Bushmans Kloof. – I love planting trees. It feels so tangible and real.
And was therefore thrilled to join the Clanwilliam Cedar Tree event that took place at Heuningvlei in the Cederberg Wilderness area on Saturday 21 May 2016. Invited by Five Star Pr and Bushmans Kloof, I joined Cape Nature and other participants from the Wildflower Society and Cederberg Conservancy, as well as local schools, for a day on the mountains that burst with lessons in nature and a warm sense of community.
The endemic Clanwilliam cedar tree is only found in the Cederberg mountains, some 250km north of Cape Town, and represents one of 1000 surviving conifer species in the world. This species is categorised as endangered on the Red Data List and faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild. To date the Cedar Tree project has initiated the planting of more than 800 young cedar trees in the Cederberg area.
The number of cedar trees has declined dramatically over the last 200 years, initially as a result of unsustainable harvesting, but more recently due to an increase of fires. As a result, the annual Cedar tree planting event plays a huge role in the revival of this precious species after which the area gets its name.
Members of the public, arrived to Heuningvlei and on to the elevated plant site by 4×4, bike, foot and landcruiser, to join the Wildflower Society, Cederberg Conservancy and learners from Elizabethfontein and Elandsfontein primary.
Heuningvlei is one of fourteen tiny outpost villages of the Moravian Mission Church at Wupperthal and only twenty five families are currently living here, mostly involved in subsistence farming, planting sugar beans, potatoes and sweet potatoes. The community is also renowned for using traditional methods to produce dried fruit and for organically cultivating Rooibos tea. It is in itself a treat to visit with them.
The magnificent Cederberg scenery from the drive up to Heuningvlei.
Gathering first at the community hall for tea and coffee, we were welcomed by Rika du Plessis, Conservation Manager at Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve Cape Nature, with an address by Bushmans Kloof owner Michael Tollman and Dr Ernt Baard of Biodiversity Support.
Now in its 14th year, the event is growing in popularity and there were about 150 people gathered. After the address we all made our way right up the mountain to the plant site, before being briefed on the process and shown the area that was being planted. We were then carefully handed the precious saplings, a spade and marker, before setting off to plant the future.
It was a glorious day, and even though the wind had a chill factor, nobody seemed to notice. Once all the trees were planted, we headed back down the mountain to a delicious lunch by Bushmans Kloof’s Chef Ryan Weakley, and entertainment by the ‘Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers’ Riel Dancers. It was the kind of feel good day, I didn’t want to end.
What an inspiring community and collective of nature loving people with their hearts firmly set on making a difference. And they do. Thank you all for including me.
Michael Tollman, of Bushmans Kloof.
The hosts and speakers, and above Rika holding a precious Cedar Tree seed in her hand.
The young members of the community, showing the way forward and planting seeds into the trays, for the next growth of trees.
Rika with a baby cedar tree in her hands, talks us through the process of planting. We were all encouraged to bring out own spade for the job.
Heading out to the plant sites.
Lemor and I planting with Khanye and Keke from the nearby Elizabethfontein Primary school.
The Clanwilliam cedar.
The Cederberg mountains are the only place in the world where the Clanwilliam cedar (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis: Cupressaceae) grows. It is actually a “cypress” and not a “cedar”, but does share some characteristics such as durable fragrant wood with true cedars like the Lebanon cedar. Most living cedars are now found only in remote rocky areas between 800m and 1650m above sea level, where the mature trees and seedlings are protected from fire. The landscape is littered with dead cedar skeletons.
What happened to the cedar?
Most living cedars are now found only in remote rocky areas between 800m and 1650m above sea level, where the mature trees and seedlings are protected from fire. The landscape is littered with dead cedar skeletons. It is doubtful whether there are enough young trees to replace them naturally.
Scientific analyses of fossilised pollen show a steady population decline over the past 14 600 years, possibly due to climatic changes.Seeds are produced only once the tree reaches full reproductive maturity after 20-30 years. This is double the interval between the current occurrences of fires (about 11 to 15 years)in the Cederberg fynbos area. Adult trees are killed by fire. Successful seedling growth after fires is thus vital.
The human factor.
First the San, then the Khoi, and finally the Europeans aggravated the plight of the cedar. The use of fire to stimulate grazing and to flush out game, destroyed many seedlings. The durable cedar wood was the only suitable source of timber that could be used for furniture, fences and telephone poles when the farmers settled along the Olifants River during the mid-18th century, which led to excessive tree harvesting.
The Clanwilliam cedar is an endangered species and is one of 43 conifer species world-wide that are the focus of special international concern. Attempts to save the species from extinction include planting seedlings raised in the Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat nursery, back into the tree’s natural habitat.
With my daughter Lemor Weiss, who accompanied me on the weekend.
Should you wish to attend next year, contact the lodge of Cape Nature for details. It is scheduled for the 3rd weekend in May and is a highly recommended feel good experience in a beautiful part of our country. The recommendation is to be in the area for the whole weekend. Reservations +27214379278 and Email email@example.com and on the website.
If you missed it, here’s the video from the weekend.
Source of Cedar Tree info above – http://www.capenature.co.za/saving-clanwilliam-cedar/
Disclaimer. I was invited by Five Star PR and very generously hosted by Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat throughout. All pics are very much, mine.