Monday 31 October 2011

Graaff-Reinet trees


After we left Clarens it took us 2 hot days on the road to get to Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape. It was our choice destination because David’s family from his mother’s side comes from here. And as we got out of the car to check our location on a map; we realised that we were on Market Square and just across we could see that number 12, David’s grandfather’s house, had a beautiful jacaranda tree in bloom right next to it. However the house is now in great need of repair and in a run-down part of the town...
12 Market Square
For those who don’t know, jacaranda trees Jacaranda mimosifolia are native of South America, have bunches of deep blue flowers on leafless branches. Last year’s round seed pods were still on the trees.
Jacaranda tree flowers and seed pods

 There were other exotic trees that had not produced any leaves yet, for example the flamboyant trees Delonix regia with their huge boomerang sized pods were quite striking.

Flamboyant tree in early summer

These trees are also planted all over the tropics as ornamentals; however in their native range, Madagascar, they are endangered. Their bark is smooth and somehow has folds that remind me of an elephant's skin.

Delonix regia bark

 There were plenty of evergreen trees from Australia; for example, lots of kurrajong bottle trees Brachychiton with discrete white flowers and plenty of boat shaped pods from last year and some huge itchy powder trees Lagunaria patersonia. Best of all were the silky-oak trees which were covered with yellow blossoms.

Grevillea robusta in bloom

 Others like the coral and pepper tree were also familiar to me; not to mention the oaks and the American ash trees from the northern hemisphere. But there were many new ones: the beautiful small bauhenia trees with their white or pink flowers were very delicate. Jenny Grant, who lived in Hong-Kong told me that these flowers are the emblem for Hong-Kong.

Bouganvillea, left, and bauhenia tree blossoms

Also, one could see some very tall palm trees, I believe the Canary palm Phoenix canariensis. Apparently, about one century ago a couple of these palm trees used to be planted by a new house: one for peace and the other for prosperity.  Eira Maasdorp who runs Reinet Antiques told me that this is one of the ways to spot old houses. 
Eira gave me a tour of this historic Karoo town, which has beautifully well kept old houses, mostly single storey with verandas, painted white. The streets are lined with trees, some of the original cypresses are still standing. I found them a bit gloomy though.
She showed me lots of other trees that were new to me, mostly the native African ones with names like yellow wood, stink wood, karree and many others. A lot to learn! 


  1. Did Graaf Reinet still have its irrigations system of gated streams running along the pavements outside the houses?

  2. David writes:
    Mostly not. In particular, there are none in Market Square. A few of the ditches remain to trap the unwary. The only working stream we saw was apparently for a sports ground.