Indigenous Garden Inspiration
South Africa offers such a large variety of indigenous trees and shrubs, with more than 1700 species to choose from, we can definitely promote biodiversity and also protect our natural heritage by planting them.
Why do we need to plant indigenous trees?
As a symbol of life, your tree will generate oxygen and store carbon. According to an avid gardener and well-known field guide, Charles Lotter, indigenous trees are well adapted and can survive extreme temperature variances, especially in the Free State province. These trees are adapted to survive droughts and grow faster than most exotic trees, improving the soil quality and increasing the water retention of the soil.
They also attract certain insects, birds and squirrels that play a vital role in the ecological well-being of our environment, bringing life to our green urban areas and providing shelter and food for the animals.
Apart from their many beneficial impacts on our environment, indigenous trees can save you money (and time, caring for them) as you do not need to fertilise them, water them as often and you will use much fewer pesticides as they are resilient to most pests.
By planting indigenous trees and shrubs in your garden you can significantly reduce your water usage in the garden. They are far better suited than other plants in coping with our local conditions as they have adapted to our rainfall patterns.
Pick a Tree
Amongst the most popular indigenous trees in South Africa, you will certainly find beauty in the grand Baobab, also known as the upside-down tree, or the bottle tree, as well as the tree of life. This tree can store up to 4 500 litres of water in its trunk, grows up to 20m long and can live up to 3000 years. Quite impressive.
Not far behind is the Marula tree, which can reach a height of up to 18m and with its bright yellow juicy fruits attracts an array of animals, birds and insects. Another firm favourite is the Mopane tree, aka the Butterfly tree in Shona.
The Quiver tree (Kokerboom) can reach heights of up to 7metres and is the largest known of the aloe species. As one of the 3 sub-species, the largest – the giant quiver tree – is critically endangered.
The dangling fruit of the Sausage tree can grow up to 60cm long and is easily recognizable. These fruits have many uses, including treatment for eczema and fungal infections, beer fermentation, pain reliever, to alleviate skin burns, and last but not least, the gel from the fruit can be used as hair styling products.
On your Marks, Go Green
To make the right choice and find the best indigenous plants fit for your garden, visit your local nursery or garden centre and ask the expert’s advice to assist with your purchase as each species has unique characteristics. Although indigenous trees are low in maintenance, you still need to prune them regularly to keep them healthy and looking good.
So, if you are looking for ways to help remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air which cools the earth, or simply would like to invest in your future, please plant an indigenous tree today – for a healthy and positive impact on your local environment.
Did you know?
The national tree of South Africa is the Yellowwood
The national flower of South Africa is the Protea
The Provincial tree of the Free State is the Wild Olive
The Provincial flower of the Free State is the Orange River Lily
Find more gardening advice here.