We are enjoying a wonderful display of pink blooms on the Dais cotinifolia (Pom-pon) trees dotted about our front garden. There was only one mature tree in our garden when we arrived 29 years ago – the rest are self-seeded and are doing well, growing as they do on the margin of our ‘forest’.
Linnaeus founded the genus Dais in 1764. Dais means a torch in Greek, and the genus got its name from the resemblance of the stalk and bracts holding the flowers to a torch about to be lit – a very apt description I think.
The national tree number for the Dais cotinifolia is 521. They are wonderfully low maintenance as they are indigenous to the area. These trees are fast-growing and fairly drought-resistant – I water them only when they look particularly stressed, which is not often.
Daily temperatures fluctuate up and down, with more ups than downs; we have been blessed with some rain at last; there are birds aplenty in the garden … all signs that summer is moving into its seasonal space:
The promise of a feast of plums
The Pompon trees are coming into bloom
Nasturtiums brighten the dullest of places
As does the odd Californian poppy
Bold marigolds make a show
And we need to keep an eye out for Puffadders
The Eastern Cape is one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Southern Africa, including as it does mountains, semi-desert areas, Cape Fynbos and Albany Thicket. At one time swathes of it would have been thickly covered with virtually impenetrable bush that has since been cleared in places to allow for the farming of livestock and certain crops. Small pockets of thicket remain as a reminder of the diversity of plants that have made way for such human endeavours.
Here a tiny clump of trees has been left on the open expanse of pasture on an Eastern Cape farm:
You can get an idea of what the countryside may have looked like by focusing on the background of this picture of animals taken in the Addo Elephant National Park:
Large ants scurried underfoot in the Bushveld. Being part of the landscape, they were largely ignored.
They were largely ignored until I spotted this one from a distance carrying something large and white. Was that an egg? I bent down for a closer look.
The ‘egg’ had a stalk attached.
It was no egg, but what could it be? I looked around for similar objects and saw none until the following day when I happened upon a cluster of them lying on the ground.
The mystery was solved. These were fruits from the Karee trees that lined the dam.
Bark is a popular traditional medicinal product harvested from a range of trees growing in natural forests in this country. Sustainable bark collection is one thing – it is quite another if a tree is over-harvested or becomes ring-barked as it will die. Unless the bark is harvested in small quantities and with care, the injury caused to trees leads to wood deterioration as a result of insect damage and fungal infection.
It was while walking through the patch of natural forest tucked into the side of the mountain along the Dassiekrans Trail the other day that we came across these examples of bark harvesting:
A slice of bark has been carefully removed from one side of this tree trunk.
Although the gashes on this tree trunk look horrendous to me, the botanists accompanying us on the walk assured us that this too is a mark of sustainable bark collection and that it has not harmed the tree in terms of its longevity.
This is an example of of what was identified as unsustainable bark stripping.
One can already see signs of rot and the deterioration of the trunk.
Having walked down the Dassiekrans path from the top of Mountain Drive, we ascended through the forest.
Apart from the sweet dampness and the shadows cast by the trees, I was struck by the variety of mosses covering the tree trunks, creating an atmosphere of magical beauty.
There was lichen too.
Instead of the crunching of dry leaves underfoot, which is what we generally experience during this drought, we walked on a beautifully damp, soft carpet of variegated hues made by the leaf litter.
It is through this mulch that a young cussonia tree has started its journey towards the light.