In the Gorge with Kloof Conservancy — the iconic Trees of Krantzkloof

WE are extremely fortunate, in the Upper Highway area, to have a range of habitats which have resulted in a wide diversity of fauna and flora. Significantly, we have 274 species of indigenous trees in the area, ranging from magnificent River Macaranga’s (Macaranga capensis) to the smaller Dwarf Coral-tree (Erythrina humeana)

Included in the list are some rare species, such as the Sandstone-laurel. The following text is courtesy of Richard Boon, well-known tree-expert and author of Trees of Eastern South Africa.

“The Sandstone-laurel is a rare and Endangered evergreen tree, which grows in scarp forest where it is often found along streams. The species was only described in 1973 by Jim Ross who was curator of the Natal Herbarium. It occurs in scattered forests from Ongoye near Richards Bay, where it may be extinct, southwards to the Msikaba River in the northern parts of the Eastern Cape. The Sandstone-laurel is commoner in Pondoland forests than in the north and the total population is probably no more than 200 trees.

“It grows mostly on soils derived from sandstone, hence the common name. The species’ range includes Durban where it is known from Inanda Mountain and the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, and fewer than 10 trees are known.

“Trees reach 20 m in height and may be single-stemmed or frequently grow as a ring of coppicing and hollow-centred clumps. Leaves are opposite, which is unusual for the family, shiny and are often blemished with characteristic insect galls. New leaves are reddish. The flowers are tiny and greenish-yellow. The fruit is round, greenish-yellow and about 20 mm in diameter.

“The species reproduces from seed very infrequently and is probably on the brink of natural extinction. This is the only member of the genus and is considered to be a palaeoendemic, a formerly widespread evolutionary relict, on its way to natural extinction. The genus name honours R.M.T. Dahlgren who was a Swedish botanist interested in southern African flora.”

Another interesting tree is the Ochna serrulata, also known as the Mickey-mouse tree because of the strangely shaped seeds that it produces which resemble the much-loved Disney character.

Boon wrote two articles for The Leopard’s Echo, Kloof Conservancy’s bi-annual e-magazine. In these articles he covered some of the more common trees and some of the rare and threatened species.

To read the articles head over to
http://le.kloofconservancy.org.za