Claire wrote today’s entry:
Today’s photograph of Mimetes fimbriifolius, taken in Western Cape, South Africa, is courtesy of Marie Viljoen (marieviljoen@Flickr) of Brooklyn, New York. You may want to read Marie’s weblog post, Walking above Muizenberg, where she writes about encountering this tree (and many other plants). Thank you Marie!
A proteaceous species endemic to the Cape Peninsula of South Africa, Mimetes fimbriifolus is currently classified as a rare species, though it was once commonly found on Table Mountain. Also called tree pagoda, this species has been heavily harvested for its wood for the past three centuries, one of the main detriments in sustaining its population. A thick, cork-like trunk is characteristic of Mimetes fimbriifolus, and the tree can reach up to four meters (13ft.) tall with wide-spreading branches. The interesting flowers and coloured bracts, located at the tips of the branches, are shaped this way to facilitate pollination by nectar-eating birds–usually sunbirds or Cape Sugarbirds.
Mimetes fimbriifolus is one of the largest and longest-lived members of its genus. Despite a lifespan reaching possibly a century (in which it has many reproductive years, but takes a decade or so to mature), seed production is the only mechanism by which it propagates in the wild; adult individuals are unable to re-sprout from stump or roots like some shorter-lived members of its genus. This has been particularly disadvantageous for this species in recent centuries, as the natural cycle of fires was replaced with more frequent burnings upon European colonization of the area. These too frequent fires have also been a detriment to the species, as populations of Mimetes fimbriifolius can be wiped out when plants do not have enough time to mature and produce seeds before the next adult-killing fire. Mimetes fimbriifolus has evolved some mechanisms to resist fire during its life cycle: seeds are often stored deep underground by ants (protection); seed germination is triggered by a fire (it would typically be many years between natural fires, so germinating post-fire would provide opportunity for the seedling to reach adulthood); and juvenile trees have a thick, fire-resistant bark with buds deep within, so a partially-burned juvenile can re-sprout. However, these adaptations are negated with too-frequent burning.