Any tree is better than no tree.
An indigenous tree is better than any tree.
An endemic tree is the ideal indigenous tree.
Trees are an extremely important part of the earth's ecosystem. They perform a multitude of functions. They produce oxygen and process carbon dioxide which is the basis for all life on earth. They hold water and stabilise weather patterns, they provide a home for various types of animals, produce food and timbre for building and paper production and they mitigate pollution as they beautify the world.
All trees fulfil the above functions to varying degrees but an indigenous trees will naturally do a better job. This is because trees have evolved over millions of years in conjunction with the nature around them. That means that certain plants can only be fertilised by certain insects or certain birds can only nest or feed on certain trees. Because of this an indigenous tree is better suited to the flora and fauna that inhabit the area. Many animals are found throughout a continent or country and so many indigenous trees can be planted in a large variety of places and they will still support the local ecosystem. An endemic tree however, is even better suited as some animals are so geographically isolated that they may only be found in a very small area in which case an endemic tree is ideal as it can play host to the rarer species in the country.
At PlantNation one of our goals is to plant one million indigenous trees on the African continent. With the help of our sister organisation PlantLife Artscapes and various corporate entities we have already planted a few thousand trees around South Africa.
Over the years we have found that many office workers are starved for a connection with nature. The same can be said for many school children not to mention the hundreds of thousands of underprivileged people, both young and old, found throughout our country. It is a magical experience to watch a face light up in a smile as fingers are dug deep into the soil and seeds planted for the first time.
With this in mind we create comprehensive tree planting programmes that allow us to educate the public at the same time as we accomplish our goal of physically putting trees in the ground. We connect the trees they are planting to the local environment by explaining the roles those trees play in supporting everything from bees and butterflies to birds and the big five.
We have group discussions around the medicinal properties of the plants as so many South African plants are incorporated into traditional medicine and it is a way for many people to connect with the nature around them.
We include team building exercises like yoga and play games and encourage all our volunteers to participate because we want the people around us to experience joy while they work and plant and play and learn.
When it's time to plant the trees we provide tools and a mentor for the day, usually one of our staff or a long-time volunteer, and we teach people how to plant trees and seeds. We talk about how to dig the hole to the right dimensions and why it's important to plant to the correct depth. We explain the roles of plant food, mulch and water and offer courses on how to make and harvest your own. Most importantly we share our love for trees and plants with Africa and her people and try to infect them with our passion for planting.
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Trees are a gift for the future, our future and our children's future. We always take time to explain to our planting groups that some of the trees they plant today will live to be a hundred years old. Some may grow as old as a thousand years or even more. Children listen in wonder. Adults sometimes look wistful. All are amazed.
Our forests, the world's forests, are under threat and we need to act so let's unite and create a PlantNation full of healthy, happy trees and people.