Rain Tree


It’s probably not a good idea to sit under a  Philenoptera violacea unless you have an umbrella.

Thousands of tiny frog-hopper insects – called Ptyelus grossus – live off the sap of these trees. And as fast as they are sucking sap they are also peeing, forming almost pure water puddles on the ground under the trees.

This is one of the reasons the tree earns the nickname ‘rain tree’.

The other reason is that for a couple of weeks a year, around the beginning of November, the dull, grey bush suddenly erupts with splashes of violet and blue, and we know that the rains will soon be following.

That’s unless the crows have anything to do with it …

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It looks inviting, but you really don’t want to sit there

Black and White Wood (and a couple of birds)


Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge – Wood

I recently travelled to the UK – to renew my passport, which is another story entirely – and not only did I get my entire family together for our first Christmas in 10 years but I was also lucky enough to experience my first proper snow.

On Boxing Day we went for a walk in the hills around Glossop – the views were breathtaking!

I don’t know if this first picture qualifies as true black and white since I took it in full colour but I love the effect of the white snow on the black tree trunks.

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A few days after returning home I spotted this eagle perched in the dead tree above our bedroom:

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And then a couple of days later we saw this Fish Eagle perched on a tree on the banks of the Zambezi River:

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The Textures of Africa – Part II


When Piet first arrived here nine years ago the farm now known as Sitikela was bush.  Thick, solid, tangled, dry bush. And it was brown. The trees were brown, the grass was brown, the leaves scattered on the sand were brown – even the sand was brown.

African winter bush

African winter bush

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As he drove up a sandy, unkempt track he noticed the top of a solitary tree towering above the rest of the forest – and it was green! Although it was mid-winter, the heat of the day was almost unbearable and the shade of this tree looked like a likely spot to set up camp; Piet and Sarel, his business partner, lived in tents under that tree for two years while they set to work developing the farm and today our house nestles comfortably in that same shade.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

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The rough and the smooth

Guibourtia coleosperma, also known as  Rhodesian Copalwood, African Rosewood and Large False Mopane is a beautiful, mostly evergreen tree which occurs almost exclusively on Kalahari sand. The tree is ubiquitous on our farm and we have at least ten growing in our garden. Our offices are also built under the shade of one of these magnificent specimens.

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I love the varying textures of the bark, smooth, cracked, knotty.

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Pockmarked with borer tunnels

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The paired leaves look similar to those of the Mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane) which also occurs in this area and it is easy to understand why this tree is sometimes called the Large False Mopane.

Shining emerald green in the sunlight

Shining emerald-green in the sunlight

The leaves look almost translucent from underneath

Almost translucent from underneath

The bright red arils, although somewhat tasteless, are edible and the indigenous people pound them into a flour which they cook into a nutritious meal; they do the same with the seeds and I have read somewhere that this has saved many lives in times of famine.

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Of course birds love the seeds and arils too, and we are often entertained by the raucous shouting of trumpeter hornbills, sounding uncannily like crying babies as they skirmish and scuffle for the juiciest ones.

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Guibourtia coleosperma  is a much sought-after hardwood. When first cut the timber has a unique pinkish-brown colour which later changes to a rich, warm, edible-looking dark chocolate-brown.

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Our own home-made Rosewood dining-room suite, made from wood salvaged during land clearing