Tree Trail of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Do you know what an African Holly looks like? Or a Silky Bark tree, or even our special Assegaaibos and Cape Beech (Boekenhout)?

Take heart. In the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, a Tree Trail will take you from the Botanical Centre to the top of Assegaaibos, our special afro-montane forest.
The special aluminium signs printed black on silver will give you the common and botanical names and interesting facts about their uses to animals and people alike.

For instance:

* The Wild Peach Kiggelaria africana has hydrocyanic acid in its leaves so stock or game leave it strictly alone, but the oil-rich aril on the seeds attract many fruit-eating bird species.
* If you rub the fresh leaves of the African Holly Ilex mitis together in water, a lather is produced. It is closely related to the European Christmas Holly.
* The leaves of the Waboom, Protea nitida were boiled in water, together with a rusty nail, to produce a fine writing ink. It is believed that Louis Trichardt, the famous Voortrekker leader, wrote his journals using waboom ink.
* The Zulu people soak the dry leaves of the Tree Fuchsia Halleria lucida in winter and squeeze drops into the ear to relieve an earache.
* Wood from the Cape Beech Rapanea melanophloeos was used for making violins and other musical instruments.

Then there is our Mountain Cedar, Widdringtonia nodiflora, which grows away from the ravines - and looks to the uninitiated for all the world like an alien Hakea.

BE WARNED! Although not threatened on account of its tough underground root system, do not cut down this special tree in motivated hacking mode. A young stand in the Onrus mountains was cut and poisoned by mistake and will never be seen again.

Not all the trees in this area are indigenous to the South Western Cape, but they have been added to the Tree Trail for general interest. For although Fernkloof is incredibly rich in coastal and montane plant species (1600 occurring naturally in its 1800 ha) only some 30 of these are trees out of a total of more than 700 occurring in South Africa.

These tree communities, known as Afromontane Forest, are generally restricted to moist, sheltered kloofs, protected from the fires which periodically sweep through the Fynbos Biome.

Afromontane Forest is one of seven biomes (the highest level of plant community) found in South Africa. It extends from the Cape Peninsula in isolated pockets along the southern coastal mountains eastwards to Knysna where it covers 60 000 ha. Requiring annual rainfall of some 800mm, it usually grows at altitudes lower than 1000m in South Africa.

As its name implies, Afromontane Forest is associated with the high mountains of Africa and small “forest islands” occur northwards into high elevations in Ethiopia. The same tree species which grow in the kloof in Fernkloof can also be seen in countries to the north.