Finally this week, after admiring my Cape chestnut tree flowering through the season, I decided to paint some of the flowers. As ‘Murphy’ would have it, now that I had decided to get going with painting I could not find any flowers in reach. The few that were left flowering were way up high and I found myself standing under the branches kicking myself for procrastinating and scratching my head at the same time. What to do.
Where there is a will, there is a way. Undeterred I marched off to the shed to fetch the ladder. This itself was quite a job – it is a long ladder and cumbersome to carry. Finally I got it under the tree, after a few frustrating attempts at a level spot.
I consider myself fit and adventurous, but I have to confess to a few moments of panic as I tried to steady myself whilst balancing almost at the tippy top of the ladder with a broom in one hand to hook the singled out branch, and the other hand gripped to another branch, hanging on for dear life. I must have looked a sight.
Finally after a few frustrating attempts I managed to hook the branch and pull it down enough so that I could break off the intended flowering tip of it. Needless to say, although I was rather pleased with myself – waving my branch like a flag, I was relieved to be off the ladder!
The vase I had chosen was quite big, ‘urn’ shaped with a pretty pedestal. After my first attempt I decided that my composition was too ‘skimpy’ for the scale and ‘weight’ of the vase. Once it had thoroughly dried I added a leaf and extra blooms which improved it considerably.
Cape chestnut or ‘Calodendrum Capense’ trees are found throughout South Africa and are not related to the ‘Horse chestnut’ tree at all. It is reported that the ‘father of South African botany’ Carl Peter Thunberg, was so excited at the sight of this beautiful tree whilst in the Cape in 1772, that he fired his gun at the branches until one broke and fell to the ground. He was the botanist to name it ‘Calodendrum’ – meaning in Greek, ‘beautiful tree’.
If I had had a gun perhaps I could have tried that instead of risking life and limb, swaying at the top of a long ladder armed only with a broom!
Birds such as pigeons, doves and Cape parrots enjoy eating the seeds which are enclosed in a prickly rather large pod. The nectar of the flowers is not utilized by birds, but several species of butterflies do feed on them.
Our Cape chestnut is a beautiful shade tree in the garden and a favorite perch for the two Black orioles which call in their melodious way from the branches. A worthy and beautiful indigenous tree.