The Limpopo Province is the proud possessor of South Africa's two largest trees, both of which are baobabs estimated to be well over 2,000 years old. In line with the Arbor Week celebrations, this month the department of water affairs and forestry (Dwaf) will formally declare the two baobabs to be amongst South Africa's first Champion Trees.
Presently believed to be the largest tree in the country, the Sagole Baobab lies in the far north of the province, between Tshipise and Pafuri. The Glencoe Baobab is located just outside the town of Hoedspruit.
Although the Glencoe Baobab has a stem diameter of 15.9 metres, over five metres larger than that of the Sagole Baobab, its overall size index is smaller than the Sagole tree, making it the second largest tree in the country. The Glencoe tree is 17m high in comparison to the Sagole's 22m, although their crown diameters are 37m and 38m respectively. Both trees are on their way to becoming prominent tourist attractions in the Limpopo Province.
The Limpopo provincial government is drawing up plans to create a picnic site around the Sagole tree and intends to tar the road to the tree. They have taken advice from a senior forestry scientist with Dwaf, Izak van der Merwe, as to how to protect the baobab from one of the greatest dangers facing popular trees - “ the trampling feet of tourists. Van der Merwe explains that the soil around the tree becomes compacted, preventing water from infiltrating the soil, which leads to the tree getting less water than normal. This problem is usually solved by building a boardwalk around the tree.
Having inspected a number of trees around the country for Dwaf's Champion Tree project, van der Merwe says that the Glencoe Baobab enjoys a relatively natural state although it is surrounded by agricultural land. Owner of the land on which the tree is growing, Cecil Liversage, says that the tree gets a few visitors every month, but that he is interested in building some facilities that will make the tree more tourist-friendly. His plans include building a road to the tree, possibly a small cafe and some ablution facilities. The trees enjoy some international fame, partly thanks to a book about baobabs written by Thomas Pakenham.
Several professors from the University of Tokyo, Japan, recently made a pilgrimage to visit Limpopo's magnificent baobabs. When their tour guide in South Africa, Stuart McMillan, was asked to find out how to get to the trees he was initially not expecting much, as he has seen hundreds of baobabs¯.
However, a trip to the trees soon changed his mind, and he said it was a tremendous experience, almost religious in its nature, and well worth the trouble of finding the route to the trees.
People wishing to visit the Glencoe Baobab can call Cecil Liversage on 082 333 1400.