From my Hide: From trees to fishing…

Dune soap berry, also known in isiZulu as maqinisa.

PART of South Africa’s extraordinary natural heritage is the biodiversity found here, both faunal and floral. Usually it’s the Big Five or our remarkable collection of birds that capture the attention, but what about trees? Southern Africa has an extraordinary selection of trees, some 1 700 or them in fact.*

They fill every ecological slot, some of them seem happy in the desert areas, others in the almost tropical conditions of northern KZN.

The other day my attention was drawn to one specific tree that is native to our part of the world, the dune soap berry (Deinbollia oblongifolia).

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It has a large selection of Zulu names, but I think the local one is maqinisa, its leaves are used as a kind of spinach in winter, its roots are used in traditional medicine for gastric complaints and the seeds, if soaked in water, make a sort of lather that can be used as soap.**

The dune soap berry is also a great attractor of butterflies, some of them actually breeding on it. And then, just for fun, the scientific name, Deinbollia, comes from Peter Vogelius Deinboll, a 1700s Danish clergyman, member of parliament and entomologist whose collection of insects in the Natural History Museum in Oslo (he lived in Norway) is one of the oldest in the world.***

Finally, if you want a dune soap berry tree then Graham McGill in Umtentweni is your man, he grows them specifically to spread the good news of indigenous trees, he’ll give you one for nothing, as long as it goes to a good home. Telephone Graham at 082 4148053.

Staying local, South Coasters know well that you don’t mess around with fishermen in their pursuit of their quarry, well, there’s trouble in the American state of Montana.

The mountain streams of Montana are one of the world’s top trout fishing destinations, but there’s trouble brewing in this fishermen’s paradise.

Over the past 15 years or so the rivers have been proving problematic because of early snow melts and too high water temperatures – the trout are not happy, nor are the fishermen, and it’s all because of climate change and presumably global warming.

Trout are cold water fish, enjoying it at an ideal 18.3°, but some of the formerly best rivers are reaching 22.8°, a temperature at which the fish cannot digest their food, and at 26.7° they start dying.

Conservationists, the tourism industry, not to mention the fishermen, are all worried, but there is apparently little that can be done about it.

And finally, just in case you need one locally, a designer in Finland has come up with a novel way of preventing domestic dogs being killed by wild wolves.

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He has developed a collar that is impregnated with chilli so that when the wolf goes for the dog’s throat it will get a blast of the hot stuff.

*Trees of Southern Africa, Braam van Wyk & Piet van Wyk, Struik, Cape Town, 1997, **Trees of Natal, Zululand & Transkei, Elsa Pooley, Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban, 1993, ***Southern African Plant Names, Editor Eugene Moll, Jacana, Johannesburg, 2016., ****The Economist, *****The Week: the Best of the British and Foreign Media.


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David Holt-Biddle

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