Gum tree poisonings cause for concern

2020-02-04 06:00
The poisoned gum tree on Wessels Road in Kenilworth. The tree will have to be removed.

The poisoned gum tree on Wessels Road in Kenilworth. The tree will have to be removed.

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The poisoning of a large gum tree in Wessels Road, Kenilworth, was at the top of the agenda at the TreeKeepers committee meeting held at Newlands Nursery on Wednesday 29 January.

And with good reason.

The recent spate in gum tree poisonings has highlighted how much “tree hate” exists despite the benefits big trees hold for communities.

Earlier this month, the City of Cape Town’s horticulturalists carried out a site inspection at Wessels Road and confirmed that the gum tree, estimated to be between 75 to 100 years old, had been purposefully poisoned.

Several holes were drilled around the base of the tree and a herbicide injected into the holes, leaving a blue stain.

Henk Egberink of TreeKeepers – a citizens’ organisation formed to protect big trees in the southern suburbs – says people’s negative attitudes towards trees are usually based on misconceptions.

“Some people are scared of large trees. They think it will suck up all the groundwater or that they will fall over on to their houses if there are strong winds but if a tree is healthy, that would never happen.

“Trees need looking after with periodic pruning and residents should inform the recreation and parks department if there is dead wood,” says Egberink.

He says gum trees, in particular, get a bad rap because they are non-indigenous.

“However, in cities and suburbs, they are not classified as ‘alien invasives’ so they should not be unnecessarily removed,” he says.

A TreeKeepers pamphlet states that gum (or eucalyptus) trees are especially useful on the Cape Flats where they provide shade, windbreaks and, with the high protein of its pollen, a boost for bees.

This same pamphlet goes on to list some of the other benefits that these big trees provide for people and the environment: cleaning the air of pollutants, providing oxygen, absorbing CO2, reducing traffic noise, providing refuge for birds and other wild creatures, improving soil quality and providing tranquil places to relax and enjoy.

In short, big trees provide just about everything that makes life worth living (and possible).

In a media statement released by the City, the recreation and parks department says there are various motives for poisoning trees such as leaves and seed capsules falling on personal properties, or trees standing in the way of property development.

In a separate incident, nine gum trees along Racecourse Road in Durbanville were poisoned in October last year.

A criminal case has been opened by the recreation and parks department.

The investigation is ongoing and the City has asked residents to come forward with any information on tree poisoning in their communities.

Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien says the City views this in a serious light.

“We will investigate this to hold those responsible to account,” says Badroodien.

Residents who may have any information on the poising of trees can send an email to the City arborist.

  • Send information on the poisoning of trees to the City arborist at arborist@capetown.gov.za or call the City’s emergency number on 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone. For more information on TreeKeepers visit its website at https://treekeeperscapetown.org.za.

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