This springtime, at first we didn’t have rain. Then we had a lot. And one morning a favourite old tree, sodden with the weight of the water, fell with a shuddering thud.

Halleria lucida (tree fuchsia) fallen over in garden

We looked out of the window and this is what we saw

Cat looking out window at fallen tree

Even the cats found it disturbing and, missing the tree, they took turns to look out of the window. Now it’s Nougat’s turn to look out in amazement

Tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida) in suburban garden, KwaZulu-Natal

This is how it looked in April, still in flower at the end of its last summer. The tree (Halleria lucida) is known as the tree fuchsia, on account of its tubular (orange) flowers

Hadeda ibis preening in a tree fuchsia

The old tree fuchsia was appreciated not only by us. After bathing in the pond, hadedas would perch in it while preening and drying their feathers

Dusky flycatcher feeding fledglings

One spring I was able to watch unnoticed through the closed window while an African dusky flycatcher fed its two newly fledged babies

Greyheaded sparrow feeding fledgling

Another year, a baby southern grey-headed sparrow left the nest very high up under the gable of our house, and it ended up flying into our house through the open window, much to the consternation of its parents and the great interest of Nougat the cat. We rescued it and took it outside and hoped the anxious parents would be able to assist it. Unable to fly, it made its way to the base of the old tree and climbed up the trunk, fed and encouraged by its parents on its way up

Fledgling southern greyheaded sparrow

And here is the baby sparrow, safely up in the branches of the old tree. For the full story of the day the sparrow fell from the nest and was rescued by its parents see here

Southern greyheaded sparrow calling while perched in a tree fuchsia

One of the parent grey-headed sparrows perches in the tree chirping perkily

Black-backed puffback seen through a window

Although they are quite often around, they are hard to see as they mostly keep to the tree canopy, but I did spot this black-backed puffback through the closed window. Opening the window would have frightened it off

Black-headed oriole eating fruit of a tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida)

A black-headed oriole about to sample some of the still-green fruits of the tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida). As they ripen the fruits darken to purplish-black

Vervet monkey in tree in suburban garden KwaZulu-Natal

Vervet monkeys also enjoy the fruits the of tree fuchsia. This one is warily alert to me watching from behind the closed window

Vervet monkey in a tree grooming its tail

Sometimes a monkey or two simply liked to hang out in the tree. This one is grooming its tail

Eastern green snake in a tree in a suburban garden

 A few years ago I saw this eastern green snake eating a frog that it had caught at the pond. Once it had swallowed the frog it headed for the tree fuchsia. I went inside and watched through the window as it rapidly climbed the tree. I managed to snap this photo as it briefly came into view from behind the leaves and branches

Sunbird and blossoms of tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida)

When flowering in late summer/early autumn the blossoms of the tree fuchsia attracted nectar-eating birds such as this sunbird

Trunk of tree fuchsia and fallen blossoms

The ground beneath the tree would be carpeted with a layer of fallen blossoms as the flowering season came to an end

Spongy base of fallen tree fuchsia

The tree broke off at ground-level when it fell. The broken base reveals that it had become soft and spongy, perhaps with age. For some months we had noticed that the bark was being eaten away by ants, an indication that the tree was no longer healthy

Sawing a fallen tree fuchsia into firewood

And so the fallen tree was cut up as it lay across the lawn with the top dipping into the pond. My husband got busy with the saw, cutting the thicker branches into short lengths to be dried for firewood

Cut wood of tree fuchsia (Halleria lucida) on woodpile

The wood of the old tree is now neatly stacked to dry. As it starts to dry, the fibrous under-layer of the bark takes on the colour of dried blood. The pale wood is hard and in the past it was used to make spear shafts, tools and wagon poles. It was also used to make fire by friction and it is said to make good firewood (see here)

Although we really miss the old tree that stood outside our dining room window, we are grateful for the abundance and enjoyment it provided during its lifetime. Fortunately, we do have another mature tree fuchsia in the garden. For more information on the lovely tree fuchsias in our garden see a previous post here.

wildlife garden

This photo of a sunbird perching near blossoms of the tree fuchsia – taken when the tree was in its prime – features on the About page of this blog

Posted by Carol

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