Monday, November 21, 2011

Rhus lancea - Maree

People in suburbia see trees differently than foresters do. They cherish every one. It is useless to speak of the probability that a certain tree will die when the tree is in someone's backyard .... You are talking about a personal asset, a friend,
a monument, not about board feet of lumber.
- Roger Swain

21st November 2011 - Finally we've had some GOOD rain! (30mm in a couple of hours) and this will really boost my lawn, which has still been yellow since the winter. The trees are also all fresh, green and sparkling clean, as is evident from the sketch of a few leaves of one of my Karees (Rhus lancea) indigenous to Southern Africa. It's a bit of an untidy tree, with a weird growing habit of the branches backing up on one another and having most of its leaves right at the tip of the branches. It has a graceful, weeping form and dark, fissured bark that contrasts well with its long, thinnish, hairless, dark-green, trifoliate leaves with smooth margins.

The small, inconspicuous flowers are presented as much-branched sprays which are greenish-yellow in colour and are produced from June until September. The male and female flowers occur on separate trees (luckily I have quite a few of them in my garden, so some must be male and some female). The fruit are small (up to 5mm in diameter), round, slightly flattened and covered with a thin fleshy layer which is glossy and yellowish to brown when ripe. The fruits are produced from September until January.

The fruit is eaten by birds such as Bulbuls, Guinea fowl and Francolins. Game animals such as Kudu, Roan antelope and Sable browse the leaves of the tree which can serve as an important food source for them in times of drought. The sweetly scented flowers attract bees and other insects to them. Now re-named Searsia lancea, it is useful in providing natural soil stabilisation and increasing infiltration of rainwater into the soil thus reducing erosion and raising the ground water table.

The leaves of the Karee provide valuable fodder for livestock but can taint the flavour of milk if eaten in large quantities by dairy cattle as a result of the resin contained in them. The tree is also an important source of shade for livestock in certain regions. The bark, twigs and leaves provide tannin. In the past the hard wood was used for fence posts, tool handles and parts of wagons. Bowls, tobacco pipes and bows were also made from the wood. The fruits are edible and were once used as an important ingredient of mead or honey beer. The word karee is said to be the original Khoi word for mead.

(With this sketch, I've reached my 200th post here on this blog. Whoot whoot!)


  1. Another lovely page, Maree. And what an interesting tree--all things to all creatures.

  2. Thanks ever so much Paula and you're right, the Universe certainly does provide for all its little creatures.

  3. Maree, I look forward to the quotes that you include with your lovely sketches. You always seem to have just the right selection for each sketch. Where do you find them all? Just wanted to let you know I appreciate your taking the extra time to include them.

  4. Aaah, that's so wonderful Leslie, thank you for your lovely words! I have a couple of Gigs of quotes on my MAC! Find them on the internet, books, e-mails sent to me, sometimes even what people say! glad you like it, my pleasure!


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