Meet the Trees – The Tipuana



“The first thing I notice is that the Tipuana tree is gone. I remember the vast reach of its strong curvy limbs, the perfect thumb-print rows of leaves, whirling helicopter seed pods, and the exuberant yellow, crumpled-tissue-paper flowers that used to litter the ground beneath it.”
Tipuana tipu

Now considered an invasive plant in South Africa, this import from Brazil and Bolivia was once commonly grown in suburban gardens. Its large size and thirsty root system mean that it often competes with indigenous species, especially along river banks, where it can cause considerable lessening in water-flow.

The canopies of these trees are the favoured home of ‘spitting bugs’ (more romantically called ‘rain-tree nymphs) which consume large amounts of tree sap, and subsequently secrete the excess fluid which they froth up with their butts (this just keep getting better, doesn’t it?) and then use to cover themselves to prevent water loss and keep their temperatures stable. Quite a bit of this ‘spittle’ drips down on unsuspecting shade-seekers.

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