Arbor Week 2023


National Arbor Week in South Africa is celebrated annually during the first week of September. It is a time when people of all ages are encouraged to celebrate the beauty and importance of trees, particularly our beautiful indigenous tree species.

With this in mind, two trees are usually highlighted each year as Tree of the Year – one common and one rare species. This list has now been adapted to draw attention to three indigenous trees, i.e.

  1. Common Tree of the year, which is a species or genus that is generally easier to grow and occurs more widely.
  2. Tree for Promotion which is a tree species or genus that is perhaps less widely adapted yet is not uncommon and generally commercially available.
  3. Tree for Appreciation which is a tree species or genus that is generally more restricted in its distribution or requires very specific growing conditions.

So, without further ado, let’s focus on the indigenous marvels that have been singled out for 2023.

Common Tree: Buddleja saligna

Common names: false olive, witolienhout, mothlware, unGqeba

  • Description: A small, evergreen tree with silver-grey, olive-like foliage.
  • Position: Full sun to semi-shade
  • Size: Small (4 – 5m)
  • Hardiness: Frost hardy
  • Watering needs: Water young trees deeply and regularly. Thereafter the tree is very drought resistant.
  • Growth rate: Fast-growing
  • Flowers: Very popular with bee farmers because of the profusion of creamy-white, honey scented sprays of flowers it bears from early  spring to mid-summer.
  • Use: A fantastic and very popular small, fast-growing tree ideal for gardens of all sizes, including smaller townhouse gardens.  It also makes a beautiful formal hedge or screen.  Very good as a pioneer tree in new gardens.
  • Environmental: Attracts bees and other beneficial insects, and therefore insect-feeding birds.

Interesting to know:  The plant is used  in traditional medicinal practices.

Promotional Tree: Bolusanthus speciosus

Common names: Tree wisteria, Vanwykshout, mogaba, umHolo

  • Type: A very decorative and graceful, briefly deciduous (only in early spring) tree
  • Position: Full sun
  • Size: Small  (5 – 6m)
  • Hardiness: Protect young trees from frost until established.  Thereafter it can withstand moderate frost.
  • Watering needs:  Moderate.  Will withstand short periods of drought.
  • Growth rate: Slow to medium
  • Flowers: Magnificent, pendulous bunches of mauve-blue, pea-like flowers absolutely cover the tree from spring to early summer.  An excellent substitute for the now-invasive Jacaranda.
  • Use: A non-invasive rootsystem, together with its small size, makes it an excellent choice for small gardens as well as streets or avenues. It can also be grown in pots and looks stunning on a sunny patio.
  • Environmental: Small animals and buck eat the leaves and seedpods.

Tree for Appreciation: Leucadendron argenteum

Common names: Silver Tree, Witteboom

  • Description: An erect, evergreen tree with very attractive shimmering, silky, silver-grey leaves.  A member of the Protea family.
  • Position: Full sun
  • Size: Medium (7 – 10m)
  • Hardiness: Can withstand occasional light frost
  • Watering needs: Needs regular watering, especially when young, and a very well-draining soil.
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Flowers: The Silver tree is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, with the male flower being more showy, in this case.  Flowers are borne from late August to October.
  • Use: Excellent trees for small to medium gardens.  Also very attractive in groups in a larger fynbos garden.  The beautiful silver foliage is used in flower arrangements.
  • Environmental:   The silver tree is a protected species and is considered rare and endangered in the wild.

So, 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!

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