Saturday, October 17, 2020

100 Bushveld Trees by Megan Emmett Parker

My identification of trees remains sketchy at best, so 100 Bushveld Trees by Megan Emmett Parker (photographs by Shem Compion) is a perfect volume for me to dip in a little more. Even though I'm based in the Western Cape, many of the trees mentioned in this book do occur here in gardens and parks, so this is was not a complete loss for me.

While this little book is by no means an exhaustive volume, it's perfect for those of us who do have an interest in the flora of southern Africa and need a departure point to enrich their knowledge. Beautifully laid out, this book gives readers a 101 on the terminology used for the structure of trees, from their overall shape down to their leaves, bark, fruit, flowers and other identifying features. 

Thereafter, the sections are divided according to giant trees, spiky trees, simple leaves, compound leaves and more to help pinpoint basic characteristics – which is helpful if you need to narrow down. Each species covered is then introduced in terms of its uses, as well as accompanying characteristics, from bark and leaf to flowers and fruit. Each is also clarified with relevant photos to assist in identification – very useful.

What struck me after reading through this was how incredibly useful many of our species are – not only for the wood, but also in many cases traditional medicines and edible fruit. I certainly came away from this reading with a much greater appreciation for the complexities of our indigenous tree species and the important roles they play within our ecosystems – not only providing shelter but food as well. 

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