Tylecodon paniculatus (2012)

By Chris Deem (November 2012)

Revealed now are two memories from a hill, illumed by a hot sun’s glow, in a place in South Africa where tylecodons grow.

After three days of winter’s cool drizzle, the sun’s warmth has finally returned. On this lush, sun-bathed hill, six tylecodons grow in a small group. At present, flowering ruschia shrubs and light-green senecios surrounds them. A small distance away, a lone tylecodon grows slowly in a bleak, rock-strewn soil. At present, its peeling branches and thick leaves are gently shading its only companion.

I can still remember, it was not so long ago, when last the six diminutive trees were flowering. At that time, a small colorful flock of sunbirds appeared, as if arriving from a soft-hued dream. They flew from flower to flower in a jaunty, high-spirited dance.

The sunbirds’ dance did not include the lone tylecodon. It stood, at that time, without any flowers or even its leaves, to shade its companion from the afternoon sun.

The memory of the sunbirds is now fading, yet the memory still lives. It has joined another that remains on this ancient hill. The other remains as a fossil, from much further away. A small colorful pterosaur once flew here long before some dinosaurs became birds. On this day, a tylecodon a small distance away shades it.

In the winter rainfall regions of South Africa and Namibia, the deciduous species Tylecodon paniculatus is pollinated by sunbirds.