Growing arboretum

The Tokai Arboretum.

Dr Berta van Rooyen, Tokai

The government of the day has problems with balancing the budget, unemployment and poverty, while poaching of national fauna and flora is an ongoing concern.

Heritage agencies focus on struggle museums while museums of old suffer. Within the wider scope, the Tokai Arboretum is a colonial heritage site with ever-changing (or growing) museum objects (“Not enough funding or expertise to maintain Tokai Arboretum,” Bulletin May 30).

Major clearings happened in 1939, 1951, 1976 and the mid 1980s. That the arboretum was in bad shape had been observed by cabinet ministers in nearly all instances. Wolf trees and invasive species were then identified as problems and removed.

The present tree-mapping programme shows that trees closest to plantations were the heaviest impacted by the fire, i.e. the ridge close to the exit, the bank next to the pine plantation south, the river area and the eastern block. The assessment for clearing from October 2017 to January 2018 was complicated by burnt trees without numbers. The loss of trees is far more than anticipated.

At present, researchers are using the arboretum for taxonomy studies, baboon and birding studies; local ecologist Dr Tony Rebelo and heritage people are involved as volunteers, as are hackers and staff of Tokai Park.

Ongoing history and cultural research, feed-back of growth patterns like seldom recorded alien species are taking time and the effort of several people working in the background and with the full support of TMNP staff. Tokai arboretum is alive and well, a bit untidy but not unusual as pointed out.

Recovery is always slow. Trees can look after themselves, but our fauna and flora need to be protected. To prioritise needs understanding, as is now the case.