Indigenous fever trees in the northern suburbs are dying because they are being stripped of their bark, and the City of Cape Town has asked the public to help it nab those responsible.
Tree experts suspect the bark is being collected to sell as traditional medicine.
Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area north, said trees along the western side of Carl Cronje Drive and also in D’Urbanvale, in Durbanville, had met this fate.
“As yet, we have no direct evidence or eyewitness accounts. We only see the sad effects,” she said.
A tree’s bark and underlying phloem – vascular tissue in plants – carry nutrients from the leaves to the roots.
The inner wood (xylem) transports water and absorbed nutrients upwards to the leaves. If this cycle is broken, the tree gradually dies.
Fever trees have smooth, slightly flaking, greenish-yellow bark which is coated in a yellow, powdery substance.
The trees have long, white thorns which are more noticeable on young trees, but become less conspicuous on mature trees. Fever trees are popular with nesting birds for the protection they provide.
“In the case of the fever trees along Carl Cronje Drive, it has taken one year for the tree to die from the time when we first saw the bark stripped. At this stage, four trees have had to be removed and more are dying,” said Ms Little.
“While there are a few things our Recreation and Parks Department can do to try to save the trees, it does not guarantee their survival.”
Residents can report offenders to law enforcement by calling 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or 107 from a landline.