The Baviaanskloof Cedar is classified as Near Threatened in the recent Red Data List assessments done in 2006 for the IUCN. It occurs in the Baviaanskloof and Kouga Mountains in the Eastern Cape. It is endemic to this area and can be found in rocky ravines and growing on steep cliff faces in kloofs.
Widdringtonia schwarzii belongs to the Family: Cupressaceae (cypress family). Other common names are: Baviaanskloof cedar, Willowmore cedar (Eng.); Baviaanskloofseder (Afr.). There are 2 other species in this African genus, W. cedarbergensis and W. nodiflora. (www.plantzafrica.com).
Widdringtonia schwarzii is an evergreen and slow maturing tree. Widdringtonia schwarzii is much larger than its cousin W. cedarbergensis and grows to a height of 17-20 m on average, reaching a maximum of 40m height. The trunk is reddish-grey, think and flaking, spreading branches and with a dense conical crown of dark green needle-like foliage. Fruits are in the form of cones, with male and female cones borne on the same plant. Male cones are very small, up to 2 mm long and are produced in autumn. Female cones are dark brown, with rough, warty scales. They develop in autumn and remain on the tree for almost three years before the seeds are released during late summer. As a result, cones can be found in various stages of development on the tree, all year round. Seeds are black-brown, ovoid and broadly winged.
This species is endemic to South Africa, found at the meeting point of the Western and Eastern Cape, confined to the Baviaanskloof and Kouga Mountains. Ideal habitat is around 70-1220 m elevation in rocky ravines in the low rainfall areas.
The species is under threat due to various impacting factors. All accessible specimens have been burnt or cut out and destroyed, so that trees of any substantial size are now confined to remote rocky ravines and can be seen only with great effort (Palgrave 2002). Personal communication with local farmers reports past use of the wood for the construction of fences and for building timber. It is presently under threat from runaway fires. Off-road tracks have been identified as a possible future threat to this species unless strictly controlled, as 4 x 4 vehicles disturb habitats and destroy the fragile saplings. Conservation efforts focus on the propagation of the species in few nurseries and planting efforts put in place by FOBWA.
Author: Mervyn Brouard (2012)