Ficus cordata subsp. cordata, the Namaqua rock fig, is a small to medium sized tree that reaches heights of 10 m, occasionally double that (SA tree List No. 51). This tree is often a rock-splitter, having roots that will enter the tiniest cracks and widen them patiently.
It grows in the arid north-western parts of South Africa, more widespread in Namibia, especially in the western and central region. This large rock-dweller was seen covering a sandstone cliff in the Gifberg south of Vanrhynsdorp.
While usually found among rocks, some are near rivers or seasonal watercourses. In a habitat known for its extreme summer heat, a tree like this provides most welcome shady respite, especially when there is a breeze through the branches.
There are particular specimens of F. cordata subsp. cordata described by early naturalist explorers who visited the Cape Colony hinterland long ago. This has helped to date some of these trees to be well beyond 200 years in age.
People frown these days upon the desecration of nature from names and slogans being inscribed upon trees, rocks or the walls of the fairly rare pretty caves of southern Africa; bushman paintings excepted. Graffiti should be restricted to the subway walls, provided it's the words of the prophets and the police don't catch you!
Coates Palgrave (2002) reports the names of Thunberg and Zeyher, giants among the early botanical pioneers in South Africa, neatly inscribed in the Heerenlogement Cave near Clanwilliam where a very old F. cordata subsp. cordata tree was first recorded in 1783 by le Vaillant. So, if you can inscribe anything instantly dated to 200 years ago, the deed might be socially acceptable.
The other subspecies, F. cordata subsp. salicifolia is found far to the north in the Arabian Peninsula (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997).
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