The tree identification project
About a year ago, several members of the FDWP began looking up at the trees in the park, thinking that it might be a good to have some name tags made for the different trees. It was a great idea, but soon proved to be a much bigger endeavour than first expected.
Tielman Haumann realised that more than just enthusiasm was needed. Dr Ernst van Jaarsveld of Kirstenbosch agreed to visit the park and showed us about 30 different tree species. That is when we realised just what a big job we’d set ourselves identifying all the trees.
The remaining ‘mystery’ palm and eucalyptus trees are a challenge, and if you can help us, it would be greatly appreciated.
This month’s tree species are both from the genus Araucaria. We start with them because they were among the first trees in the park to be positively identified. What is more, these tall, evergreen conifers with their column-like shape are living fossils, having been a source of food for the dinosaurs of the Jurassic era nearly 200 million years ago. The female cones typically grow high up in the trees and contain edible seeds similar to pine nut kernels. The Chilean Araucaria araucana, well known under its common name, monkey-puzzle tree, does not occur in the park.
Araucaria columnaris (Captain Cook’s pine, Nieu-Caledoniese den) - The columnar shape of this tree and its regular, formal appearance make it easy to identify. Typically the stem bends slightly before growing straight up again. De Waal Park has a great number of A. columnaris, spread across the park. It is indigenous to New Caledonia.
Araucaria cunninghamii (Hoop pine, Hoepelden) - There are only two specimens of A. cunninghamii in De Waal Park, growing at the south-western end near the tennis courts. This tree is similar to A. columnaris, but with a less regular shape. It is indigenous to eastern Australia and New Guinea and is not often seen locally.
Text and photographs by Hannarie, unless otherwise stated. All mistakes are hers alone.