Milkwood trees receive added protection

One of the old Milkwood trees, along the ocean front at Gordon’s Bay, sporting the new protective base around the trunk.

The City of Cape Town’s environmental management department recently completed a green infrastructure improvement project in Gordon’s Bay, whereby platforms have been installed around Milkwood trees. which are over 100 years old.

These trees form an iconic part of the natural heritage of this popular recreation area on the coast.

“The natural heritage we own in Cape Town such as our trees and biodiversity are just as important as any other aspect of the city’s heritage,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment, Marian Nieuwoudt.

“The Gordon’s Bay Milkwood trees have been here for over 100 years. They have provided beach goers with shade and a recreational spot for decades.

“I am sure this area and these Milkwood trees bring back fond memories of time spent with families and friends and feature in many holiday photographs.This pilot project is an innovative way to protect these much loved trees, and provides an improved recreational area which visitors can enjoy for many years to come.

“With the warmer months approaching, and this beach being extremely popular because of the shaded areas under these trees, it was a perfect opportunity to complete the pilot project,” said Ms Nieuwoudt.

The Milkwood trees along Beach Road in Gordon’s Bay appear to be the remainder of a bigger historical coastal forest. Milkwood trees are indigenous to coastal areas, and are protected trees in South Africa. Therefore, they may not be cut or removed without permission from the Department of Fisheries and Forestry.

The actual construction of this pilot project took place over three weeks, however meticulous and innovative planning was required leading up to September.

The need for a suitable green infrastructureintervention required urgent attention as there was concern for the health of the old Milkwood trees as their roots had become very exposed.

After consulting the City’s arborist for advice, the environmental management team devised a system whereby the trees would not not be damaged during and after the construction.

People can sit on the protective tree platforms surrounding the Milkwood trees; it is raised above the ground to protect the roots of the trees and made from 100% re-cycled plastics.

The current platform of about 50m² is a pilot project and, if successful, the City plans to continue to surround the other trees with this design and create additional platforms between the trees. This will provide improved spaces for visitors to sit under the Milkwoods and enjoy the beach front.

Specifications such as keeping 150mm clear of all tree parts including trunks and exposed roots; providing for growth and tree movement; and not excavating or disturbing closer than 1.5m from the base of a tree had to be considered while implementing this project.

“The Milkwood tree has a rich history and is commonly found in coastal gardens with its dense foliage; black berries and small dainty white flowers. I look forward to the possibility of expanding this project and to see the local residents and visitors enjoy the upgraded version of their favourite summer spot,” said Ms Nieuwoudt.

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