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THIS WEEK

A knifeful of cunonia wax, for rhyme or reason?

Dr Hai Ren, the Director of South China Botanical Garden in Guangzhou, about 100 km north-west of Hong Kong, peeled apart the spoon-shaped 'leaves' to reveal a waxy white substance. You can eat this he said. Raw or cooked, I asked. Straight from the leaf, he said.

I didn't try it. But a reference by someone else to this tree as the Butterspoon Tree reinforced its connection with food (although I commented at the time I didn't know what a butter spoon looked like). I was also curious about which species Dr Ren would have sampled in China given this species was, Cunonia capensis, was presumably from the Cape region of South Africa.


The Butterspoon Tree has a white, bottle-brush-like bloom in late summer, followed by horned capsules, none of which were present in August when I visited Harold Porter National Botanical Garden and Kirstensbosch National Botanical Garden in South Africa. The allegedly butterspoon-shaped leaves, actually 'stipules' protecting the grow…

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