Tirzah Webb, landscape architect, member TreeKeepers, Constantia
I would like to comment on the contractor’s lame excuse and factually incorrect response that all the trees were “water guzzlers”.
The one mature tree removed illegally was a 50-year-old carob, which is a great example of a water-wise Mediterranean species, a very drought-tolerant tree and requires very little water. I would argue that the primary goal here was to obtain views. The same can be said for the mature London plane trees removed which were approximately 40 to 60 years old.
Imagine if Groot Constantia had this attitude about the oaks on their estate? It is understood that the loss of one very large tree, like the ones whose stumps and root balls were too large to remove off site, requires at least 10 or more trees to compensate for all the ecological functions that mature tree provides.
Further I would like to quote landscape architect and chairman of TreeKeepers, Clare Burgess: “There were, to my knowledge, no alien invasive water guzzling trees on the site, just massive water-wise Mediterranean climate-adapted plane trees and other smaller locally adapted exotics which make up the majority of the trees planted in the City of Cape Town.
“Without these trees, Cape Town would be a barren, windswept landscape and Constantia would be far from the famous ‘green and leafy suburb’ that makes people keen to live there.
“Hopefully the new gardens will be developed using water-wise species adapted to the hot dry summers that we experience here in Cape Town and not indigenous trees from the summer rainfall areas of South Africa which need lots of irrigating to establish them.
“Since the site is now devoid of any trees and much of the well cared for topsoil has been removed, all the windbreak potential has been lost and the area will be difficult to establish as a green leafy garden once again.
“No doubt additional boreholes will be sunk to fill tanks for irrigation and the water table will be further stressed by this irresponsible removal of all the transplantable plants which could have been conserved as well as the mature established trees which needed no additional watering.“
It is important to point out that mature established trees do not use any irrigation or potable water and essentially draw their moisture from the water table beneath the surface of the ground, not the aquifers which boreholes and well points access.