Vergelegen wine estate plants trees for posterity

South Africa celebrated Arbor Week during the first week of September, and Vergelegen wine estate in Somerset West – a provincial heritage site renowned for its historic trees – marked the occasion in appropriate arboreal style.

A distinguished guest planted an oak tree sapling with a fascinating history, and garden staff revived the tradition of gathering seeds from an ancient yellowwood and distributing these to visitors.

Royal connections
It is a Vergelegen custom to invite visiting dignitaries to plant a commemorative oak, and the estate has a fine collection planted by members of Britain’s royal family and other visitors. The oak tree planting on this occasion was undertaken by Mary Carlisle, renowned for her work with under-privileged communities in KwaZulu-Natal, on a visit to the estate on 2 September.

This oak sapling has a fascinating lineage, says Vergelegen Gardens Manager Richard Arm. It originates from an acorn from a famous tree at Vergelegen known as the Royal Oak. That Royal Oak, in turn, grew from an acorn planted decades ago when Vergelegen was owned by Sir Lionel and Lady Florence Phillips, from 1917-1940.

“Lord and Lady Phillips were friends of the Duchess of Marlborough, who had given Sir Lionel this acorn. It came from one of the last of King Alfred's mediaeval oaks at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England. This acorn survived the sea trip from England to the Cape in the 1920s and duly grew into the giant oak known as the Royal Oak.”

Since then, acorns from the Royal Oak have been taken back to England for planting in Blenheim Palace and Windsor Great Park.

“We planted the sapling close to the existing Royal Oak so that in a couple of hundred years, oaks can still be enjoyed as part of the heritage of the Cape,” says Arm.

Seed distribution
Vergelegen is also home to a vast yellowwood (Podocarpaceae, a protected national tree) estimated to be 150-400 years old.

This venerable old specimen is the source of hundreds of seeds which the horticultural team traditionally gather every year. They skipped this custom in 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdown, but revived it this year.

“The seed handout at the gate was extremely well received by all our guests,” says Arm, who adds that the seed collection and germination are made easier by resident fruit bats.

The bats not only drop the seeds in certain areas of the garden, so that the team know where to find them, but they also nibble at the skin and fleshy part of the fruit to expose the seed, which helps germination.

Tree viewing
Vergelegen visitors can walk the Yellowwood Trail to the site of this magnificent old yellowwood. Other outstanding trees include five enormous camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) outside the homestead, which were declared national monuments in 1942. These are the oldest introduced cultivated trees in southern Africa, and were also the favourite trees of President Nelson Mandela on his visits to Vergelegen.

The collection also includes a hollow old English oak, believed to be the oldest living oak in Africa, and an oak arboretum. The arboretum is home to about 15 varieties of oak and helps to increase awareness of the history of oaks in the Cape, and the conservation and propagation of these trees.

Members of the public are welcome to visit he estate which is open Monday-Sunday 09h00-17h00.

For more info visit www.vergelegen.co.za and social media.


Preventing fires, planting trees & locking up carbon

A partnership between Fogmaker South Africa and the Platbos Conservation Trust is contributing to the reforestation of the unique Platbos indigenous forest in the Western Cape. What these two very different organisations have in common is a desire to prevent unwanted fires, and a deep concern for the environment.

Platbos, situated between Gansbaai and Hermanus, is Africa’s southern-most indigenous forest. Surrounded by fynbos, cultivated lands and encroaching alien invasive jungles, this unique, ancient forest is under threat and needs active management to survive.

Although it is situated in a fire shadow area, wildfires have over the years been encroaching on the forest margins and threatening this sensitive ecosystem which is rich in biodiversity and contains many ancient trees, some over 1 000 years old.

The Platbos Forest Reforestation Project is an NPO that aims to expand and strengthen the forest by removing alien invasive vegetation from the forest margins and planting indigenous trees that are endemic to the area. This crucial work serves to protect the heart of the forest from encroaching wildfires, promotes biodiversity and sequesters carbon to counter global warming.

Fogmaker South Africa decided to get behind this initiative by donating a tree for every Fogmaker fire suppression system that they install in forestry machines during 2021.

These trees are grown in the Platbos tree nursery before they are planted out in selected areas around the Platbos forest. The Platbos reforestation team follows up, watering the young saplings and doing general vegetation maintenance to ensure their survival

The Fogmaker connection
Fogmaker SA are the licenced distributors and installers of Fogmaker fire suppression systems across Southern Africa.

Fogmaker automatic fire suppression systems are manufactured by Fogmaker International in Sweden. The systems are designed specifically to protect engine compartments of mobile equipment – including forestry equipment – to prevent engine fires that have the potential to destroy expensive equipment, injure the operators, interrupt work schedules and set fire to surrounding vegetation including plantations.

Fogmaker systems attack all three sides of the fire triangle: oxygen, heat and fuel. When triggered by an engine fire the Fogmaker system produces a fine water mist. This water mist vapourises and expands when it comes into contact with any heat source and displaces the oxygen needed to sustain a fire. The water mist, containing a foam additive, discharges for more than 60 seconds and cools down hot surfaces, while forming a protective barrier on the surface of any flammable material, including fuel, to prevent re-ignition.

Fogmaker systems have been installed on a wide range of forestry equipment including harvesters, mulchers, chippers, forwarders and loggers, produced by leading suppliers like Hitachi, Tigercat, TimberPro, CAT, Bell and Pinoth.

See how the Fogmaker system extinguishes a simulated engine fire in seconds...

Hard-working forestry machines are always at risk of fire due to the fact that the fine vegetative material (leaves and sticks) that tend to get caught up in the engine compartments have the potential to catch fire due to extreme heat. The risk is increased as the dry, winter fire season approaches in the summer rainfall areas of South Africa.

Fogmaker SA’s innovative CSI programme aims to support the cause of preventing unwanted wildfires, but also to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions which are contributing to global warming and climate change.

Since 2008, the Platbos Reforestation Project team has planted some 89 000 trees, with help from organisations such as Fogmaker, thus making a huge contribution to sequestering carbon.

Last year Fogmaker supported the African Honey Bee Project by donating a bee hive for several Fogmaker systems installed in customers’ forestry machines. This is an innovative project that promotes bee farming and honey production among rural communities. It includes training in responsible bee keeping, in particular how to smoke out bee hives without setting fire to the surrounding vegetation. This is a frequent source of wildfires in forestry plantations around SA.

For more info visit:-
www.fogmaker.co.za
www.platbos.co.za
www.africanhoneybee.co.za