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Tree: Leadwood (Combretum imberbe)

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Leadwood Combretum imberbe

Unread post by arks » Wed Oct 11, 2006 1:48 am

Here are a few more of my puzzlers. I don't know whether it will be possible to ID the tree or plants in these pix, since I wasn't really focussing on the flora when I took the pix ...


Last edited by arks on Sat Feb 23, 2008 7:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by Jakkalsbessie » Wed Oct 11, 2006 3:46 pm

1) Definitely Leadwood Combretum imberbe
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Tree: Leadwood (Combretum imberbe)

Unread post by MarkWildDog » Sat Nov 25, 2006 10:43 am

Leadwood Tree
(Combretum imberbe)

Family: Combretaceae.

The leadwood tree is truly magnificent & impressive, it is medium to large in size & can grow up to 20m in height. Which makes it the tallest of all South African conbretums. Slow growing & has a spreading canopy. The bark of this tree is snakeskin-like. Dead parts of this tree often remain on the tree. Trunk is a pale grey white colour. Leaves are leathery & are opposite each other. Flowers are a yellowish-cream colour & have a sweet fragrance, which are produced between November & March. Fruit are yellowish-green in colour & turn pale red in from February to June. Produced in a 4-winged sequence.

Bushveld & mixed forest areas of South Africa. Widespread in the Lowveld area & are found in the Mpumalanga, Limpopo & North-West provinces of South Africa.

Leaves are eaten by kudu, impala, grey duiker, elephant & giraffe. Branches are eaten by elephant & giraffe. Many rodents enjoy feeding on the seeds of this tree.
Last edited by MarkWildDog on Thu Feb 01, 2007 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread post by christo » Sat Nov 25, 2006 3:25 pm

The Afrikaans name for this tree is "Hardekool", which refers to the hard long burning coals, when used as firewood. As can be seen, these trees are really an asset when surviving in the bush.

The dry wood of these trees wighs 1200kg/cubic metre, compared to the 1000kg of water, making it one of the few wood types that actually sink when dry.

The San (Bushman) damaged the bark and ate the excretions (Afr. Boomgom) as a diet supplement.

Due to high percentage of lime in the ashes, this make for a good alternative to toothpaste.

The roots are kooked and the "tea" drinked to cure stomach ailments.

The "bark" of the roots are used in the same way as a cure for Bilharzia.

Green leaves are put on a fire and the smoke inhaled to cure the symptoms of colds/flu.

The flowers are cooked as tea and then drank to alleviate coughing.
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Unread post by Imberbe » Sun Nov 26, 2006 7:51 pm

Leadwood is an extremely slow growing tree. The age of trees seen in the veld are often not appreciated! Many of them are at least a thousand years old.

I have been told that, in a cross section of the trunk, 30 cm of with represents 500 years of growth! :shock:

This is also the reason why, though I love the sight and smell of a leadwood fire, they should not be harvested and used for firewood! They can not be sustainably harvested!

Do not buy leadwood wood - you are contributing to their destruction! :rtfm:

They are now also a protected tree! This means that you need permission from nature conservation to remove a tree!

In years gone by leadwood trees were used as "road markers" for travellers. Marks would be made on the tree indicating the direction the traveller should follow to get to the next marker. In the Kruger there are quite a few of these marks that are still visible on leadwoods. :wink:
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

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Unread post by wildtuinman » Mon Nov 27, 2006 5:44 am

Also known as the 3000 year tree.

It takes a 1000 years to reach maturity.
Another 1000 to die.
And a 1000 to rot away.
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Combretum imberbe

Unread post by EricP » Mon Jan 22, 2007 7:34 am

This explains the lead wood I planted, they have grown in 15yrs waiting, into spindly three or four meter tall grey bunches of sticks about as thick as broom shafts, not entirely unattractive and have always looked healthy.

This information has made me look at these trees in a totally different light, well done. Has anyone got more information on longevity of the different tree species? I find this fascinating. I have to say I was pondering the question to myself about some of the Mimusops as well the other day. These trees fascinate me, I have one or two that I planted that are already, on occasion, producing flowers and fruit, much to my delight. Some specimens of these great trees I have seen in coastal dunes must be 100's and 100's if not thousands of years old? Surely?

Imberbe's great age is not mentioned in Keith Coates Palgrave that I have seen anyway, though they do say it is known amongst the Hereros as the ancestor of all their peoples, this might explain why.
Over the years I have planted zillions of trees and some are still no bigger than shrubs after all this time, others have bolted matured flowerd set seed, repeatedfor awhile and fallen over in the wind in the meantime. Mostly though everything I plant lives on, even if they never show much spectacular growth. The lead wood then I assume has a high tolerance to all sorts of adverse conditions, including shading and competition from other trees, all the comings and goings of the landscape during all those long, very long years?

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Re: Combretum imberbe

Unread post by DuQues » Mon Jan 22, 2007 1:16 pm

EricP wrote:Has anyone got more information on longevity of the different tree species?

A few lines from a report by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (6th August 2003)
Combretum imberbe belongs to the Combretaceae family, which comprises a total of 20 genera and 500 species in the tropics and subtropics of the world. In southern Africa there are 41 species in five genera, including Combretum, Pteleopsis, Quisqualis, Terminalia, and Lumnitzera (Bredenkamp 2000).
The name Combretum is a term used by Pliny (Greek philosopher) for a creeping plant, while imberbe means ‘beardless’ in Latin, referring to the lack of hairs on the plant (Venter and Venter 1996).
C. imberbe is considered to be one of the slowest-growing trees in the lowveld of South Africa and is capable of reaching a considerable age (Palmer and Pitman 1972). The highest recorded age is 1070 ± 40 years, as determined by carbon dating by the National Physical Research Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Carr 1988). No further information could be attained on this aspect in the literature. However, when cultivated it may grow fairly fast; a tree planted in the Limpopo Province of South Africa grew six meters in 15 years (Palmer and Pitman 1972).
But; another source says this: Recent radiocarbon dating, done in South Africa, has established that a Leadwood tree can live up to 2000 years and subsequently remain standing for years after the tree has died. Now what is recent?
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Combretum Imberte

Unread post by hanie » Wed Jan 24, 2007 6:30 am

This tree - Afrikaans Hardekool - is known as a slow grower and not cold resistant. My experience is that any tree, if it is happy where it grows, can grow exceptionally quicker than in the veld. I have a Hardekool that has reached a height of 430 cm in a period of 5 years, while its stem just above the ground is 33 cm. Also, it is fairly cold in this area, frost does occur - and I have 30 of these trees of various age that has shown no sign of the cold. My place is to the north of Pretoria, just inside the boundaries of the old Pretoria Municipality.

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Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:05 am

What a fascinating thread.
I will most certainly be looking at a leadwood with far more respect.
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Re: Combretum Imberte

Unread post by bucky » Wed Jan 24, 2007 10:40 pm

hanie wrote:My place is to the north of Pretoria, just inside the boundaries of the old Pretoria Municipality.

Which would be considered frost free :lol: , I can just imagine my garden in a place like that .

I doubt leadwoods would grow in Johannesburg or the other colder areas .

There are various other combretum species that are fast growers , and hardy that will grow in frost areas .
A good 1 for Johannesburg is the river bushwillow - combretum erythrophylum (No book at the mo, excuse scientific name ) .

A lot of people hold the idea , that because a tree is indigenous , it can be stuck in the ground and left to survive . however with proper care it will give marvelous results .
(That does not mean sprinkling water at its base every day is good)

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Unread post by Boulder » Sat Jan 27, 2007 4:39 pm

My Favorite Tree The Leadwood.
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Unread post by RosemaryH » Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:52 pm

Wow interesting facts about the Leadwood. It's now in my favourite 5!!! Thanks. The 3000yr fact blew my mind Wildtuinman. How can people burn this tree?

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Unread post by Wild about cats » Sun Feb 04, 2007 3:11 pm

The Leatba bush braai is held under a massive Leadwood.
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Unread post by reinette » Sat Oct 13, 2007 8:00 pm

Lead wood on the north-east border of the park:

Lead wood Scratch pole:

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