Resinous, monoecious Tree to 40m high. Young Leaves needle-like and decussate, to adpressed & scale like. Small Male cones + 6pairs of scales Female cones have 4 scales. Seeds winged.
Widdringtonia schwarzii, Callitris schwarzii.
RSA Tree No. 21.
Common names: Willowmore Cedar, Willowmore cypress.
Family: Cupressaceae (The cypress family) has about 28 genera and in excess of 130 species. This family is part of the Gymnosperm (naked seeded) group. This family has Trees are usually evergreen, monoecious with male and female in the same tree. The initially small and needle-like Leaves mature into being narrow and scale-like. They collectively hide the stem. Reproductive structures lack a perianth. The Male cones are up to 2cm long and pollen grains lack wings or air-bladders and are situated on the abaxial surface of the scales. In the Female cones, the scales have ovules on the adaxial side. The usually small Seeds are generally in woody, now gaping, leathery or fleshy cones. The seeds tend have narrow wings.
Name derivation: Widdringtonia – named after Captain Widdringtonia (1787-1856) of the Royal Navy who published a book on European pines in the 19th century. schwarzii – named after E Schwartz who was one of the first observers of the tree. The genus Widdringtonia currently contains 3 indigenous species. The other 2 are W. nodiflora and W. cedarbergensis. Apart from its geographic location Widdringtonia schwarzii is very similar to W. cedarbergensis.
Conservation Status: N T. (Near Threatened). 2009 (Raimondo et al.). This is a protected tree in the RSA but the fire danger is real.
Tree is up to 40m high but is usually just less than half this. Under ideal conditions, the Trunk may reach 2+m in diameter. The Wood is resinous, fragrant and highly flammable. The trunk is reddish grey and flaking. It differs from W. wallichii by having larger seeds with shorter wings.
Young Leaves are needle-like and up to 2 x 1cm. With aging they become short, rounded scale-like and adpressed (closely and flatly pressed against the stem). These scale Adult leaves are ovate and up to 4mm long. They occur at branch end. The arrangement of leaves on this evergreen tree is Decussate (opposite pairs of leaves have successive pairs at right angles to each other i.e. rotated 90 degrees along the stem when viewed from above) and not in whorls of 3 or 4.
The tree is monoecious (separate male and female cones occur on the same tree). The small Male Cones, up to 4mm long, are located in short spur branches and develop in autumn. Each cone has 6 pairs of Scales which are peltate (shield-shaped) and coriaceous (leathery). At the base of each scale are 4 Pollen sacs. In the Female Cones there are 4 equal sized faces/valves/scales which are arranged in a single whorl. These cones occur on distinct shoots. They occur singly or they may be clustered. The 4 scales divaricate (spread far apart) during pollination. At the base of each scale are several Ovules. After pollination, the 4 scales close. At this stage, they become distinctly woody, warty and rough but slightly open at the apex. Each cone is up to 2cm long. It takes about 2 years for Seeds dispersal and cones, in different stages of development, may be visible simultaneously. The seeds are dark brown or black and winged – thus wind dispersed. The Testa (seed coat) is crustaceous (having a hard crust or shell) and there are 2 needle-like green cotyledons (seed leaf; primary leaf or leaves in the embryo).
Distribution & Ecology
Trees are endemic in the Eastern Cape in the Willowmore district – about 140km NE of Knysna where the altitude range is between 600 and 1 200m. Here the location is fragmented. Trees contain an aromatic flammable resin which, makes them susceptible to fire and the trunk may explode if the heat is great enough. These drought resistant trees are only located in ravines at low altitude on southern facing slopes in the Baviaanskloof and Kouga mountains. This is a protected tree in the RSA.
Wood is fragrant and easily worked. Harvesting is now illegal. Pollen is allergenic.
Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.
Lawrence, G. H. M, 1951. Taxonomy of Vascular Plants, The Macmillan Company, New York. Tenth Printing 1965.
Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, Balkema, Amsterdam, Cape Town.
van Wyk, B. & van Wyk, P. 1997 Field guide to Trees of Southern Africa, Struik, Cape Town.