While the quotation Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive! (Sir Walter Scott) uses the imagery of a spider’s web, it often springs to mind when I walk past this enormous Natal fig (Ficus natalensis) growing next to the road around the corner from where we live. Look at the intricacy of the large trunk and the air roots that have become so entwined over the years – much as that ‘small white lie’ might grow and twist until one can become completely ensnared by it.
No, this isn’t a moral tale – merely an analogy. We too have a magnificent Natal fig in our garden, the base of which is somewhat hidden by a number of clivia plants.
It was big thirty years ago and now has a very wide drooping canopy of shade, with branches that stretch right over the street!
While the figs are not edible to humans, they attract a wide variety birds which relish them.
The broad branches provide adequate roosting spots for several Hadeda Ibises that come in to land during the late afternoon and generally start waking up the neighbourhood about half an hour before sunrise every morning. Here two of them are perched on a branch.
Other birds commonly seen in this tree are Red-eyed Doves, Red-winged Starlings, Speckled Mousebirds, Cape White-eyes, Black-collared Barbets, and Olive Thrushes.
We are always delighted when a flock of African Green Pigeons settle in to devour the fruit.
We have seen Olive Thrushes and Speckled Mousebirds nesting in the tree, as well as Fork-tailed Drongos. Here a parent has just brought food to its youngster.
A thick layer of mulch has gathered underneath the tree, so thick that one can sink into it. One has to step through it with care – this puff adder emerged from it into our neighbour’s garden three years ago.