Plant an indigenous tree this Arbor Week

The bee hive, located in Bolander editor Carolyn Frosts garden, is a source of delight on many levels, including watching the comings and goings of these industrious, intelligent little creatures, but also the wonderful honey! Picture: Carolyn Frost

Arbor Week, a global, annual awareness week that shines a light on South Africa’s 2 000 indigenous tree species, takes place from Monday August 31 to Friday September 4.

With a focus on our oldest, largest and most culturally significant trees, Arbor Week also calls for people across the country to plant indigenous trees as a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management.

The movement supports Arbor Week’s environmental objectives to educate communities and encourage involvement in sustainability drives.

Arbor Week also takes place at the beginning of Spring, in the first week of September, just as bees awake from hibernation and do what bees do get busy.

Gardening app Candide will be hosting a webinar focusing on trees and what springtime means for bees, on Thursday September 3, at 3.30pm.

This discussion sees Shani Krige from Candide in conversation with Dr Tlou Masehela, a scientist at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and current chairman of the Western Cape Bee Industry Association (WCBA), and Mike Allsopp, an African honeybee expert and senior researcher at the Agricultural Research Council.  

“Arbor Week is a very important annual event that has achieved incredible awareness in the past. There are definite similarities to what we hope to achieve with #PolliNationSA”,” says Krige.

Bees need all the support they can get. Faced with ongoing challenges, from irresponsible pesticide use to habitat destruction, it is imperative that we all do what we can to assist these highly specialised pollinators.

One way is to ensure that your garden consistently provides bees with vital resources like water, pollen, and nectar.

And then it’s also possible to do good for both of these movements with a simple, single action: plant an indigenous tree.

Locally indigenous trees provide foraging and a habitat for a multitude of creatures, from animals and insects to our all-important honeybees.

To make it easier for you, below is a short list of options , a wide variety that are all easy to grow, and highly attractive to our bee friends. 

The Forest Elder (Nuxia floribunda) is a moisture-loving, floriferous tree that should be planted in deep soil in a sunny to partly shady spot.

Its sweetly scented, creamy-white flowers make it very attractive, both in appearance as well as to many insectivorous birds. Bees too are drawn to it in search of nectar and pollen.

The Coast Silver Oak (Brachylaena discolor) is a fast growing, drought and frost resistant evergreen that forms an irregular v-shaped canopy, and is between four and 10 metres high. During flowering, the entire tree is covered in masses of nectar-rich, creamy-white flowers, attracting bees, as well as other insects and birds.

The Karee (Searsia lancea), an evergreen that grows to around seven meters in height, is an excellent shade tree that adapts well to different soils.

It produces small, inconspicuous but sweetly scented flowers, a favourite for many birds, as well as bees and other insects.

The Cape Saffron (Cassine peragua), a medium-sized tough and wind-tolerant tree, is suitable for suburban gardens.

It has many attractions, the most unusual of these being its beautiful saffron-coloured trunk.

Birds love its decorative fruit whilst bees, and other insects, make a beeline for its small, white and fragrant flowers.

Sweet thorn (Acacia karroo), an evergreen tree found across South Africa, is highly adaptable, but can’t be planted near infrastructure.

Its ambrosial scented flowers attract many butterflies and bees, which is unsurprising as yellow is one of the bee’s favourite colours.

Pompon Tree (Dais cotinifolia) is a well-loved indigenous tree that’s tough enough to grow on streets, and small enough to fit into most gardens.

It looks like a giant candyfloss when it flowers, and this vivid, colourful cloud of soft pink balls attracts honeybees, many butterfly species and other insects. 

The #PolliNationSA campaign is for anyone interested, who can get involved as follows:

If you’re not already part of the Candide community, download the free Candide app, available on the Apple App store and Google Play store.

Snap a pic of a bee-friendly plant, flower or tree that you’re growing in your garden, on your stoep, windowsill or balcony.

Examples of bee-friendly plants and flowers include aloe, vygies, clivia, daisies, protea and rosemary.

You might want to consider more than one option to ensure there’s something in bloom for the bees throughout the year, and Candide can help you with loads of information on pollinator-friendly plants.

Share the pic on the Candide app using the following hashtag, #PolliNationSA.

Once posted, you’ll receive a #PolliNationSA icon that will be added to your Candide profile pic.