New Champion Trees discovered

October 31, 2009

A total of 44 trees have been declared as national Champion trees so far, and they are protected under the National Forests Act of 1998. Exciting things happened since the previous Arbor week of 2008, and tragedy struck the only trees declared as Champion trees in the Free State.

Champion Tree Champion Tree 2

This Eucalyptus in Senekal has a trunk circumference of more than eight metres.

One of the Magoebaskloof giants.


In November 2008 Stihl South Africa sponsored a tree climbing expedition to the tallest trees in Africa – a stand of Saligna gum trees planted in 1906 at Woodbush Estate near Haenertsburg in Limpopo. The tallest tree in this stand was measured at 81.5 m by a land surveyor in 2002, but fell down during a storm in 2007. The tree expedition led by professional tree climbers Leon Visser and Charles Green found the newest giant among this stand of Champion trees, measured at 79 metres. This tree, and the one standing next to it (measured at 78.5 m) have been dubbed the 'Twin Giants of Magoebaskloof'. Stihl South Africa is now sponsoring information boards to be erected at this site, and at the monument of forestry pioneer James Alexander O'Connor and his famous Eucalyptus tree lane nearby.

These Saligna gum trees (Eucalyptus saligna) could also be the tallest planted trees in the world. Forest scientists from Australia where these tree species grow naturally, are astounded not only by the height attained by the trees in South Africa, but also at their phenomenal growth rate. The benign soils and climate of Magoebaskloof have produced many outstanding trees, and has the largest concentration of trees on the big tree register in the country.

A giant Eucalyptus tree

A Eucalyptus tree with a giant trunk circumference of more than eight metres has been discovered at Senekal in the Free State. This comes at a time when the only declared Champion trees in this province are in deep trouble. A group of tall Cedar trees growing in front of the old government buildings in Mangaung (Bloemfontein) have died mysteriously, and the cause of death is being investigated by experts from FABI. These trees were planted by prominent British officials such as Lord Alfred Milner and royalty such as Dom Luiz Fillipe (Duke of Braganza) more than a century ago. The cypress trees planted by president Brand of the Free State and other important guests in 1879 are fortunately unaffected. The curator of the Afrikaans Literary Museum and Research Centre now housed in the buildings, Mr Otto Liebenberg, said that a possible cause may be that the trees received too little water during building works on site, and that over-watering may have occurred once the construction activities ceased.

A big baobab

Early in 2009, a huge baobab occurring near the village Maekgwe in the Limpopo province was nominated for Champion tree status. With a trunk circumference of 34 m, height of 21 m and crown width of 34 m, this turns out to be the second largest indigenous tree in the country, but experts still have to visit the tree and confirm the measurements.

A river red gum tree with trunk circumference of 9.7 m, height of 38 m and crown spread of 40 m was discovered in Stellenbosch by Professor Brian Bredenkamp recently, and is now possibly the biggest of the Champion trees according to the size index which combines all three measurements.

The tallest indigenous tree on the Champion list is a Monkey thorn (also Tree of the Year) measured at 39 m, in the Groot Marico district. The biggest crown width of more than 61 m was measured for a centuries-old low-growing Candlethorn (trassiebos) near Nylstroom with trunks that resprouted wherever they touched ground, and a crown width of more than 61 m. This tree is threatened by several hundred invasive Seringa trees growing into its crown area from the perimeter, which are now being eradicated by members of the Dendrological Society of South Africa.


Izak van der Merwe (Champion Tree Coordinator) 084 910 2604


Published in September/October 2009

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