Image 1: Bark detail.
Image 2: Leaf detail.
Image 3: Winter canopy.
Driving the magnificent mountain passes on Kaingo Private Game Reserve, one cannot but notice this beautiful tree with its very distinctive peeling, paper-like bark and opalescent under bark.
The Paperbark Albizia, or Paperbark False-thorn, occurs in the rockier areas of South Africa. It has a checked distribution, mostly forming clumps of trees on mountainous slopes and rocky areas. The latter part of its bi-nominal name refers to the fact that the Northern most distribution is in the mountains near Tanganyika, the modern Tanzania.
The wood of this tree is soft and light and not much used. It tends to irritate the nose when cut, causing violent sneezing outbursts!
As mentioned above, the outer bark of this tree flakes off in pieces resembling paper.
A few years ago, on a Rock Art finding expedition, I decided to stop for a few moments of rest in a small overhang overlooking the bushveld. Something strange and red caught my eye. It was the top of a Coca-Cola bottle. Annoyed at first for the person leaving their trash in the bush, I gently started to work the bottle loose from the surrounding soil.
When, finally, I had it in my hand, I realised that the bottle was stuffed with something. That something ended up being a love letter, written on a sheet of Paperbark Albizia bark and left there years ago! Further research onto the origin of the letter revealed that it may well have been written by a romantic farmer’s daughter for her love far away in some town or city.
This artefact is now safely in a museum in Modimolle, where it forms part of the history of the Waterberg.
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