South Africa celebrates Arbor Month in September annually. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, as the custodian of forestry in South Africa, is responsible for the campaign. In South Africa, Arbor Day was first celebrated in 1983. The event captured the imagination of people who recognised the need for raising awareness of the value of trees in the society.
The theme for Arbor Month 2023 is “Forests and Health”. Arbor Month is an opportune time to call on all South Africans to plant indigenous trees as a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management. The 2023 Campaign will serve to highlight key issues that include sustainable use of medicinal plants which play a significant role in health and socio-economic revitalisation of communities. In addition, the campaign will promote Agroforestry as one of the key contributors in attaining food security in the country.
Arbor Month aims to:
- further public knowledge of indigenous trees.
- stress the necessity of planting trees.
- contribute to a greener and more sustainable future.
One of the objectives of Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals is to “sustainably manage forests”. Many countries, including South Africa, have set strategies for increasing and maintaining tree populations. For example, in 2017 South Africa joined other African countries in a “forest landscape restoration” initiative to plant 100 million hectares of trees in Africa by 2030. South Africa aims to plant 3.6 million hectares of trees as part of the project.
Trees of 2023
Leucadendron argenteum or Silver tree
The Silver tree is naturally confined in the Western Cape, in the city of Cape Town, and on the slopes of Table Mountain. The silver tree is widely cultivated as an ornamental garden specimen. Its beautiful silver foliage is used in floristry. The leaves have also long been collected, pressed, and dried for decoration or as a souvenir. The dried female cones are decorative and the small silver balls of the dried male flower heads are used in dried floral arts and crafts.
Buddleja saligna or False olive
The False olive is found in all provinces in South Africa and is common near Johannesburg and Pretoria. It can grow in poor soils, on hot mountainsides, either away from or close to water and is both cold and drought resistant. The False olive can be used for traditional medicine purposes; leaves to treat colds and coughs, and roots used as a purgative. It is also used to make small pieces of furniture and fence posts as well as assegai handles.
Bolusanthus speciosus or Tree wisteria
The Tree wisteria, being a protected tree in South Africa, wild specimens may not be removed, cut down or damaged. Flowering time is from August to January. It is widespread in wooded grasslands of the Northern Province, Mpumalanga, Swaziland, and KwaZulu-Natal. The roots are used medicinally to alleviate stomach problems and the inner bark used to treat abdominal cramps. The wood makes excellent furniture.
It is time to encourage everyone in South Africa to plant indigenous trees as a concrete and symbolic act of sustainable environmental management. It calls for participation in "greening" communities from all sectors of society, including the public, the commercial sector, non-governmental organisations, and community-based organisations.
Greening refers to an integrated approach to the planting, care, and management of all vegetation in urban and rural areas, to secure multiple benefits for communities. Greening in the South African context takes place in towns, townships, and informal settlements specially because in the past, the latter mentioned areas were disadvantaged in terms of planning for parks as well as tree planting in streets and open spaces
Play your part in the country’s sustainability journey by planting a tree.