Sunday, 22 April 2012

The case of the Suicidal Cedar

The setting: a hospital type room.  A sickly Clanwilliam cedar, with dead branches and few leaves, lies in large bed.

A human walks into the room: “What’s all this about you not wanting to live anymore? Come, come, things aren’t so bad!”
Cedar: “I’m depressed! You’ve chopped down all my friends and family!”
Human: “It’s not so bad, we’ll grow you some new ones” and starts to harvest some seeds from the Cedar and plant them around the room. On finishing, the human takes a break, lights a cigarette, carelessly discards the match and sets some branches of the Cedar on fire.
Cedar: “AAAARGH!” as the human throws a bucket of water on the Cedar.
Human: “So sorry! It was an accident!”
Awkard silence.
Human: “It’s really cold in here, shall I turn up the heating?”
Cedar: “NOOO!”
Human, fiddling with the thermostat: “Just 2 degrees warmer should about do it”
The Cedar groans as its last few leaves seesaw to the ground.

During my hikes through the Cederberg, the charred skeletal remains of the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis) were a prominent feature of the landscape high in the mountains.  It’s a sad state of affairs for the tree that gave the mountains their name. They have been reduced from a “24x2 mile” swathe to scattered individual trees hiding among the rocks.

Hundreds of young trees have been planted by volunteers over the years, but it appears that devastating fires in 2002 and 2009 have almost wiped out these plantations. The trees need to live about 30 years before they get to reproductive age. Why the natural regeneration process no longer continues is a bit of a mystery – but there are practically no young trees across the landscape.

That they only grow above 1000 meters up in the mountains suggests they prefer cooler climates – and so a warming climate is probably the death knoll for this species. Perhaps like the Willowmore Cedar of Baviaanskloof, which finds itself in a similar state, these are simply relics from a bygone age. To find out more about this species visit: 

A view from the Cederberg

A female Cape Rockjumper on the twisted remains of a Clanwilliam Cedar

A happy Clanwilliam Cedar

1 comment:

  1. Deeply depressing but not surprising. We just disturb things too much - ALL THE TIME. Ooops have just been told to stop blogging with you and make tea. Byeee.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...