Oldest Trees in Johannesburg
Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 07:39
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This thread was sparked by a visit to a house in Melrose where the trees appear to be have been planted by Voortrekkers well before the establishment of Johannesburg. The owner estimates the date of planting to be approximately 1850s / 60s. It will be difficult but we thought it could be fun to generate a list of the oldest trees in the City. Please add your contributions in the comments section below. Click here to view a fascinating article on Joburg's first trees by Lucille Davie written in 2003.

  • 1850s/1860s: Trees at 45 Melrose Street
  • 1880s: Trees in Joubert Park
  • Early 1900s: Tree in Greenhill Road, Emmarentia (blown over in a storm in 2004 - see article in the comments section)
  • Early 1900s: Champion Eucalyptus Tree at Wits (see Mail & Guardian link in the comments section)
  • Shortly after 1908: Deodar trees in Brixton Cemetery (via Sarah Welham)
  • 1920s: Jacaranda Trees at Hy Many House Randpark Ridge
  • Early 1930s: Trees at the Field and Study Centre Sandton


Davie makes some interesting general comments which are worth repeating:

  • The Bezuidenhout family, among the first white settlers in the area, built their farmhouse in 1863 on the farm Doornfontein. They planted fruit trees in Judith's Paarl and Cyrildene, east of the city centre, but they no longer exist. The farm had a "walnut walk", an avenue of walnut trees leading to the present-day bowling green. Walnuts only last about 50 years, so thewalk and trees are long gone. But what still remains is a curved row of around six glorious large oak trees in front of the house, probably offspring of the original oak trees on the farm which were planted at the same time as the house was built.
  • Smith (Anna Smith) indicates that the first jacaranda to be planted in the city was in Charlton Terrace, Doornfontein. There is a jacaranda in this street still which could be this original tree.
  • Smith quotes from The Star of 1945, in which it is recorded that the Transvaal Horticultural Society took a film of early trees that were planted around the city. Two blue spruces were growing in Joubert Park (1887), together with a "smooth-leaved holly bush, a golden cypress, a deodar, a magnificent lime, well-known to the European countryside, and one of the finest oaks in the city, 65 feet high". Some of these trees are still growing in Joubert Park. There was more, seen from the top of Munro Drive in Houghton: a Chinese Maple in Oxford Road, originally imported from Paris; poplars along Houghton Drive; a cork oak, an "enormous jacaranda with a huge, pink flowered pride of India in front of it"; birches and huge palms inprivate gardens; and a "magnificent clump of camphor trees in the garden of Onder koppies in Oxford Road". The filmmaker also found unusual trees: a tea plant, a ban oak, copper beeches, a maidenhair tree in Killarney, and a Kentucky coffee bean tree in Greenside.
  • Tree entrepreneur William Nelson, according to Smith, had nurseries in Turffontein, where "by 1896 he grew some 30 million trees, shrubs and plants for general distribution". His business was known as Nelsonia Nurseries. He apparently planted "66 miles (106km) of trees along the streets of the newly established suburb of Kensington". The task took six months to complete. She says it's believed to be the first time street trees were planted in South Africa on such a large scale.
  • Some of these early trees are still growing: wonderful tall gum trees in Beyers Naude Road in Melville; large gums in Kingsway Road in Auckland Park; five jacaranda trees, probably 80 or 90 years old, in front of Hymany House, an old farmhouse in Randpark Ridge; old planes in Dundalk Avenue in Parkview, and in the two cemeteries, Braamfontein and Brixton. And of course, all those wonderful exotics planted in Joubert Park are still there, thriving since they were planted over 100 years ago.
  • Unfortunately the magnificent huge oak in Greenhill Road Emmarentia fell down in a storm in 2004. Now when you drive past it, the remainder of the large trunk is barely visible. 

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