Moving in after last week’s broader view of mistbelt forests, here is a more micro perspective with a selection of photos to celebrate forest treasures, and there are fewer words too. (Cue smiley face here.)

Bracken fiddlehead in Mistbelt Forest

The tightly furled new leaves of the Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) are known as fiddleheads. Looking at this photograph it suddenly dawned on me as to why – they resemble the scroll or the curly end of a violin. The other name for the curled top of new fern fronds is crozier, named for the stylised curled top of a bishop’s staff.

Christmas bells on forest margin, KZN

Seen on yet another misty Midlands morning, the dainty flowers of the climbing lily Gloriosa modesta (formerly Littonia modesta), which grows on the forest margins

Bract Fungi on fallen forest

Bract fungi growing on a fallen tree that is decomposing on the forest floor.

Forest tree trunk and roots, South Africa indigenous forest

A hint of the massive rooting system anchoring a tall tree of the forest.

Lichen and bark on trunk of mistbelt forest tree, KwaZulu-Natal

The bark of the forest trees is surprisingly various and beautiful, often patterned by lichens. I venture to guess that the tree in the foreground is a White Stinkwood (Celtis Africana), but would be grateful if anyone knows for sure.

Yellowood tree trunk and foliage, Mistbelt Forest

The bark and foliage of the coniferous Real Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius). These slow-growing trees can grow up to 30 m in height. They were heavily logged during the colonial era with the wood being used for buildings and furniture. There are three species of Yellowwood in South African forests. Their complex fruiting structures provide food for a variety of animals and birds, including the Cape Parrot. For an interesting article on planting indigenous trees to help rescue the endangered Cape Parrot, which is reliant on indigenous forests and on Yellowwoods in particular for its survival, see here.

Trunk of the Forest Knobwood tree, KwaZulu-Natal mistbelt forest

The trunk of the Forest Knobwood, showing its strange knoblike thorns. This tree in the Balgown Conservancy bears a label identifying it as a Zanthoxylum Davyi. Traditionally, twigs of Zanthoxylum species are debarked and beaten flat to make toothbrushes. Additionally, the bark and powdered root are used as a mouthwash and to treat toothache. The plants contain an alkaloid that has been shown to have anti-plaque and anti-inflammatory properties and it is used commercially in toothpastes and oral rinses  (Source: Ben-Erik van Wyk and Nigel Gericke. 2007. People’s Plants: A Guide to Useful Plants of Southern Africa.  Pretoria: Briza.)

Black-leged Golden Orb-web Spider on her web, South Africa

A female black-legged Golden Orb-web Spider shown with several items stashed in her “larder”.

Blue flowers of Plectranthus in mistbelt forest, KZN Midlands

A tall species of Plectranthus flowers particularly well where sunlight filters through the trees. I think this is the Forest Spurflower (Plectranthus fruticosus).

Cape Chestnut tree flowering in mistbelt forest, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The pink flowers of the Cape Chestnut (Calodendrum capense). Nearby to these trees is a less common variant with white flowers.

Misty view of flowering Cape Chestnut trees, KZN forest

A misty view of Cape Chestnut trees flowering in midsummer.

Seeds of the Cape Chestnut on the forest floor

A winter find on the forest floor: a knobbed seed capsule of the Cape Chestnut, split open to reveal the shiny black seeds within. The seeds of the Cape Chestnut are eaten by Samango Monkeys, African Olive-pigeons and Cape Parrots. Traditionally, Xhosa hunters used the seeds in bracelets for good luck (Source: Boon, Richard. 2010 (2nd ed.). Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa. Durban: Flora & Fauna.)

Lichens growing on trees in Mistbelt Forest in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

Lichens resembling decorations on trees growing towards the outer edges of a large patch of mistbelt forest.

Stretocarpus growing in indigenous mistbelt forest in KZN Midlands, South Africa

A wild Streptocarpus growing on the edge of a natural forest clearing. Many varieties of Streptocarpus are grown internationally as ornamental houseplants.

Red Scadoxus lily on forest margins, KwaZulu-Natal

Looking painterly photographed through morning mist is this lovely Fireball Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus).

Sun shining through spider web in indigenous forest, KwaZulu-Natal

Complex spider webs especially when backlit by slanting sunshine add to the sense of forest mystery

Snow-covered GIant's Castle, Drakensberg mountains KwaZulu-Natal, taken from mistbelt forest

A general view of mistbelt forest in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands with grassland beyond, presided over by the Drakensberg Mountains after an unseasonal early-summer snowfall. The peak of Giant’s Castle is visible.

Colourful forest bird, the Narina TrogonEmblematic of the forest, is the colourful yet elusive (and hard to photograph) Narina Trogon

Posted by Carol

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