Arbor week 1-7 September

In South Africa, Arbor Day was first celebrated in 1983. The event captured the imagination of people who recognized the need for raising awareness of the value of trees in our society. As sources of building material, food, medicine, and simple scenic beauty, trees play a vital role in the health and well-being of our communities. Collective enthusiasm for the importance of this issue in South Africa inspired the national government, in 1999, to extend the celebration of Arbor Day to National Arbor Week. From 1 to 7 September every year, schools, businesses and organizations are encouraged to participate in community “greening” events to improve the health and beauty of the local environment and propose a green future for South Africa.

Today is a special day for our packhouse too.  It’s our 2nd birthday so some celebrations after our tree planting were due.

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We planted a Weeping Boer-bean tree. The flowers produce copious amounts of nectar, which over-flows and drips or ‘weeps’ from the flowers.  The weeping boer bean is a handsome, medium to large tree with a wide-spreading, densely branched, rounded crown. It has a single trunk that sometimes branches low down. Trees can reach a height of 22 m, but most commonly grow 11 to 16 m with a spread of 10 to 15 m. Schotia brachypetala attracts a wide variety of birds, animals and insects and is a noisy, hive of activity while in flower. Nectar-feeding birds, particularly sunbirds, bees and insects feed on the nectar. Insect-eating birds feed on the insects attracted by the flowers.

Starlings, monkeys and baboons eat the flowers, monkeys eat the seeds, birds eat the aril on the seeds and the leaves are browsed by game and black rhino also eat the bark. The latter visitors of course are only expected in game reserves.

Not only is Schotia brachypetala an exceptional ornamental tree, it also has a number of other uses. A decoction of the bark is taken to treat heartburn and hangovers. Bark and root mixtures are used to strengthen the body and purify the blood, to treat nervous heart conditions and diarrhoea, as well as for facial saunas.

The seeds are edible after roasting, and although low in fat and protein they have a high carbohydrate content. Both the Bantu-speaking people and the early European settlers and farmers are said to have roasted the mature pods and eaten the seeds, a practice which they learned from the Khoikhoi.

The bark can be used for dyeing, giving a red-brown or red colour. The timber is of good quality, suitable for furniture making. The wood is a dark walnut, almost black,colour – hard, fairly heavy and termite resistant with a dense fine texture and has been much used for furniture and flooring blocks. It is also said to be excellent for all kinds of wagon wood and was chiefly in demand for wagon beams.