Forest Cabbage Tree
Ferncliffe is rich in these characterful forest trees — perhaps because the tall, slender trunks have helped repel invasive creepers more successfully than their ordinarily branched kin. Historically, however, a large population has always grown in the Pietermaritzburg/Hilton area. The leaves are huge, with stalks sometimes nearly a metre long!
It takes 15 years for the tree to reach maturity and flower, by which time it stretches up to 25m tall. The flowers are held on arrangements of large spikes (something like aloes) – they’re often described as resembling candelabras. The fruits are popular with hornbills and turacos, and fallen fruits feed Blue Duiker and Bushbuck. David and Sally Johnson describe how the corky, soft wood provides important nesting holes for barbets and woodpeckers. A wonderful tree that we’d love to see more of on the misty slopes it loves.