Yellowwood resprouts


The 'Magic Tree' of Kirstenbosch - down but not out!

On Tuesday 1 November 2005 a gale force North West wind hit Cape Town, blowing down one of the most loved and famous trees of Kirstenbosch. The 'Magic Tree' was a great big, nearly 100 year old Breede River Yellowwood ( Podocarpus elongatus ) with a crown that reached all the way to the ground, five massive trunks and many sturdy horizontal branches near the ground, creating a magical secret hideaway and climbing tree, well known to generations of children. The wind split it in two pieces, exposing the roots and breaking many of the branches.

This event was met with much sadness by everyone that knew and loved the tree. But, instead of chopping it up and consigning it to the compost heap and woodstack, like its twin that blew down in 1984, Kirstenbosch staff decided to try to save it. It was cordoned off from the public to prevent both additional damage to the tree and potential accidents as we were not sure how stable it was. Tree experts were consulted, a percentage of the crown was cut back, some of the boughs were braced, the exposed roots were covered with soil and regularly watered, and we watched and waited.

Roots covered and watering

Although the newly exposed parts of the canopy showed signs of sunburn, it was not long before new shoots sprung up all over the now exposed old trunks. If it had been any one of our other species of yellowwood it would probably have died but Podocarpus elongatus has the ability to resprout from epicormic buds - i.e. buds on the trunk of the tree. In nature, this yellowwood grows beside the rivers and streams in the rugged, fire-prone mountains of the South Western Cape. It has evolved the ability to resprout as a survival strategy to cope with the unstable nature of its habitat. In an undamaged tree with a full canopy the epicormic buds lie dormant under the bark, but if the tree falls over or the canopy is damaged and the trunks are exposed to the sun they spring to life sending out shoots to repair the damage.

We have every reason to expect that our Magic Tree will make a full recovery and that in time the newly sprouted shoots will fill the huge hole in the crown making it as big and as magical as ever. Bad news for kids is that they will have to stay off it for a while to allow the new shoots to grow.

Keep an eye on this page as we monitor its progress and log the recovery of the Magic Tree of Kirstenbosch.

Read more about this yellowood, Podocarpus elongatus

January 2006

New sprouts on stems


This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website