DWELL WITH SOUTH AFRICA’S INDIGE­NOUS TREES AT SUMMERFIELDS

Tourism Guide Africa - - CONTENTS -

You’d be for­given for see­ing only the pris­tine forests upon ar­rival at Summerfields Rose Re­treat & Spa in Hazyview, Mpumalanga. Delv­ing into the woods with one of South Africa’s lead­ing indige­nous tree ex­perts, Michael Oosthuyzen, re­veals the long stand­ing tales th­ese trees have to tell.

Trees (espe­cially indige­nous trees) and how to pre­serve them is a sub­ject of much de­bate. Many will ar­gue that trees are the gen­e­sis to pre­serv­ing an en­tire ecosys­tem. “This is about as good as it gets. I’m buoyed not only by the ex­pan­sive and rare va­ri­ety of indige­nous trees, but also by how beau­ti­fully de­void the forests are of in­vader species” com­mented Oosthuyzen on a re­cent visit to the bou­tique, lux­ury fam­ily run es­tab­lish­ment.

South Africa is home to 742 species of indige­nous trees. To­gether with their sub­species one can count over 2500 va­ri­eties. Each with its own iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber. For Oosthuyzen, they are so much more than their num­ber. Uniquely, ev­ery tree has its iden­tity, his­tory and pur­pose (not un­like peo­ple).

“Up­hold­ing the in­tegrity of our nat­u­ral sur­round­ings is al­ways front of mind. Nes­tled along­side the banks of the Sa­bie River, our lux­ury tented ac­com­mo­da­tion har­mo­niously leaves min­i­mal im­pact. We’ve been ex­tremely ex­cited to hear about Michael’s find­ings,” said owner, An­dre van Heer­den.

Over 70 indige­nous tree species (and of­ten­times as many within a hectare block) were iden­ti­fied. This is im­pres­sive given only 11% of South Africa’s tree species are found all over the coun­try with the re­main­ing 89% con­fined to spe­cific ge­ogra­phies. Within those found a num­ber are con­sid­ered pro­tected plants by the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs in­clud­ing Jack­alberry, Marula, Ma­tumi and Yel­low­wood trees.

“See­ing two huge (30m tall) Jack­alberry trees (one male, one fe­male), es­ti­mated at over 700 years old was a high­light. Th­ese trees grow very slowly and to be that tall is very rare. Ad­di­tion­ally, the for­est has Maru­las (many over 80 years old), Stinkwood and Outeni­qua Yel­low­woods. I also came across sev­eral species unique to the Lowveld re­gion in­clud­ing Buffalo Thorn, Fever, Wild To­bacco, Lowveld Cab­bage and River Bush­wil­low trees” con­tin­ued Oosthuyzen.

The va­ri­ety and rich­ness of th­ese trees, many of which are fruit bear­ing, at­tracts a di­verse range an­i­mals and birds. No­tably Oosthuyzen came across two enor­mous Pecan nut trees (ex­otic to South Africa) that are over 40m high and be­lieved to be around 100 years old. Their age sug­gests th­ese were planted by for­mer Prime Min­is­ter, Jan Smuts, who was known to have a hunt­ing farm in this area at the time.

Oosthuyzen who con­sults to the pri­vate sec­tor, in ad­di­tion to study­ing hor­ti­cul­ture, learnt his trade from his fa­ther who was a cy­cad spe­cial­ist at what was the Transvaal Plant As­so­ci­a­tion at Hart­beeshoek. He also learns from a tra­di­tional healer (San­goma) about the medic­i­nal use of plants. For ex­am­ple, the Pi­o­neer tree (found in the Summerfields for­est) is a nat­u­ral an­tibi­otic into the en­vi­ron­ment, restor­ing PH lev­els in soil which en­cour­ages more growth.

“The power of life is held within a seed. And the em­pha­sis Summerfields places on pre­serv­ing its nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion is ev­i­dent in its de­sign. This is achieved along­side of­fer­ing a per­son­alised, undis­cov­ered ex­pe­ri­ence, where you can be sure the air you breathe is of the purest. An en­tirely re­ju­ve­nat­ing place on many lev­els” con­cluded Oosthuyzen.

Summerfields is also a work­ing farm that grows macadamias, litchis, roses and or­ganic veg­eta­bles. Much of the pro­duce is used in their restau­rants to cre­ate su­perbly au­then­tic fare. The first rate spa also uses fruits from the land in treat­ments. Lo­cated at the Kruger Na­tional Park Phabeni Gate (and within an hour’s drive to the Sabi Sands) lux­ury safari trips are also on of­fer.

CON­TACT:

An­nelle Whyte, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager, 0711 638719, an­nelle­sum­mer­fields@gmail.com

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