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Extinction Watch: Shiver me timbers

TheIUCNhas labelled thistreeas critically endangered because of its valuable rot-resistant timber. An extremely tall and majestic tree that can grow up to 82 feet in height, a tree will live for 1,000 years if left in peace.

The clanwilliam cedar is found throughout the Western Cape Province of South Africa, especially in the Cederberg Mountains. Young trees have conical crowns, and old trees have massive gnarled trunks and spreading branches. The bark is reddish grey, thin and fibrous, flaking in scale-like plates.

Besides being used for timber, the tree is also prone to being in areas that are prone to wildfires. Many of these fi res destroy the already existing trees and ruin those that have yet to even fully grow. In the 20th century, logging of this tree was banned but the trees have not been able to make a strong recovery due to fires.

A Cedar Reserve has been created to provide land that will allow the trees to thrive. The reserve also collects and plants seeds to encourage new growth.

The genus Widdringtonia was named after Edward Widdrington, a Royal Navy captain and a conifer botanist. The wood is resinous and fragrant, and exceedingly durable. It works well, takes a fi ne polish and is borer-proof. It was also popular for shipbuilding, and makes splendid furniture. It was once sold by the wagonload for fence poles. A clear, hard gum yielded by the cones and branches was once used medicinally in the treatment of gout, rheumatism and oedematous swellings.

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