Until the mid 1900’s the vegetation of Kloof consisted of Kwazulu Natal Sandstone Sourveld grassland with riverine forests along the streams leading into the Kloof gorge and scarp forests within the gorge.
The extensive residential developments that took place from the mid-1900’s transformed the landscape into well manicured gardens with many trees. Unfortunately many of the residents preferred planting exotic plants and trees and as a result Kloof has a wide range of non indigenous trees many of which are highly invasive such as the Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) and the Syringa trees (Melia azedarach).
Fortunately, Krantzkloof Nature Reserve was proclaimed a protected area in 1950 and has provided a safe haven for the indigenous species. Kloof Conservancy’s persistent efforts since its inception in the early 1990’s to promote the planting of indigenous species has hopefully turned the tide against exotics and invasive species and Kloof now boasts 274 recorded species of indigenous trees.
Amongst the species you can find in Kloof is the very rare Natal Sandstone Quince (Dahlgrenodendron natalense) of which it is believed that there are only about 200 specimens left in the entire country. The Red beech (prothorus longifolia) is a common tree along the forest edges in Kloof and was one of two rare trees of the year for 2012.
You can download the full list of the indigenous trees of Kloof here: Kloof Tree List
Each year the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry nominate one “common” and one “rare” species of tree as Trees of the Year
The 2016 Tree of the Year is Ficus thonningii or Common Wild Fig (SA Tree Number 48) which can be found in Kloof. There is some debate on the correct classification of the species as there are a number of subspecies. Historically a range of closely related fig species have at various times been included under the name Ficus thonningii. Two widespread species in southern Africa (F. burkei and F. petersii) are commonly referred to as F. thonningii in the literature.
The Common Wild Fig is a large evergreen tree, up to 40 m high, starting as a hemi-epiphytic strangler or rock-splitter but eventually free-standing. Stem often with numerous aerial roots eventually forming supporting pillars. Bark fairly smooth, pale to dark grey, sometimes mottled. Leaves thinly leathery and stiff, elliptic or slightly obovate, 5-12 cm long, dull glossy dark-green above, paler beneath, hairless on both surfaces; lateral veins and midrib raised and yellowish above not raised beneath, finer veins indistinct; apex rounded or finely pointed; margin entire; petiole 14-32 mm long, hairless. Fruit sessile, singly or in pairs in the leaf axils, sometimes below the current leaves, mostly globose, 10-15 mm in diameter, hairless, yellowish-green with small warts, bright red or pinkish when ripe; ostiole not or slightly raised.
Visit the Plantzafrica website for more information:
Rare or Uncommon Trees for 2016
Maerua angolensis Bead-bean tree – SA Tree Number 132
Maerua cafra Common bush-cherry – SA Tree Number 133
Only the Common Bush-cherry is found in Kloof so we will focus on that species.
Maerua cafra is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows up to a height of 2-9m, depending on the local conditions. Its light-coloured trunk accounts for the common name “white-wood” or “witbos” in Afrikaans. It has alternate, compound leaves with 3-5 leaflets with a long petiole up to 60mm. The scented flowers are borne in terminal clusters and are comprised mainly of a tuft of spreading white stamens, tipped with green. As illustrated by Gill Condy in Flowering Plants of Africa. The slender stamens give the flowers a spider-like appearance. Flowering occurs in early spring from August to October. Flowers are followed by oval, plum-like fruit in October – December. These are up to 45mm long, pale green with dark green ribs and reported to be edible.
The origin of the name Maerua is uncertain, but it may come from Arabic. Cafra is an unusual spelling of caffra, a name given in the past to many plants from the eastern areas of southern Africa. It is derived from the Hebrew kafri for “person living on the land”.
Leaves of Maerua cafra are browsed by game and ground roots have been used as chicory substitute. When the fruit ripens it remains green, but becomes soft and strongly sweet smelling and is relished by many different bird species.
The poster for the 2016 Trees of the Year will be available for free from the SANBI bookstore later in the year.
Arbour Week usually occurs in the first week of September of each year and is aimed at highlighting the roles trees play in the environment and specifically promotes indigenous trees. In 2012 we celebrated Arbour Week by planting 30 trees at the Nkutu Picnic site in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve. The trees included the 2012 Tree of the Year, Syzygium cordatum commonly known as the Umdoni or Waterberry. We also planted 10 Protorhus longifolia or Red Beech which was one of the Rare Tree’s of the Year for 2012.
See our Back to Nature page for details and photographs: Back-to-Nature
You can get more information on the trees of South Africa at: