Amazing stuff about Trees in South Africa
One of the most amazing stories in the natural world – a tale of intrigue and drama, set against grand Africa and its wildlife. The fig tree and fig wasp differ in size a billion times over, but neither could exist without the other. Their extraordinary relationship underpins a complex web of dependency that supports animals from ants to elephants. Each fig is a microcosm – a stage set for birth, sex and death. One of the most amazing stories in the natural world – a tale of intrigue and drama, set against grand Africa and its wildlife.
“Truly, a masterpiece” – David Attenborough
Sycamore Fig (Ficus sycomorus)
The Sycamore Fig species is characterized by a unique pollination system. The trees have a symbiotic relationship with a wasp species from the family Agaonidae, known as a fig wasp. The female wasps enter the opening of the fruit to lay their eggs, at the same time pollinating the internal flowers. After the eggs have hatched inside the fruit and the wasps have gone through pupation, the mature males and females will mate. The males, which are unable to survive outside of the fig for very long, will dig a tunnel for the females to emerge. The females, with pollen from the flowers inside their host fruit sticking to their bodies, then fly to another tree to repeat the cycle of pollination and egg-laying.
Sausage Tree (Kigelia Africana)
It is eaten by several species of mammals, including baboons, bush pigs, elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys and porcupines. In short, everyone loves a vegetarian sausage. As the common name “sausage tree” implies, the fruit of the sausage tree resembles a huge sausage and their presence on the tree make it easy to identify throughout most of the year. There is a long history of using the fruit of the sausage tree to fight fungal infections, treat eczema, psoriasis, boils and even leprosy. It is also used to cure postpartum haemorrhaging, diabetes, pneumonia and rheumatism while the fruit can also be used to ferment beer! http://pza.sanbi.org/kigelia-africana
Marula Tree (Scelerocarya birrea)
The much loved Marula, Scelerocarya birrea, is an ancient tree with a history extending back at least 10,000 years. Archeological evidence shows that the marula fruit and nut-like kernels were an important food in Southern Africa in ancient times. The tree is deciduous, and also dioecious, which means it has a specific sex. This lead to an African belief that drinking an infusion of the bark of a male tree would lead to the birth of a boy child, or that of a female tree, to the birth of a girl child. Many parts of the tree are used in traditional medicinal remedies. The leaves are chewed to reduce heartburn, oil from the nuts is used in skin treatments, and the bark has several uses – it contains an antihistamine, is used as a malarial prophylactic, and is also effective as a treatment for stomach upsets.
Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata)
The baobab tree is a remarkable tree, so much so that it’s had a legendary status for centuries in the scorching, arid landscapes of Africa, Madagascar and Australia that it inhabits. With its spindly branches, the baobab tree looks like it’s been de-rooted, turned upside down and planted again. Over the centuries, there have been many myths created as to why this is, mostly involving a God like deity taking it from the ground and tossing it aside only for it to take hold again wherever it landed. All manner of mystical tales have been passed down the generations about this amazing tree, from elixirs for a long life to tonics made from the seeds protecting against crocodile attacks.
Camelthorn Tree (Vachellia erioloba)
It stands tall in the semi-arid desert of the Kalahari, giving its inhabitants much-needed shade during summer days, large pods when food is scarce, and a foundation for one of the most remarkable constructions built by a colony of birds. It’s the camelthorn, one of only a handful of large trees that can take root in the Kalahari’s deficient soil. Discover the evolutionary secrets that allow it to tower as a master of survival in the vast expanses of these African plains, where living is an often unthinkable challenge. http://pza.sanbi.org/vachellia-erioloba
Mopane Tree (Colophospermum mopane)
The scientific name for the mopane tree is derived from the Greek word Colophospermum which means oily seed and mopane which is the Shona word for butterfly, referening to the shape of its leaves. The juvenile stage of the sap sucking insect, mopane psyllid (Arytaina Mopani) produces a sweet-tasting waxy cover which is eaten by people. The 10 cm long mopane worm which cover mopane trees in summer offer a great revenue source to the rural economy, this large caterpillar of the emperor moth (Gonimbrasia belina) is either roasted or dried before being eaten along with maize as a high protein meal. http://pza.sanbi.org/colophospermum-mopane