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Trees are Life

Planting trees are not only a passion of mine, but a love for our environment by giving a little hope to future generations. As a landscaper and conservationist, I have planted over twenty thousand trees across South Africa thus far. At the Owl Orphanage in St. Helena Bay, we have decided to make tree planting one of our environmental projects. It is our hope that through this article we will inspire our communities to be part of this initiative by planting trees where we can.

By Jacques Nel | Photography by Phillip Conradie


Why should we plant trees?

Trees are essential to life. Trees don’t only create the air that we breathe, but it also filters air pollution. Trees build soil and prevent erosion. Trees offer energy-saving shade by reducing the effects of global warming. Trees offer the perfect habitat to thousands of different species. Trees also reduce ozone levels in urban areas. Trees help to remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses from the air. A mature canopy tree will absorb enough carbon and with that, release enough oxygen to sustain two human beings.

How to choose your tree.

The West Coast has a very unique flora that has adapted to hot dry summers with little water and strong wind. Naturally there are not many trees own to the West Coast, but there are many trees that will be able to thrive here.

Knowing what tree to plant will be the difference between your tree just “hanging on for dear life” or thriving. Trying to force a tree species to adapt to conditions that it can’t cope with will only end up in disappointment. A healthy tree’s root system is just as wide as its canopy, so to be sure, choose a location large enough for a specific tree. Many trees {especially tropical} can’t handle constant wind, salt spray or dry periods. Trees with smaller leaves stands a better chance. Read up about a specific tree to make sure that it is suitable to the area and location where you want to plant it. Visualize a specific tree as a mature tree in your garden, before buying it. Take in consideration soil type, protection {buildings and other trees} and of course our birds and bees when choosing a tree.

Make your tree Memorable.

Give your tree a name of a loved one. Plant a tree in memory of a loved one. Plant a tree on special occasions like: Birthdays, welcoming a newborn to the family, a wedding day, an anniversary, graduation day or when reaching an important milestone in your life. Trees make great gifts, private or business. Donate a tree to a school, church or an organization. Most importantly, teach the children the value of trees. Make tree planting fun.

Differences between Indigenous-, Alien- and Invasive trees.

A species is indigenous to a given region or ecosystem by its own natural range of distribution. An indigenous species in a location is not necessarily endemic to that location. Endemic species are exclusively found in a particular place.

Alien vegetation refers to a species brought to South Africa from other countries, both intentionally and unintentionally. Some of these trees can cause human, environmental and economic harm.

Invasive tree species are able to survive, reproduce and spread unaided at alarming rates which, in turn, threatens our indigenous biological diversity. Harmful species are controlled by our government by being placed on a blacklist. Many of these species are not allowed to be sold or planted. Some of these might thrive in some areas and don’t self-seed in other areas. Please protect our indigenous vegetation by removing such a species when it becomes invasive.

Tree planting tips.

Plant your tree at the exact same depth as it was planted in the pot or bag. Planting too deep can cause the roots to smother and grow fungus. Place mulch in a doughnut shape around the tree, not touching the trunk to prevent wood-rotting bacteria and fungus. The best time to plant a tree is at the beginning of winter.

Make sure to stake your tree in windy areas. Dig a hole at least three times the size of the root ball. Fill the hole with water and let drain before you place your tree in the hole. Place a pipe of 75mm in diameter on the side of the hole, sticking out 30 cm above ground level for deep watering.

Mix soil with half the amount of compost and a handful of bone meal before filling up the hole. Keep soil moist but not permanently soaked. Use a shade net screen to protect newly planted trees until settled.

Suggested Tree List for the West Coast


  • Sideroxyion Inerme – Milkwood
  • Tarchonanthus Camphorathus– Wild Camphor Bush
  • Brachy Laena Discolour- Coast Silver Oak
  • Metrosideros Excelsa – New Zealand ChristmasTree
  • Araucaria Heterophylly – Norfolk Pine
  • Phoenix Canariensis – Canary Date Palm
  • Phoenix Reclinata – Date Palm
  • Washingtonia Robusta – Fan Palm
  • Pandanus Utilis – Screw Pine
  • Buddleja Salingna – False Olive
  • Apodytesdimidiata – White Pear
  • Raparea Melanophloeos – Cape Beech
  • Vachelia [Acacia] Karoo – Sweet Thorn
  • Quercus Suber – Cork Oak
  • Quercusilex – Holly Oak
  • Ficus Rubignosa – Fig
  • Harpephyllum Caffrum – Wild Plum
  • Syzygium Cordatum – Water Berry
  • Olea Africana – Wild Olive
  • Olea Europeae – Fruiting Olive
  • Ficus Microcarpa – Laurel Fig
  • Ficus Natalensis – Natal FigCeratonia Siligua – Carob
  • Trichellia Emetica – Natal Mahogany
  • Nuxia Floribunda – Forest Elder
  • Afrocampus [Podocarpus] Fakatus – Owteniqua
  • Afrocarpus Latifolius – Yellow Wood
  • Vachelia [Acacia] Xanthophloea – Fever Tree
  • Vachelia Acacia] Galpinii – Monkey Thorn
  • Ficus Carica – Fruiting Fig
  • Psidium guajava – Guava
  • Aloidendron Barberea – Tree Aloe
  • Elaeodendron Croceum – Red Saffron Wood
  • Euclea Racemosa – Sea Guarri
  • Salix Hirsuta – Silver Willow
  • Searsia Lancea – Rhus Lancea
  • Portulacaria Ofra – Spekboom
  • Manatoka Tree is popular in the West Coast. It originates from Australia and can be very invasive in some areas.


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