07 July, 2014

Mystery tree is a carob

 - gardening for biodiversity 
in Cape Town, South Africa

Discovered Treasures 1

At the bottom of the garden were problem trees at our boundary wall. First was the pohutakawa New Zealand Christmas tree Metrosideros excelsa, reminding me of my father. I remember the HUGE tree in the corner of the Camps Bay garden of the house where I grew up. Pohutakawa is an invasive alien in South Africa. The second Discovered Treasure is also from New Zealand - Marble Chips!

Carob tree Ceratonia siliqua

Second was a large Australian brush cherry, with a third growing right at the corner of the house! This one we battle in our Porterville garden, making it easy to say goodbye to. Fourth was a variegated Ficus.

The Ungardener with the large Brazilian pepper tree

Fifth was a nasty thick bottlebrush trunk with no leaves, and leaning on the wall. Sixth another bottlebrush which had been hacked back frequently, leaving a tangled mess exactly where our Adirondacks will face. Seventh was a huge Brazilian pepper tree Schinus terebinthifolius, (covering next door's garage wall and) arching over the 'sunny' patio.

Brazilian pepper tree to go on the right
Left star jasmine and the carob tree

Brazilian pepper tree coming down PDQ

Ruben the tree feller - Rubys Maintenance - liebenberg (at) gmail (dot) com - was highly recommended by our neighbours. It goes against my principles to use poison, but these trees will coppice and return. I had to accept poisoning the stumps with Garlon (need to know from Dow and Death of a Million Trees) Ruben explained that this is the herbicide used by Nature Conservation when they clear infestations of Australian wattle. He carves a cross within the stump and the poison goes in the centre. Used on freshly cut (still growing) stumps the poison travels down the roots, which will decompose over months.

Poisoned tree stump

Carol at Beautiful Wildlife Garden had a horror story about trees crashing into her garden. Ruben's man with the chainsaw carefully sharpened the teeth before he started, wore earmuffs and a mesh mask to protect his face. Three men worked fast to shift the fallen branches.

Carob tree left, with bottlebrush looming right

First plant your tree. In Porterville we chose our plot for the two thirty-year old ash trees. A garden needs established trees. In our False Bay garden the statement tree drawing our eyes up to the mountain ridge will be the carob tree, which also grows in California, Cyprus and Italy.

Carob and the mountain ridge I'd like to see
The bottlebrush will be leaving later 

Ceratonia siliqua  - the carob tree comes from the Mediterranean and suits our south-western Cape climate. Our tree is male with smelly flowers (females have edible pods). 24 carat gold harks back to using carob seeds to weigh gold.

The garden 10 years ago?
When the carob was small

The False Bay house was built in 1990 so some of our trees may be 24 years old. We are grateful that the previous owners sent us pictures of the garden when it was well loved. 

I'm following this tree with Lucy. Since we are tantalisingly gardening with a bargepole, on stilts - I'll return to visit my tree as and when. I hunted hopefully in my South African tree book. Searched thru Google with a photo of the leaf I brought home. Finally I recognised one of our street trees in Porterville. The mystery is a carob! Round leaves were the clue that led me to carob.

Dawn over False Bay. Now the green gloom is clearing, I can plan ... bergkaree, tree fuchsia, Diospyros whyteana, Prunus nigra, witkaree, camphor bush, Brachylaena discolor, Dombeya, wild olive, Kei apple, Trimeria grandifolia, lavender star ... to cover his walls again. Wildflower Wednesday for July in Porterville.

Mid-winter dawn over False Bay

If you want to ID a plant, instead of battling to tell the Great Google what your flower looks like in words – er, small? Yellowish, but some orange? You can use your photo of your mystery flower!

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

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  1. I never knew the link between carob and carat! A fascinating TF post.

  2. It is great to see how you are starting to take ownership of the idea of gardening at your new house. We too have a carob, and a friend, very knowledgeable on indigenous trees, insisted it was (when it was quite young) a huilboerboon. I was sad to disappoint him, but think of him often when I look at the tree 25 years on...
    PS: hope you and your garden survived the cold! We are expecting it on Thursday morning.

    1. tonite and tomorrow ... I have my tender plants in pots on the verandah.

  3. The Carob tree sounds like a worthy choice for the tree following meme and for your new home! I'm always fascinated by your descriptions of your part of the world. It sounds so mysterious and wonderful. Take care with the cooler weather!

  4. So the tree work starts in the new garden....can't wait to see and hear more about the carob tree...love the views...do you have a view of the Bay or is it close enough by to visit? Love that dawn shot!

    1. Our view will be slices of mountain, and trees. A few minutes drive to the sea on False Bay, and 15 minutes to the Atlantic Coast.

  5. It is fascinating to learn about the exotic trees you grow in your part of the world. The Carob tree is a familiar one though, I have seen it growing in the Mediterranean. In fact I have seen some huge , very old ones; they can grow to be majestic trees. I look forward to learning more about it from your tree watching.

    1. Chloris has a mulberry tree

  6. false bay but certainly not a false start - all that ground work of tree chopping! A pea tree with nitrogen fixing capacities - fascinating to follow its progress

    1. While the stumps rot down, I can be patient, until we can get planting!

  7. Replies
    1. if it is a female tree, we could eat the fresh pods. But the sources describe it as famine food.

  8. Oh, I never knew that about carob and carats of gold either! Fascinating.
    Everything in your garden looks superb :)

  9. Tree management is a never-ending job here in Austin, Texas, but we're grateful for all our trees come summer. Well, except for the aggressive invasives, of course. With those, lines must be drawn, as you've done.