Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Iconic South African Trees - The Mossel Bay Post Office Tree

As Sideroxylon inerme or the White milkwood as it is more commonly known, is featured in this month’s tree review, we thought it would be interesting to find out more about the most famous of them all, the ‘post office tree’ in Mossel Bay.

In their quest to find a sea route to India, Aquada de Sao Bras (now Mossel Bay) was one of the oldest ports of call along the Southern African coast for European explorers.

In 1488, after a gale force wind had blown his ships around the southern tip of Africa, Bartholomew Diaz entered the bay on a quest to replenish his ships with water and other supplies. Unfortunately he had to abandon the search for a sea route to India and return to Portugal.

In 1497, Vasco da Gama called at the bay on his voyage to continue the search for a sea route to India.

Other fleets called at the bay to take on fresh water and in 1500, Pedro d’Ataide, a captain in Pedro Alvares Cabral’s fleet, left an account of their voyage and the death of Bartholomew Diaz who had accompanied Cabral’s fleet.

He left the letter in a boot which he hung in a milkwood tree, where Joao da Nova found it in 1501.

Subsequent mariners left messages at this tree and the tree is now known as the first and oldest Post Office in South Africa.

This famous milkwood is estimated to be over 500 years old and was declared a national monument in 1938.

In 1963, the South African postal services provided a date stamp and a first day cover commemorating the first letter to be ‘posted’ in South Africa.

At the opening ceremony a stone post box, shaped like a boot was provided. Subsequently, all letters posted in the boot are postmarked with the publicity date stamp of Mossel Bay.

More Trees Donated to the Global Wheeling Foundation

TreeCo donated some more trees to the Global Wheeling Foundation last month to assist them in their quest of greening disadvantaged communities in the Cape Peninsula.

Join the cause by becoming a fan and following their travels and successes on Facebook and visit their website to find out how you may be able to participate.

A quick rundown of Global Wheeling...
The Global Wheeling Foundation is a South African based non profit organisation, working to uplift youths in disadvantaged communities through environmental education and the provision of used bicycles from European donors.

The bicycle is an eco-friendly alternative to motorised transport and by assisting those less fortunate through the donation of bicycles, the Global Wheeling Foundation aims to create a new generation of environmentally aware South Africans that will be able to help themselves by pedalling out of poverty.

The Global Wheeling Foundation has 4 exciting initiatives in place to ensure that they achieve their goal.

Global Bike Ride

Kayden Kleinhans (founder) is currently on an environmental pilgrimage through 40 countries to highlight the bike as a positive tool for change. Every km that Kayden rides can be sponsored, and all donations will be used towards empowerment and environmental initiatives.

Bums on Bikes
This initiative rewards youths for their environmental efforts through empowering them by providing them with a bicycle to use as transport.

Recycle a Bike

Those in more affluent countries (primarily Europe and the Americas) are encouraged to fill a container with second hand bikes. These bikes will be shipped to the Global Wheeling Foundation in Africa and distributed to disadvantaged communities.

Plant a Tree

The Global Wheeling Foundation is planting 2010 trees to commemorate the World Cup coming to Africa and put a long term measure in place that will assist to absorb carbon emissions.

They are in the process of planting fruit trees and indigenous trees in parks and at schools in disadvantaged areas in and around Cape Town.

In conjunction with the Global Bike Ride, every carbon free km sponsored will enable the team at Global Wheeling, working with Cape Town based NGO’s, to plant a tree. 10 carbon free km’s = 10 trees.

In addition, through this program, the Global Wheeling Foundation has created a platform to empower local street artists by employing them to design and make a wire tree which will be sent to those donors who have enabled the Global Wheeling Foundation to plant at least 10 trees.

TreeCo Big Tree Gallery - March 2011

Has YOUR landscape been TREECO'ed?
TreeCo has developed an extemely loyal group of clients who have come to rely on us for the quality and unique character of our trees. Whether you plant one of our 50lt or 1000lt trees, you can be assured that we have taken every measure to ensure that the specimen you invest in, has the best possible chance of survival within your landscape. Our quality translates directly to your image as a professional landscaper, which is a responsibility we take very seriously.
Beyond the quality of our trees lies the all important environmental aspect relating to how our trees are produced and cared for. We do not use harmful pesticides or chemical fertilisers and our trees are encouraged to grow at a natural rate and to a natural shape, so not only are our trees are genuinely stronger and healthier, you know that you are supporting an organisation that is continually taking active steps to reduce our carbon footprint.
When we ask 'Has YOUR landscape been TREECO'ed'?, what we really mean to ask is 'Have you used the best quality trees, produced by an environmentally responsible company to green your world'?

Spectacular Monthly Tree - Harpephyllum caffrum

The Harpephyllum caffrum is an attractive, semi-deciduous, medium to large tree with a dense, spreading crown. This member of the mango family has dark green compound leaves that are grouped towards the tips of the branches. Male and female plants are separate. The flowers are small and insignificant while the red berry-like fruit is edible although rather acid. This hardy tree is ideal for coastal gardens as it tolerates the scorching effect of salt laden winds and can withstand drought once it is established. The pale reddish brown wood makes an excellent general purpose timber while the bark is used for traditional medicine.
Botanical NameHarpephyllum caffrum
Common Name    Wild plum                
Bag Size 100kg
Quantity Available 70
Average Tree Height
& Trunk Thickness
Should you require any further information, such as pricing details or should you wish to place an order, please contact Rudi on 082 829 5543 or Leske on 072 385 0270. Alternatively you are welcome to email us with your enquiry at
Looking Good List for March 2011

TreeCo provides our readers with a downloadable, updated Looking Good List every month. 

Please note that should you not find the tree that you are looking for on this list, TreeCo will readily source what you require, on your behalf. Rudi and Leske Neethling personally ensure that all trees supplied by TreeCo, conform to our high quality standards.
Please CLICK HERE to download our latest Looking Good List.

Sideroxylon inerme (White milkwood)

Sideroxylon inerme is the only genus of this species in South Africa of which the ‘post office tree’ in Mossel Bay is the most famous example. Aside from the ‘post office tree’ two other specimens have been declared national monuments in South Africa namely the ‘treaty tree’ in Woodstock and the ‘Fingo milkwood tree’ in the Eastern Cape. This superb tree with it’s much-branched, spreading habit and dense, glossy canopy is rightfully protected in South Africa. This means that the White milkwood may not be damaged and permission from the relevant authorities should be obtained with regard to pruning or moving of these trees.
Botanical Name
Sideroxylon inerme
Common Name
White milkwood
RSA National Tree No’
The splendid White milkwood is one of our most rewarding and easily grown shade trees. The attractive glossy foliage and the lovely spreading habit create a distinctive feature in any landscape or can be used to excellent effect to shade a large patio.The beautiful Sideroxylon inerme is well documented as creating an outstanding fire break, in fact, people with homes in or near the Cape mountains where fire is a constant threat in the hot and dry summer months, should consider planting these trees along their boundaries, as they have the ability to stop a fire dead in it’s tracks. The glossy purple fruit of this worthwhile tree attract numerous fruit eating bird species to the garden while the flowers are eaten by speckled mouse birds. This wonderful tree should be considered an important part of our green heritage and deserves to be planted more extensively.
8m – 10m
Growth Habit
Sideroxylon inerme generally occurs in coastal woodland as well as further inland along rivers and is widespread in mountain forest areas.
The dark grey or brown bark of the White milkwood is fissured. Young branches are covered with short, rust coloured hairs.
The broadly ovate leaves with rounded tips are dark green and leathery, smooth on the upper surface and dull green underneath. They are spirally arranged and occasionally opposite. Milky latex appears where leaves or branches are broken off.
The insignificant, 3-4mm long greenish white flowers appear from summer to autumn and give off an unpleasant smell.
The smooth, globose, one seeded, fleshy fruit appears from late summer to spring ripening to a glossy purplish black.
The 5-9mm seed is globose and cream to shiny brown in colour. The testa is thick and woody with 5 longitudinal ridges.
Growing regions
This lovely tree occurs naturally along the south-western Cape coast and up through Kwa- Zulu Natal as well as inland as far as Gauteng and Zimbabwe.
Growing conditions
Sideroxylon inerme does well when planted in full sun in a large hole with the addition of plenty of well rotted compost or manure. Water regularly for best results.
Best season
All year
This valuable tree tolerates a considerable amount of wind, has average water requirements and will even withstand some frost.
Seed sown in summer will take approximately 4-6 weeks to germinate. Cuttings taken from semi-mature side shoots will take 6-8 weeks to root.
Growth rate
Although the initial growth rate is quite slow, the tree develops fast once it has taken root.
The White milkwood is renowned for the diversity of medicinal applications for which it has traditionally been used. Parts of the tree are said to cure ailments as diverse as broken bones, conjunctivitis, fevers and nightmares. A decoction of the bark is used to treat gall sickness in stock.
The lovely yellowish brown wood is hard and fine grained and is used to make attractive household items as well as building boats and bridges.
                           S. inerme Fruit                      S. inerme Flowers and Foliage        S. inerme Flowers, Fruit & Leaves