A Celebration Of South Africas Biggest And Best Trees

The Glencoe Baobab, South Africa’s second largest tree.
© Melissa Wray


The largest tree in South Africa is found near Zwigodini, Vendaland in the Limpopo Province. The Adansonia digitata (baobab) is about … kilometres from the Forever Resorts Tshipise and … kilometres from Musina. It was one of 20 trees or groups of trees to be declared champion trees earlier this year by the minister of water affairs and forestry, Lindiwe Hendricks, under section 12 of the National Forests Act (Act no 84 of 1998).

Under section 15, this declaration means that no person may cut, disturb, damage or destroy any protected tree. Nor may a person possess, collect, remove, transport, export, purchase, sell, donate or in any other manner acquire or dispose of any protected tree or any forest product derived from a protected tree, except under a licence granted by the minister.

Contravention of this may result in a person who is found guilty being sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to three years, or to both a fine and imprisonment. The second tree on the list, which is the second largest tree in South Africa, is a baobab as well and is found on the Glencoe farm near Hoedspruit, in Limpopo.

A third baobab features fifth on the list and is a well-known tourist attraction. This tree can be seen on the Sunland farm near Modjadjikloof, Limpopo. The largest Ficus salicifolia (wonderboom fig) is about 1 000 years old and can be visited in Wonderboom Park in Pretoria. This historic site was home to ox-wagons as an outspan area in the previous century and legend has it that a local chief was buried under the tree.

Two Breonadia salicina (matumi) trees appear on the list. Fourth on the list is the largest matumi which grows on the Amorentia Estate at Politsi Valley, Modjadjikloof, Limpopo. The second largest Breonadia salicina is also found here. The largest Sideroxylon inerme (milkwood), estimated at 1000 years old, is on the Langbos farm at Stellenbosch and is one of two milkwoods on the champion tree list.

The other is the historic tree found at the Dias museum at Mossel Bay believed to have been the tree in which an old shoe was placed by Portuguese seafarers to exchange messages in the sixteenth century. There is only one Cinnamomum camphora (camphor tree) on the list.

These historic trees were planted more than three centuries ago on the Vregelegen Estate by governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel. They are large tree with a very large landscape impact. Four Quercus robur (English oak) made the list. The one in Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch, was planted in 1812, the one at the Zandvliet Delta Farm in the same town was planted shortly after 1690.

A very large English oak, probably the biggest in the southern hemisphere, was planted in 1811 and can be seen at the George Tourism centre. The "Sophiatown" oak can be visited in Bertha Street, Sophiatown. This tree was part of the history of Sophiatown and the struggle against the forced removal of the community in the 1950s.

Three Podacarpus falacatus (Outeniqua yellowwood) are protected as champion trees. One is the famous tree in the Tsitsikamma forest visited by more than 80 000 tourists a year. Another grows in the Knysna forest and the third is one of the largest trees in the eastern Cape, known as the eastern monarch and located next to the Tyume hiking trail.

The Populus nigra (Lombardy poplar) on the list stands at the site where Ruth Fischer, daughter of Braam Fischer, a prominent founder of the SA Communist party, ran a safe house for fugitives from the apartheid forces. The tree served as a safe house and is in Johannesburg.

The tallest recorded Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) in South Africa, planted in 1826 by the wife of the last landdrost in Stellenbosch, also made the list. The Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River red gum) that provides shade for an entire market at the Bergzight Market Square in Stellenbosch was planted in 1880 and is also one of South Africa's champion trees.



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