Where Ficus ingens grows unimpeded by other trees in the warmer, more northerly parts of its distribution in South Africa, a shallowly dome-shaped crown results. On the Witwatersrand and other places southerly enough for severe winter frost, they remain mainly sub-shrubs clinging to north-facing rocks. Where the growth tips in summer exceed the height of their host rock, they are promptly demolished by the cold.
The twisting stems seen here belong to a tree at the foot of the southern Magaliesberg slope near Hekpoort. Tree size is commonly achieved here by F. ingens. Other short-lived tree species had shared space with it earlier, preventing the growth of a simple shape. The straggling, contorted bole bodies give some hits as to where earlier tree partners had grown but disappeared.
As a result some F. ingens trees in the Magaliesberg bush lack rounded crowns and symmetrical shapes. Still, the bulky stems, tortuously convoluted are impressive after a few hundred years of tree life. The pale grey or yellowish-grey bark is smooth and powdery to the touch with scattered dark patches flaking.
A good, shady place to sit, contemplating the season at hand (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).
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