Cederberg's orphan tree

"Mountains are not esteemed because they are high,

but because they have trees"

-Japanese proverb

cedar tree silhouette cederberg

The Widdringtonia wallichii

About an hour and a half's walk up into this otherworld ...

cedar Widringtonia

How many of the iconic trees were here before the industrial age kicked in and the ceders came down?

Recent research comparing historic versus present pollen counts points to there having been fewer Widdringtonia wallichii than previously thought.

Now though, here and there, old cedar tree survivors, some with live foliage, others just remnant burnt-out skeletons, still claw into towering rockscapes.

hiking in Area B of the Cederberg wilderness area

Even in deep summer delicate fynbos is in flower.

fynbos

erica in cederberg while cape trekking

spotted harlequin snake cederberg Jan 2020

Cederberg's cedars, or Widdringtonia wallichii (preveiously Widdrintonia cedarbegensis), are found nowhere else on earth. They're thought to have survived an ice age about 250 million years ago, the torque of time evolving a hardy tree of dense wood that adapted as this part of the world warmed again, and the soil turned acidic and nutrient-depleted. Perhaps this is why cedars are slow reproducers, along with the fact that their fallen resin acts as a prophylactic.

ceder tree trunk twisted bt the torque of time in Asja's Kloof, near Christal Pools, Cederberg

In a Floral Region of mostly heath-like bush, once European settlement came it was only a matter of time before felled Cedar trees were hauled down. (The trails here are really well made.)

old timber hauling infrastructure in cederberg

They were used to fence in land, for telegraph poles and furniture.

interior clanwilliam Anglican church

Clanwilliam's Anglican Church is decked out in cedar wood.

cone of widdringtonia cedarbergensis.

Projects to regrow the cedars are under-resourced.

A new cedar has to make it to about thirty years, surviving the changing climate and water shortages, before it'll produce seed-baring cones. Fallen cones dry out and release seeds. That much is known. It's then thought that mice transport seeds below ground to store. Germination is enduced by heat and smoke from summer fires, followed by winter rain.

Small animals eat the seeds, as well as the shoots of rare cedar saplings.

Widdringtonia wallichii pod

Widdringtonia wallichii pods (above)

seeds (below)

Widdringtonia cedarbergensis seeds

And the resin thing?

While elsewhere forest-elder trees nurture nearby saplings by providing shade, hooking them up to the existing subterranean mycorrrhizal networks, and whatever - that is not the case with local cedars. They secrete a resin which humans have used traditionally as poultices for rheumatism and gout.

In the soil where resin has fallen, it is believed that seeds don't germinate. Not until the parent tree has died.

cedar tree cederberg wilderness area

"The leaf of every tree

brings a message

from the unseen world.

Look, every falling leaf

is a blessing"

-Rumi

cederberg reflection


  • See this page for Cederberg hiking.
  • More on the restoration project:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GL-dNp_ClE

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/13/africa/clanwilliam-cedar-cederberg-c2e-intl-spc/index.html