The annual leaf cycle of the briefly deciduous Ficus ingens tree starts off in spring with this display. The event is triggered by the seasonal temperature increase, not by rain, as the roots of the species usually go down far enough to access water deep underground. Not all trees species manages this growth through all seasonal changes; oblivious of summer rains or the absence of it.
By briefly deciduous is meant the few weeks of leaflessness occurring in late winter. Semi-deciduous is more appropriate for species that sometimes sheds leaves, sometimes not. About half the Cussonia paniculata trees growing on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg where this tree has its home, are evergreen.
Incidentally, the bare branches protruding above this Ficus canopy belong to an Erythrina lysistemon tree that grows from between the folds of the Ficus stem base. Some bees and a rinkhals (snake), Hemachatus haemachatus, have also lived here from time to time.
This Erythrina is a very determined specimen that took years before it managed to rise above the fig leaves. The coppery-pink of these fig leaves lasts for about one week. Green, already faintly present in the photo, will last until the end of next winter. The Erythrina flowers bright red in spring before its own leaves arrive, but after the green transformation of the Ficus.
This team effort of the two trees brings a red cherry Erythrina spot on top of the green Ficus dome for a while every year; a special sight looking down from the crest of the Magaliesberg (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).