Last updateWed, 10 May 2017 2pm



100 indigenous tree species under threat

Close to 100 indigenous trees may be wiped out if no drastic measures are taken to save them from wood sales and development projects. LUNGA MASUKU looks into some of the trees.

Experts from the department of forestry in the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism say trees like BPterocapus angolens Wildteak C, Bloodwood, popularly known as Kiaat or Umvangati under threat, well, among many others!

They said these critically endangered trees can be found in some parts of the country, Sibhaha Umdumezulu are some of the trees reportedly found in northern Swaziland at Herefords, Mlawula and Sinceni. Libhuma whose scientific name is known as Typha Capenssis and Libangalala known as Eriosema cannot be easily detected they are usually used to boost men’s libido and also for treating women ailments.

Vendors have been making a killing through the sale of products made out of Umvangati; some of the products have been exported to overseas countries in turn generating foreign currency for the vendors. 

Umdumezulu or African Almond/Red Stinkwood can be as tall as 25 metres in height, can be a lovely shade tree. It is found in central Swaziland with some patches along the Lubombo escarpment. It can be used for treating prostate cancer.

Sibhaha or Pepperteak tree grows on rocky and dry areas like Herefords, Sinceni, Gundvwini, Ngudzeni, some parts of the Lubombo escarpment. It can be used for treating coughs and colds. It has a peppery smell when crushed and it has been destroyed in most parts of the country because of over harvesting.        

Umkhaya or Black Monkey Thorn: It is usually found in most parts of the country and it can be used for treating eye and back complaints. 

Boophane Distica/Incumbe or Siphahluka it grows on rocky areas and it can be used for plugging sour milk containers. Its bulb is poisonous to stock; it can be used in game hunting. Medically, it is used to treat pain woods and narcotics. It is currently found in almost parts of the country but greatly endangered.   

Cassipourea Swaziniens is sometimes known as Swazi Onion wood. Its distribution is very restricted because it is only found around Mhlosheni on your way to Pigg’s Peak, about two kilometres of Mbabane, Nhlangano and Nsongweni. It is nearing extinction. In neighbouring South Africa it is only found in some parts of the Mpumalanga Province and in northern Kwazulu Natal.

Encephalartos spp (Cycads) its SiSwati name is Gebeleweni, it is mostly found along the Lubombo escarpment. Due to its high usage it is now limited and is regarded as a protective charm considered to be a lightening conductor.      

Combretum imberte wawra its SiSwati name is Umphulumbu or Phondvolowendlovu, it is critically endangered and it is usually is open bushvelds. It can grow up to 20 metres high. Mainly used for fencing, furniture making, pine props and fire wood. It is critically endegared. It is found in protected areas and lowveld parts of the country.

Combretum molle R.Br ex G.Don its common name is velvet Bushwillow or Imbondvo lemnyama. It can be used as traditional medicine to treat snake bite and its roots for treating infertility, abortions and constipation. It is critically endangered.

Scierocarya birrea (Hoschst. Ssp caffra (Sond) Kwakwaro common name is marula its Siswati name is Umganu. Widespread in Swaziland’s geographic regions. It can be used as food, beverages production, medicinal uses and cultural uses.

Siphonochilus aethipicus (Schweinf) B.L Burtt its Siswati name is known as Sidvungula. It is found around Malolotja subpopulation is well known and utilised by local herbalists, even though it is found protected areas like game reserves.  

Typha capensis its Siswati name is Libhuma and is found in riverine environments known to occur in the Highveld of Swaziland. It can be used as an Aesthetic.

Hypoxis spp or Inkhofu lenkhulu is normally found mainly in the Highveld and Middleveld regions of the country in protected areas. It can be used for treating cancers, inflammation, HIV, headaches, mental disorders and in western medicines. Its leaves can be used for making ropes.   

Some of the plants under a schedule of trees under threat consist of about 94 plants regarded as endangered or protected flora. These trees include Umphahluka, Umkholikholi, Bunkhutfu, Umhhohlo, Incumbe or Siphahluka. Other trees are only found in the country but they have found their way to other parts of Africa.    

Trees like Umkhanyakudze popularly as Acacia xathrophlea Benth and Sihlakahla and Sivangatane, Sisila Semphala and Likhatsatwane. These trees may be found in most parts of the country but they also face extension if no drastic measures will be taken to protect them. Some trees have to be transferred to category A because they were under severe threat from people who destroy these trees for traditional medicine and other uses. 

Libangalala or Eriocsema is one tree that traditional healers like using for making their concoctions to help men who want to be sexually active. Such trees cannot be easily detected but were found in most parts of the country. Uncontrolled grass fires have contributed to the introduction of alien plants. Deforestation is partly to blame for the widespread of invasive plants. Efforts have been employed by the ministry to save these trees.   

Development leads to introduction of alien trees

Looking at the place behind the country’s main supermarket at the Mall, alien trees have grown in recent years. Experts from the Forestry Department in the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism painted a gloomy picture about the presence of alien trees. 

Senior Forest Officer, Solomon Gamedze indicated that there were measures that were being taken to try and address the challenges faced by the country. Gamedze said trees is locally known Gwayana or its known as Bug Weed, another invasive plant is Lantana which is popularly as Mehlo akati has been spotted in wetlands. 

A new project is currently under construction in Malkerns where a village supposed to be known as Umvangati Village. The name of the village came after a lot of lot these trees grew in the vicinity of the area.      

He attributed the invasion to the destruction of natural trees that were previously found along the banks of the Mbabane River. Uncontrolled grass fires have also contributed to the increase of alien plants. Institutions like the University of Swaziland have come up with an initiative that has seen them growing some indigenous trees just before Mafutseni. This was the brainchild of former vice chancellor Professor Lydia Makhubu who authored a titled Traditional Medicine and Healing.

A wild fire act needs to be looked into because the act has been around to over 60 years and this was because in recent years the country has seen a number of communities burnt by uncontrolled grass fires. Wattle trees have not been spurred because of the advent of companies producing charcoal. Burnt roots of some grass find themselves exposed to soil erosion whenever there are heavy floods in areas that have been burnt before the first rains.    

Measures are currently under way to ensure that companies in the business of making charcoal were under the watchful eye of the forestry department.