Trees more than four decades old in Mitchell’s Plain are being stripped of their bark and now face being cut down.
This is the warning from ward councillor Danny Christians, who says araucaria trees are being maliciously damaged by “our community”.
“Complete girdling, the removal of the bark removed from a band completely encircling the tree, kills the tree,” he said.
He has been advocating for environmental rights in the area for more than two decades and recently allocated money to plant ten new Araucaria columnaris trees, a species of conifer, in his ward, which includes Rocklands and parts of Portland.
The evergreen trees, originally found in New Caledonia, in the south of the Pacific, have been stripped over the past two years.
Araucaria’s straight trunk and numerous lateral branches, with dense foliage, barely swayed to the Cape Doctor and were necessary for the area’s aesthetics, Mr Christians said.
National Arbor Week, celebrated in the first week of September, encourages people to plant trees, but Mr Christians said: “Why plant if existing trees are not being looked after?”
He added: “The malicious damage to the trees in Morgenster Road and elsewhere in Mitchell’s Plain is indicative of the sick society we find ourselves in.”
There were many dysfunctional spaces in Mitchell’s Plain, he said, and transforming them into urban forests needed support from all residents.
“Providing aesthetics to dysfunctional areas provides limitless socio-economic and environmental benefits.”
He said a tree could provide oxygen to up to 40 people in a year and increase property values by 5%.
Araucaria was the only tree that could withstand Mitchell’s Plain’s harsh weather conditions, he said.
Hawker Michael Abrahams, from Westridge, who has been selling his wares at weekends on Morgenster Road for about 12 years, said the trees gave them shade and added to the scenery.
“At first, these trees were green, and now you can see they are browning and will never flourish again,” he said.
His business neighbour, Edward Jones, from Colorado Park, said the tree had looked fine one week, and the next it had been stripped of its bark.
“We can only assume they do it at night,” he said.
Brent Geduldt, a bush doctor from Kewtown, said: “Generally bush doctors do not use bark. If it is being used, then it is a new practice.
“The manner in which these trees have been stripped is unnatural. It affects the environment and the relationship people have with trees and how it is used to enhance and sustain everyones’ health and well-being.”
Dr Zahid Badroodien, the mayoral committee member for community services and health, said the City did not condone the damage done to trees through the illegal harvesting of bark for medicinal or cultural purposes.
“We have a responsibility to protect our fauna and flora, and, to this end, the City’s recreation and parks department will work tirelessly to avoid the destruction of trees.”
The recreation and parks department had been advised to coat the trees in PVA paint to render the bark unattractive for harvesting, he said.
The public can report bark-stripped trees or bark stripping in process, to the City law enforcement department at 021 480 7700 or email RP.Enquiries@capetown.gov.za