Arbor Week 2019


In South Africa we have a proud heritage of culturally important trees; the Sophia Town Oak Tree and the Sagole Baobab Tree in Limpopo are both steeped in historical importance.

To increase awareness of our beautiful indigenous tree species, two trees are highlighted each year as Tree of the Year – one common and one rare species. The Common Tree of 2019 is the Sclerocarya birrea (Marula Maroela), with the uncommon one being the Philenoptera violacea Apple-leaf, (Appelblaar)

Sclerocarya birrea (Marula Maroela)

Sclerocarya birrea (Marula Maroela) is a tree treasured by the Venda people of South Africa. The wood is made into furniture and cooking utensils, and the inner core of the trunk is strong, and is made into rope.

The fruits of this tree are juiced and minced and made into jellies and drinks – and are a valuable source of food to many species of wildlife.

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Male cultivars bear differently to female trees of the same variety. The males produce pollen, whereas the females produce fruits. In Punda Maria in the Kruger National Park, a female has been discovered which has a trunk circumference of 4.2 meters. Female trees have ideal fruit sweetness and size, making them optimal for eating, juicing and fermenting. Exceptional female specimens have been located near the Skukuza helicopter hangar and near Kanniedood Dam in Shingwedzi.

Dyes and medicines are also by-products of this useful tree. It has proven effective in the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea and other stomach ailments, rheumatism and malaria.

This deciduous tree is found mainly in the Baphalaborwa area in Limpopo, however it can be found as far north as Ethiopia.

Whilst this tree is easy to grow from seed in washed river sand in Spring, this is not a tree for small gardens, as this tree can get really large! It can reach growth spurts of 1,5m per year. It does not like frost however, and should be planted in areas that do not naturally become frosty.

Interesting fact:

The fruit of this tree are green and only ripen to a yellow once they fall. Whilst the fruits are a common food for many animals, the most interesting feeder has got to be the larval stage of the green African moth Argema mimosae, which feeds on young marula leaves.

Philenoptera violacea (Apple Leaf)

This uncommon tree of 2019 grows to a stunning 15m tall. It is frost sensitive, and is also known as the Rain tree. The grey bark of this tree flakes with age, and is covered in hair on tender branches. It is a drought-resistant species.

September to December is flowering time, with scattered mauve to white-blue flowers. A small amount of non-splitting pods are the fruits of this tree. Seeds are flat, brown-red, kidney-shaped and have a compressed appearance.

These trees herald from Madagascar and tropical southern-Africa, but in South Africa, they can be found in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. The leaves and pods serve as food for giraffes.

They grow commonly in flood-plains, on or near water courses and the banks of bodies of water, and in open bushveld.

Although it puts on a beautiful floral display, this slow-growing tree is not suitable for most urban gardens as it becomes very tall.

Interesting fact:

When this tree is attacked by the spittle bug or frog-hopper, water from the stem and branches leaches out. Water is exuded from the stem and trunk, and soaks the ground under the tree. This serves as a source of hydration during periods of drought.

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Let’s get planting this Arbor Week! Even the smallest of gardens can be home to a tree. It will attract birds and other small wildlife to your garden.  Trees act as a buffer from noisy roads, filter out dust and have a cooling effect on the garden and house as it deflects and absorbs radiant energy from the sun.

Trees are good for the soul. They are aesthetically pleasing and make us feel calm, serene and tranquil.  We feel rooted, at home and a part of nature in the presence of a beautiful tree!

Pictures are from Plantzafrica

For more info on planting trees and enhancing the soil when doing so click |HERE|.

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