Four tree species have been added to South Africa’s National Forest Act

Posted by Ashna Brijmohun on 11 November 2021

A proposal submitted by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has prompted the protection of four tree species. The Berchemia zeyheri, the Diospyros mespiliformis, the Schinziophyton rautanenii, and the Umtiza listeriana will now be added to South Africa’s list of protected trees under the National Forest Act.

Camphor trees protected under section 12 of South Africa’s National Forest Act. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The South African National Forest Act was implemented in 1998 in an attempt to reform laws on forests, to repeal certain existing laws, and provide assistance for related matters. The National Forest Act currently protects 48 different tree species in South Africa. It is illegal to cut, damage or disturb the trees on this list. Disobeying the regulations of the National Forest Act could result in up to three years of jail time.

Creecy stated in an official government notice that the added four species ‘are proposed for addition to the existing list of protected tree species after evaluation by an expert panel, on the basis that they are keystone species and vulnerable to particular threats in specific parts of their distribution range.’

The Berchemia zeyheri

The Berchemia zeyheri, more commonly referred to as the Red Ivory, is an African hardwood tree that grows in South Africa and other regions in Southern Africa. The indigenous tree is popular for its delicious drupe fruit which is enjoyed by both humans and wildlife.

The Berchemia zeyheri produces fruit that come in yellow, brown, purple and red color variations. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The Diospyros mespiliformis

Diospyros mespiliformis, more commonly known as the Jackal Berry, is a large tree that is indigenous to the African continent. It flourishes in South Africa’s wildlife reserves where it is utilized by termites and other wild animals. The tree produces oval flesh-like berries which turn yellow or orange when ripe to eat.

The Diospyros mespiliformis can grow up to 25 metres tall. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The Schinziophyton rautanenii

Schinziophyton rautanenii, often referred to as the mongongo tree, is found all over the African continent. The tree can reach heights of up to 20 metres and produces oval fruit with a velvet-like texture.

The Schinziophyton rautanenii produces a highly nutritious fruit between March and May each year. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

The Umtiza listeriana

Umtiza listeriana is a shrub-like plant that is found in South Africa’s Eastern Cape region. Also known as the Umtiza, it is an evergreen tree that can grow to be 12 metres tall. The Umtiza produces flat oblong-shaped fruit that are about 50mm big.

The Umtiza listeriana’s fruit are bright green when fresh and turn brown and woody when they have matured. Picture: SANBI, Creative Commons

These majestic trees, each unique and important to South Africa, will be protected under the South African National Forest Act of 1998.


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