The information given in the photo about the old leadwood tree that probably died in the decade after Jan van Riebeeck left the Cape is startling. The stump is to be seen at the Letaba Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park.
The Mpumalanga and Limpopo Lowveld, Botswana and Namibia have huge leadwood trees that are several hundred years old. Too many fires and other forms of human impact are reducing their prevalence. Once the old trunk starts hollowing, a veld fire getting into it can continue long after the surrounding vegetation is already resprouting.
Too many bush-loving people still crave their hardekool (hard coal) firewood, causing the durable old boles to disappear from veld where they do sentinel duty for generations.
Stories about the oldest, biggest, most impressive leadwood or hardekool trees abound, often embellished by the exuberant imaginations of those endowed with the fisherman’s exaggeration gene.
There is a magnificent specimen listed by Esterhuyse, et al, (2001) growing near Carthage, Tzaneen in Limpopo, sporting a girth (at breast height) of 5,46 m. They mention another, a dead tree at Leeupan in the central part of the Kruger on the way from the south to Satara Rest Camp. It was first described in 1959 as remarkable and is still standing (Mannheimer and Curtis, (Eds.), 2009; Esterhuyse, et al, 2001; Carr, 1988).