Where will your wanderlust take you this holiday? With such diverse beauty around us, we South Africans are spoilt for choice. Anywhere you go, you’re likely to see trees, be they majestic specimens making up a forest, those with a tolerance for the harsh coastal regions, or welcome givers of shade on a mountain footpath. Wherever you are off to (even if it’s just Grandma’s garden for the annual family egg-hunt) be sure to take TheTreeApp along; you’re likely to discover that it’s way better than a deck of cards to keep the family from boredom.
All hail the halophytes
So, here’s a challenge: If you are headed to the coast, why not see how many halophytes you can identify. Halophytes are trees and shrubs with a tolerance for saline conditions, so you would find them close to the seashore or slightly inland.
To get you started on the halophyte hunt, here are a few ideas in the different coastal regions:
The KwaZulu Natal Coast – Get some giggles out of the kids when you suggest they find the ‘Snot apple’ (Thespesia garckeana). The name may have something to do with the sweet, glutinous slime found in its edible fruit.
The Eastern Cape Coast – Look out for the Cross-berry (Grewia occidentalis). This attractive shrub should be bearing its edible fruit (which are clustered in a cross shape) by the March/April holidays.
The Western Cape Coast – See if you can spot the Tarwood (Loxostylis alata), found along forest margins. This ornamental tree is evergreen with glossy foliage tinged with red when young. The bark is grey, with vertical fissures and shows bright red if injured.
Local Bamboos and Foreign Invaders
If the mountains are more your thing, try your hand at finding the Drakensberg Bamboo (Thamnocalamus tessellatus). It’s notable in that there are very few indigenous bamboo species in South Africa. Like most bamboos, it only flowers intermittently, so finding a flowering specimen is definitely worth some photos.
And while you are in the mountains, see if you can identify the dreaded Silver Wattle – a devastatingly invasive species often found in the foothills of the mountains. Once you know what it looks like as a sapling, you can join hikers’ efforts to remove them.
The River Bushwillow (Combretum erythrophyllum) will be showing off its reddish Autumn colours from late March. Its habitat is widespread and can even be found on the highveld. It is an impressive ornamental tree and is important along watercourses.
Regardless of your destination, or if you choose a stay-cation, be safe, and take time to appreciate the beauty of your natural surroundings.