Charles, Zimbabwean family
Black iron wood
This beautiful sculpture was carved by Charles and members of his family who reside in Zimbabwe. Gys Potgieter designed the plinth from camphor wood using leadwood inserts.
Black ironwood trees frequently reach heights of about 35 metres. This is about the same as the rooflines of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, or many northern European cathedrals. Unlike the last named, the trees are not built with staircases up to the roof, and so canopy ecology of African forests is essentially unknown. However, examination of the flowers and fruits of the smaller subspecies, and indeed other members of the genus and family, allow one to make suggestions as to what a suitably airborne ecologist may expect to find. The flowers of all olives are small, white and faintly scented, so one may expect their pollinators to be small, night-flying insects. In the case of tall forest trees, it is almost certain that these are as yet undescribed. The fruits are fleshy and in some subspecies quite large, so becoming attractive to at least moderately large birds (such as pigeons and, where they co-occur with the trees - not in the southern Cape - Hornbills), and mammals such as monkeys, bushpigs and elephants.
Most forest trees are intimately associated with root fungi (mycorrhiza) to the benefit not only of both obvious partners, but to many surrounding plants and fungi of different species. Finally, dead wood is recycled by a different suite of fungi, the fruiting bodies of some of which may be seen from time to time as mushrooms and brackets. Crous et al . (2006) pointed out some time ago that only about 5% of these fungi have ever been named.