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How to ID trees using their flowers
Plants, including trees, are scientifically classified and named according to their flower-shape and anatomical structure. Looking carefully at flower-shapes can help with family identification, but this is often rather technical and difficult without magnification.
Sugarbush Protea - Protea repens (Tree no 94.2)
The Sugarbush Protea, Protea repens, is one of the most widely distributed Proteas in the Cape Region, and where one grows, others can almost certainly be found in the vicinity. It is easiest to find in Fynbos on Mountain slopes, and can also be found in Renosterveld.
Chinese-Lanterns - Nymania capensis (Tree no 295)
Chinese-lanterns, Nymania capensis, grow in semi-arid sites, and where there is one, there are mostly others in the vicinity, most often found along watercourses or among rocks. Along roadsides it is not browsed and can be common.
This August look for these evergreen trees
Our main emphasis this month is on trees that are either evergreen or have really unusual shapes or bark. Thus they are easy to spot in the late winter landscapes when many trees are bare.
It's July and these trees have all lost their leaves
The six trees featured this month all lose their leaves in winter (in most areas where they occur). However each one of them is still easily recognisable by their bare branches and or trunks and bark.
Tamboti - Spirostachys africana (National Tree Spotting Tree no 341)
In many ways Tamboti trees, Spirostachys africana, are more dramatic in winter when leafless, than they are in summer. They have a number of striking features that make them distinctive. Primarily, they most often grow in patches of uniform Tamboti forest, either fairly close to a river, often on clay, or in a rocky area. The first thing you will notice about the trees, is that so many of them grow surprisingly close together.
Then you will become aware of the unusually dark, regularly cracked, blocky bark. In the canopy above, Tamboti are the opposite of Baobabs. The branches divide many times into gradually finer and finer twigs, creating a mass of thin, grey twiglets. These inter-tangle into a ‘smokey’ grey crown. Being close together these crowns often merge into one mass.
Marula - Sclerocarya birrea (National Tree Spotting Tree no 360)
Most people will say that their favourite tree in the winter, in the Lowveld is the Marula Sclerocarya birrea. This indigenous tree has two distinctive features that make it easy to find when there are no leaves in its canopy and less general greenery around to hide its characteristic bark. Firstly, the bark often peels in unusually rounded depressions, revealing smooth, pink-brown under-bark. Secondly the large main branches divide rapidly into branchlets that end in short, stubby ‘finger-like’ twigs, which are conspicuous against the winter sky.
The shape of things - Identifying the form of indigenous trees in southern Africa
One of ther easiest, most striking feature of any tree is its trunk and these characteristic forms of sourthern Africa indigenous tree trunks and branching patterns can help you to identify indigenous trees.
Baobab - Adansonia digitata (National Tree Spotting Tree no 467)
This is one of the easiest trees to find and identify all year round, as long as you set out to look for it in the right places! Baobabs are most often found alone, with others nearby. In winter, from a long distance away, you will see the large, bare branches reaching up into the sky, with relatively short, thin branchlets and twigs.
Robust Acacia - Acacia robusta (National Tree Spotting Tree no 183)
Robust Acacias Acacia robusta are one of my favourite trees, because of the robust way that it reaches high into the sky with strong, upright branches. Historically it was called the Splendid Acacia, which is a really good name – but I personally call it the Halleluja Acacia for the way its sturdy main branches (arms) reach upwards, as if giving thanks!
The branchlets and twigs have two features that make them even more distinctive in the winter. They have conspicuous, dark, prickly, cushion-like thickenings at the base of straight, pale thorns, and the twigs tend to zigzag at these same points, giving the canopy a characteristic spikey outline.