what George called the “secret forest” of Parinari curatellifolia some of which he said were probably around 500 years old  He put forward a theory that because of some spiritual significance these trees had been saved from destruction.  As we walked Meg drew my attention to the red splash of colour, an Erythrina abyssinica, which stood out on the edge of the forest.

A little further along the path we saw impala and wildebeest and a Celtis africana with its smooth pale grey bark and the rusty tipped Burkea africana.

At this point George told us that in 1982 a policy of cold burning had been adopted within the woodlands which had proved very successful, promoting good regeneration of many specimens.

I then managed to make a real blunder when I mistakenly suggested to Meg that perhaps the trees on our right might be Julbernardia globiflora because the pods were all on the top.  However she very gently drew my attention to the fact that the pods were shiny and spread throughout even though initially they appeared to me to be mostly on the top.

We noted that most of the Parinari curatellifolia were in flower and some exuded the rather unpleasant smell so characteristic of this tree.

We saw a number of Strychnos spinosa sporting green fruit but no leaves, Protea angolensis distinguishable by its wide smooth leaves and single rather larger flowers than those of the Protea gaguedi, also the Protea welwitschii with their narrower leaves, the latter being also hairy.  We passed more Erythrina in full flower but with no leaves and then came upon one in full leaf but no flowers, which served to confirm in my mind how difficult it can be for the beginner when there are so often exceptions to the norm!!

Next to come into view was the large leafed Mahobohobo, Uapaca kirkiana, which was not yet in fruit and my eye was taken by a patch of very pretty white flowers growing beside a fallen dead tree which I did not see anywhere else on the walk but witch I am told are called Sutera burkeana.  A huge Pterocarpus angolensis loomed into view without leaves but easily identifiable fruit and a Cassia singueana full of fat yellow buds straining to burst into lower any minute.

Our next find was an Ekebergia benguelensis with its bright red shiny leaves and pointed slightly moist tips which distinguished it in my mind from the Flacourtia indica which we saw later on with rather darker maroon leaves and spines.

By this time the group had split up and a few of us ambling along in the rear found near together in wooded grassland Ziziphus mucronata, identifiable by the paired spines, one hooked and the other straight; Pterocarpus rotundifolius completely bereft of leaves and I struggled to recall the name of Combretum molle with its velvety leaves which Meg insisted I knew but it was not until I saw the characteristic winged fruit that I remembered it.

I little further along Brian pointed out a Himalayan Cherry which I had not seen before underneath a quite large Strychnos spinosa and although we tried to locate a ripe enough fruit from the Strychnos for tasting we were unsuccessful.  We rambled on past Dichrostachys cinerea in leaf but I could not find fresh or dry, the Chinese lantern like flower which usually confirms this for me.

On the homeward stretch we saw quite a sizeable herd of zebra with a few smooth white tick birds in attendance and a little further along ore impala, wildebeest and tsessebe.

George proudly showed us a couple of Ficus capensis but we were unable to find the Ficus sycamorus he assured us was somewhere nearby.  And, before the welcome cup of tea and cake awaiting us over at the tea garden we looked over the area planted with trees donated by a number of people, societies including the Dracaena steudneri from the Tree Society.

The Tree Society would like to thank the Mukuvisi Woodlands Association for their invitation tour and tea and in particular thanks to George, Richard and William out guides for the morning.

-Marjorie Barker



Many of you are aware of the great effort which the Tree Society put into trying to clear Binga Swamp Forest of Mauritian Thorn.  Stan Carey has been continuing the work recently and reports on this exercise as well as the state of the forest :  “We did not count the number of seedlings pulled out on the first Sunday, but on the last occasion we offered a bonus to anyone who pulled out more than 2 000.  One labourer helped me with the large Thorn and in ring barking a number of exotics.  In all 6 000 seedlings were removed and one labourer exceeded 2 000, we only counted plants with their roots intact.  The large Thorn was cut off at ground level and Tordon applied.  A lot of seed pods were also burnt.  We cleared the strip of forest along the stream on the south side, also clearing the clumps of trees outside the main forest.  We will stop the Mauritian Thorn exercise now, as the ground is getting very hard and there are very few in evidence.  Work will begin again in mid December, presuming a normal rainy season happens.  I will visit the forest in the interim to keep an eye on such things as an outbreak of tree cutting and maintenance of the fences.  There has been a plan to put a weir across the stream on the south side, and lead the water by furrow to the forest.  The northwest corner which used to be swampy is now quite dry and as this was the area from which the tiny stream that meanders through the forest arose, I believe the greatest benefit to the forest would be to end the proposed furrow near that corner.  A number of trees have died prematurely, and a few are dying, so the urgency to try and renew the ground water in the forest is vital and necessary if the forest is to survive”.  We are thankful to Stan Carey and Dick Petheram for all the work they have put into Binga over the past few months.

A supplementary note from Dick Petheram states that Stan and Rene’s attack on the Mauritian thorn was wonderfully timely and effective and has checked the threat of a resurgence of thorn seedlings particularly in areas which could not be adequately covered by the previous week’s operations.  On that occasion a team of 6 from the Henderson Research Station, headed by the ever helpful Mr. Peter Schwerzel of the Weed Research Unit accompanied Dick to the forest and waged warfare for a day on the thorn and our Lantana and other intruders.  A lot was achieved but a lot remained to be done and it would, to some extent, have been wasted effort without the major follow up campaign mounted by the Careys.  Stan and Rene, says Dick, have been active on the site throughout the season.



It has taken only the eight years since then for the whole countryside to glow with health and prosperity.  On the site of the ruins I had seen in 1913 now stand neat farms, cleanly plastered, testifying to a happy and comfortable life.  The old streams, fed by the rains and snows that the forest conserves are flowing again.  Their waters have been channeled.  On each farm, in groves of maples, fountain pools over flow onto carpets of fresh mint.  Little by little the villages have been rebuilt.  People from the plains, where land is costly, have settled here, bringing youth, motion and the spirit of adventure.  Along the roads you meet hearty men and women, boys and girls who understand laughter and have recovered a taste for picnics.  Counting the former population, unrecognizable now that they live in comfort more than 10 000 people owe their happiness to Elzeard Boufier.

When I reflect that one man, armed only with his own physical and moral resources, was able to cause this land of Canaan to spring from the wasteland, I am convinced that in spite of everything, humanity is admirable.  But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the tenacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I am taken with an immense respect for that old man, an unlearned peasant, who was able to complete a work worth of God.

Elzeard died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.


-KIM DAMSTRA Acting Chairman





















Acacia xanthophloea. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of ZimbabweTurraea nilotica. Photo: Bart Wursten. Source: Flora of Zimbabwe