Champions Measured.

Letaba Herald

February, 2013

Six tree explorers from across the globe measured the ancient Champion Trees in the Tzaneen area last week.champions measured letaba herald

The Champion Tree Project is the first of its kind in Africa and the Tzaneen area boasts with a high concentration of these remarkable giants.  Izak van der Merwe, from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) is involved with the Champion Tree Project of South Africa and is passionate about saving remarkable trees.

He says that for a tree to be a Champion Tree, it needs the ‘Wow’ factor along with the size criteria that include the height, trunk circumference and crown size. There are also 2 champions measured-letaba herald 2criteria of age, cultural and landscape value. The Limpopo-leg of the expedition was groundbreaking from the first climb.

A highlight for the team was climbing Sagole baobab in the Vendaland that was measured at a height of 22m, with a circumference of 33.72m and a crown circumferences of 33.7 and 30.2m. The famous Post Office baobab near Lydsdorp has been included in the top 5 baobab list after Van der Merwe measured it. This tree is included after the Glenco baobab had to be removed as the biggest when its crown fell apart. The team went on to Politsi the next day to measure the famed trio of indigenous matumi trees on the banks of the Matutsi river, dubbed the Three Queens.

These three remarkable matumi trees are listed as number four, 12 and 96 of the Top 100 trees in South Africa.   The tallest indigenous trees to date are matumi trees and the two giants on the Amorentia estate were measured at 33m and 38.6m. David Wiles, and ex-patriot from Zimbabwe and arborist who 3champions measured-letaba herald 2resides in the United Kingdom, took a schoolboy from Thlalefa Combined School in Politsi up to the very top of one of the Three Queens.

Howard Blight, the owner of the Amorentia Estate said “It’s just extraordinary that there is such a widely based respect internationally for important trees and the conservation of high canopy rain forests. This is probably the best example of high canopy rainforest anywhere in South Africa, if not on the continent”.

On Saturday the arborists travelled to Magoebaskloof ot explore the Woodbush State Forest where gum trees (Eucalyptus Saligna) were planted in 1906 and the tallest planted tree in the world resides.

In a magnificent attempt Geoff Pugsley from the United Kingdom climbed the tree and measured it at 80.3m. Leon Visser, an arborist from Stellenbosch traversed from this tree to its neighbour a few meters away.

A new record for the tallest planted tree was set as Visser measured this one in at 81.5m. The team would like to name this new discovery of four giants the Magbaskloof Explore Four, this name has yet to be reviewed by DAFF.

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