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Conservation of Widdringtonia

The African Cypress

 

Widdringtonia, a genus of conifers known only in South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, is known also by the common name of cypress pine. Members of the family Cupressaceae, they are more closely related to junipers and arborvitaes than to pines. Three species are known. Widdringtonia nodiflora or sapree-wood is found at elevations up to 2600 meters from South Africa to Malawi and is the hardiest species. Widdringtonia cedarbergensis, the Clanwilliam cedar, is native to the Cedarberg Mountains of Cape Province in South Africa with an altitudinal range of 1000-1600 meters. The rarest species is W. schwarzii, the Willowmore cedar, which is only be found at low altitudes in the Willowmore district of the Cape Province of South Africa.

At the turn of the twentieth century depletion of these rare and beautiful trees had already been noted. In 1913 Rudolf Marloth wrote, "The wood is beautifully grained and fragrant and well suited for all kinds of ornamental furniture, but, owing to reckless felling of all the more easily accessible trees in past times, little such timber is available at present."

Propagation studies at the Lyman Conservatory used both seed and cuttings. Wild-collected seed of the three species was obtained from South African botanists. Cuttings of W. nodiflora of Malawian provenance from the Atlanta Botanical Garden were successfully rooted as well.

For further reading, see Keith D. Rushforth, Conifers, Facts on File, New York, 1987, and Rudolf Marloth, The Flora of South Africa, Volume 1: Thallophyta, Archaegonitae, Gymnospermae, Dicotyledones (Part I), Darter Bros. & Co., Capetown, and William Wesley & Son, London, 1913

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Last updated on Monday, May 09, 2005.