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Big Five Safari at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Big Five Safari at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve near Montagu on Route 62 in South Africa.

Tylecodon paniculatus "Butter-Tree"

Tylecodon paniculatus "Butter-Tree"

The Butter-Tree has a succulent shrub-let that is up to 1.8 m tall when in flower, with a thick basal stem of approximately 60 cm in diameters. This tree has bright green paddle- shaped leaves that are 12 cm long and 10 cm wide. Its orange to red flowers are about 15- 20 mm in diameter. The Butter- tree blossoms during summer and are found in clay soils in the Spekboomveld, Gwarrievelds and rocky slopes from Namibia to the South-Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. Its flowers are pollinated sunbirds.

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As a kid I found Butter-tree rides to be great fun. This sport is in fact the pre- curser of today’s modern skating-board. In the past, children and often myself used these age- old plants to slide down steep slopes. To begin, you first had to wet the skating ring with water to get a smooth muddy surface. A thick part of the stem is then chopped away until the gooey slime is visible- which is evidence of the water storage capacity of the plant in the dry warm summers of the Klein- Karoo. You then take position on top of the skating- ring (skate- board), grab the roots with both hands to serve as a steering wheel and there you go- full speed down the hill.

After several rides with the Butter-Tree “board”, the slope becomes very slippery and one can really go fast. Make sure that you stay on top of it until the end. If it slides away underneath you, you will definitely have some scratches and bruises. Although it caused a lot of injuries it resulted in great excitement and pleasure.

There are different types of Butter-Tree’s that the farmers do not like. These are the Tylecodon wallichii and T. Ventricosus species which contains “alkaloid” that causes shrinkage in animals.

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