By gum, a poisoner has declared war on Cape Town's trees

Officials from Cape Town's recreation and parks department examine the poisoned gum tree in Wessels Road, Kenilworth.
Officials from Cape Town's recreation and parks department examine the poisoned gum tree in Wessels Road, Kenilworth.
Image: City of Cape Town

Ten gum trees in Cape Town have been deliberately poisoned in attacks that have left authorities baffled.

The latest attack targeted a 25m gum tree in Kenilworth, which is dying and will have to be removed.

Gum trees in Racecourse Road, Durbanville, have died after being poisoned in October 2019.
Gum trees in Racecourse Road, Durbanville, have died after being poisoned in October 2019.
Image: City of Cape Town

Last October, nine trees in Durbanville were targeted, and a criminal case was opened with the police.

Zahid Badroodien, the Cape Town mayoral committee member for community services, said he feared more trees could be targeted.

He speculated that motives for poisoning trees could be to stop leaves and seed capsules falling on private property, fears about branches or the whole tree falling, and to remove a tree so development could go ahead.

The Kenilworth attack, in Wessels Road, targeted a tree estimated to be between 75 and 100 years old. “Several holes were drilled around the base of the tree and a herbicide injected into the holes, leaving a blue stain,” said Badroodien.

In the Racecourse Road attack in Durbanville, herbicide was applied in small pools around three trees, others were sprayed with poison, and holes were drilled in the rest before poison was injected.

“The intentional destruction of trees is worrying as it indicates the lengths some will go to, to destroy trees that play such a vital role in the ecosystem and urban landscape,” said Badroodien.

“Apart from the aesthetic value, trees also have environmental benefits such as cooling, providing shade for people, providing a safe space for birds and the absorption of carbon dioxide.

Herbicide used to poison the Kenilworth gum tree left blue residue around holes drilled to inject it.
Herbicide used to poison the Kenilworth gum tree left blue residue around holes drilled to inject it.
Image: City of Cape Town

Ten gum trees in Cape Town have been deliberately poisoned in attacks which have left authorities baffled

“Trees could also add up to 15% to property values and save on air-conditioning costs, which is an economic benefit. The city views this illegal activity in a serious light and we will investigate this to hold those responsible to account.”

Badroodien said there was no way to cure a tree that had been poisoned, and early detection was difficult.

“In most instances, only when the branches are dead do we notice that something could be wrong,” he said.

He asked residents to inform the city arborist of suspected poisoning by e-mailing arborist@capetown.gov.za or calling one of the council’s emergency numbers (107 from a landline, 021-480-7700 from a cellphone).


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