Categories
flowers tree

Blooming marvelous

I’ve noticed this striking tree in bloom all around my neighbourhood – in the scary kid park, outside the Pakistani hairdresser and lining the streets. Its the middle of winter so quite surprising to see such a display of colour. It is great but I know little about it – could it be indigenous?

Patrick

Categories
tree

What tree is this?

I was out in KwaMashu earlier this week, conducting training for INK Urban Renewal, and this tree was all over the place.  I originally noticed it because its remarkable pods make a great rustling noise when the wind blows.  Does anyone recognise it?  Is it indigenous?  I took a couple of seeds and may try to germinate it.

Mystery Tree.
Mystery Tree.
Categories
indigenous tree

Warning – strangler at work

In an earlier post, my brother lamented the scourge of syringa berry trees in Durban.  In the comments section it was suggested that strangler figs could be used to combat them.  I regularly jog down Manning Road and spotted a strangler fig at work on a Flamboyant.

Warning - strangler at work
Warning - strangler at work
Categories
garden tree

The case of the black moss

A couple of years back I planted a fever tree outside our gate.  The tree never really took off.  It didn’t die or look sickly, it just never seemed to grow.  I put it down to the fact that the soil I had planted it in was this terrible, sandy, red earth and decided to give it some time to come right.

However, earlier this year, I noticed a black moss growing on the trunk and branches of the tree and thought I better do something about it.  First I Googled black moss but didn’t come up with anything useful.  Then I went to take a closer look at the tree and noticed hundreds of small, black ants moving up and down the tree trunk.  Could the ‘black moss’ actually be the ants footprints, I wondered?

After a bit more Googling, I found something that surprised me.  Both the ants and black moss were indicator species, pointing to the real culprit, aphids.  I went back to inspect the tree for a third time and lo and behold, there in the leaves, were hundreds of tiny aphids.

Categories
aliens garden

Syringas

Syringas are my most hated of alien, invasive plants in Durban. They spread like wildfire, grow easily in this climate and are a task to remove. Since coming back to Durban last October I have seen more and more of them, and it seems that many people (myself included) don’t know the details.

A few Google searches revealed that what we erroneously call ‘Syringa’ is in fact Melia azedarach, the ‘Chinaberry’ Tree, which is part of the mahogany family and native to India, southern China and Australia. While some of the facts about the tree sounded familiar; the use of its leaves for medicinal purposes (also in Indian and Zulu communities in KZN) and the fact that its berries are toxic to humans but not to birds (which facilitates the spreading of the plant), I was surprised to find that it is commonly used as timber.

Melia azedarach has a timber of high quality, but is generally underutilised. Apparently, the seasoning of the wood is also relatively simple as it dries without cracking or warping and is resistant to fungal infection. I quickly did the Math. Durban is overrun by these alien and invasive trees that grow to around 12m, which equals a lot of crack-free, water and fungus resistant timber, that could be used as building materials or to make furniture etc. as in the case of Koop.