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What tree (shrub, grass or flower) is this?

I have been caught many times, standing amazed and in awe of a large tree, a beautiful flower, grassy pastures and corporate landscapes wondering what it is called and what the history about this tree could be, if any behind it. Why not find out? Tree Identification Survey’s are one such way in which we can answer these questions and create a learning experience or educational poster about the ecosystem we share an office with. The information from these surveys can easily be displayed and spark interest, create awareness and even lead to more involvement in environmental protection which in return can reduce your company’s carbon footprint and environmental impact. The beauty is that there are no limits to where it can be applied from shopping malls, lifestyle centres, corporate office parks and even country clubs.

What is Protected Trees, how would I know and what do I do?

The Act, as previously mentioned, identifies a list of trees that are protected based on their distribution, their heritage, their conservation status and aesthetic value in terms of Section 12 which is also reviewed as these species decline or their status change. A protected tree is just as the word suggests, protected from commercial activities, cultivation and felling as well as and including personal use or possession without a valid license.

Tree Identification Surveys or Floral Reports will be one such instrument to determine whether a tree is listed as protected in which case it will then start a new process of obtaining a license to remain in possession of such species as per Section 15(1) of the Act. According to Section 15(1) of the Act, “…no person may cut, disturb, damage, destroy, or remove any protected tree; collect, remove, transport, export, purchase, sell, donate or in any other manner acquire or dispose of any protected tree, except under license granted by the Minister”. If you are caught with a protected tree identified on the aforementioned list in your possession and/ or on your premises, you will be subject to a Section 62 and 63 offence and may be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a period of three years and/ or a penalty dependant on the severity of the offence. Let us look at an example. Suppose you are planning an expansion of an area at work, home or recreational property and the trees need to be removed, the question is? Are they invasive and alien species that can be removed or is it a protected species that may not be removed nor disturbed without a license and justified approval from the Minister?

My ISO Audit requirements expects a current Fauna & Flora Report?

Depending on the area and/or industry in which your organisation operates, at times one of the requirements for ISO certification and to prepare for the re- certification a report on the indigenous and naturally occurring flora will be required. The Tree Identification Survey will serve this purpose, since it identifies all trees, shrubs, grass and flower species indigenous to the region. This also opens the opportunity to show environmental responsibility and points towards caring for the environmental and providing education towards a greener future.

Closing Remarks

In summary, whether we want to provide environmental education and create awareness through these surveys and reports on identified indigenous flora on our premises or we want to ensure that we operate within the legislative parameters and prevent the possession of protected trees illegally, the benefits to conducting Tree Identification Surveys are more wide- spread than we realize. For more on this topic or to enquire about such surveys or Tree Management practices, contact Viann Eben Nel on viann.nel@inlexso.co.za.

Viann Eben Nel


Viann is passionate about sustainability and how we should preserve the Earth’s natural diversity which he can illustrate through Tree Identification Surveys and Vegetation Studies, coupled with developing environmental management plans and advising on potential environmental aspects in assuring OHS Compliance. South Africa is a richly endowed stretch of land that is home to approximately 1700 species of Trees and Shrubs across our beautiful country. Sadly, these numbers continue to decline, and the respective quantities reduces due to economic growth and development not considering sustainability nor running parallel to one another. Currently, the main piece of legislation protecting South Africa’s trees, shrubs and urban forests is the National Forests Act, 84 of 1998, thereafter referred to as the Act with municipal bylaws of respective regions and districts providing their own additional support. Select species of trees in Southern Africa has a rich history and some trees even feature in prescribed Afrikaans readings at school levels, i.e. “Kringe in n Bos” with mention about the Outeniqua Yellowwood (Podocarpus falcatus). Why then not do our best as South Africans and inhabitants of this Planet for only a while to protect these trees, create awareness and inspire environmental education?