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According to SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) the official list for trees of the year, which was developed several years ago by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, the 2016 common tree of the year is Ficus thonningii. However, recent phylogenetic evidence suggests that several distinct Ficus species are classified as F, thonningii. F. thonningii was described from Ghana and is restricted to West Africa. Two southern African species, F. burkei and F. petersii, previously synonymised under F. thonningii, are regarded as good species and are therefore listed as the 2016 trees of the year.
Common Bush-cherry, White-wood, Gewone Witbos (Maerua cafra) National Tree Number:133
Maerua is a large genus with about a hundred species in Africa and Asia. Eleven occur in Southern Africa, and can commonly be found in bushveld regions, rocky areas, in wooded grasslands and along forest margins. It is widely distributed along the eastern side of South Africa, but is also found in Gauteng and the Northern Province towards Zimbabwe.The origin of the name Maerua is uncertain, but it may come from Arabic. Cafra is an unusual spelling of caffra, a name given in the past to many plants from the eastern regions of southern Africa. It is derived from the Hebrew kafri and means “a person living on the land". The common name "white-wood" or "witbos" refers to its light-coloured trunk.
During National Arbor Week South Africans around the country are encouraged to plant indigenous trees in their gardens, schools and communities.
The first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska, USA. Mr J Sterling Morton, a newcomer to the treeless plains of Nebraska, was a keen proponent of the beauty and benefits that trees provide. He persuaded the local agricultural board to set aside a day for planting trees as a means of promoting conservation and correcting the gradual deforestation of the prairie. His petition was granted, and through his position as editor of Nebraska's first newspaper, he encouraged participation in the event by publishing informative articles on the value of trees, not only for their beauty and the cool shade they provide for both people and livestock, but also for their fruit, their value as building material and fuel, as well as to stop soil erosion.
Leonotis is a robust genus of slender shrubs with about 10 species, and endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Endemic plants are native or restricted only to a certain country or area. Seven species of Leonotis occur in southern Africa, with Leonotis leonurus being the most well-known and commonly cultivated. This outstanding indigenous plant has become an extremely popular garden subject because of its brilliant orange flowers, fast growth, and adaptability to a wide range of climatic conditions throughout the country. White, light orange and peachy orange forms are also available. Although often referred to as “wild dagga” Leonotis is not related to true dagga (Cannabis sativa) which belongs to a different family and originated in Asia.
The name “leonotis” is derived from two Greek words and means “lion’s ear” - hence its common name, referring to the fringed or hairy upper lip of each velvety flower, which resembles a lion’s ear. Blooms are produced in abundant whorls along the stems in late summer, autumn, and even into winter, depending on localized growing conditions. The base of the flowers is filled with sweet nectar, attracting bees, moths, butterflies, birds and insects to the garden.
August may be a windy month, and can still get miserably cold, but it is also the month when you really start reaping the rewards of your carefully planned winter and spring flower garden; and as the month progresses the displays will just get better and better - banishing even the worst of the winter-blues. Because August is known as the windy month, ensure that all your standard plants and young trees are securely staked. There are many different types of tree stakes and ties, and different staking methods are used, depending on the size of the tree. Small trees can be secured to a wooden stake with a soft material like pantyhose or raffia, but larger trees will require very sturdy wooden or steel stakes and stronger ties. When securing your ties, ensure that they are not too tight, or they will damage the bark. Check the ties regularly during summer to ensure that they have not become too tight, causing damage to the trees.