Some TLC for giant fig tree

Walmer’s historic Moreton Bay in need of trimming, tidying to keep it from dying off

No it is not being cut down – it is just getting a spa treatment. That is the message from “tree engineer” Dave Allen, of Treeman, who has been contracted by Gutsche Properties to trim and treat the giant historic Moreton Bay fig tree at the top of Main Road in Walmer.

Gutsche Properties part-owns the adjacent Fig Tree Shopping Centre and the company contracted Allen after consulting experts about the health of the much-loved landmark, and liaising with the municipality.

Although the tree, which is about 170 years old, is closely associated with the centre, it actually stands on municipal ground, Gutsche Properties managing director Keith Bayliss said.

The work is due to begin this Sunday but Allen took time yesterday to point out some of the areas needing attention.

Dead branches need to be sawn off to encourage growth in the healthy parts of the tree, and to avoid them snapping off and dropping onto passers-by.

The exposed points where the dead branches are removed will be daubed with a latex fluid which helps protect them.

The rubbery latex is made of tree sap not unlike that produced by the fig itself and new branches simply grow over this protective layer once they are ready to do so, Allen said.

Lower down, a fire built in a hollow in the huge trunk has left the roof of the hollow blackened and brittle. “If they carry on building fires here the roof will become coal which can burn for days, boiling the sap of the tree and eventually it will die,” he said.

Another hollow has been used as a toilet and rubbish bin, leaving a deep suppurating layer blanketing the magnificent roots.

Gutsche Properties has proposed erecting a fence around the tree to stop these two problems in the long run and is waiting for comment from the metro.

The Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla) is indigenous to Australia’s east coast and named after a bay in Queensland. A handful of the trees were planted in Port Elizabeth in the mid-1800s, probably for aesthetic reasons.

They do best in wet areas and, when the Main Road fig tree was planted, the area was called Bog Farm – so named because of the plentiful groundwater which used to feed two big dams.

The late Sydney Stevens, of Walmer, recalled in 2008 when he was 89 years old how the tree was already huge when he played in it as a child.

His father managed a dairy herd on the farm and they used to make braking blocks for their wagons from branches of the tree.

Visitors used to water their cattle here and buy water at a penny for a five-gallon tin, he recalled.

Another well-known Port Elizabeth Moreton Bay fig grows on the edge of Trinder Square in Central, which used to be a lake.

One thought on “Some TLC for giant fig tree

  • February 22, 2017 at 10:44 am

    thank you for the attention to that beautiful huge fig tree, I have no doubt that the municipality will not care about it but rather destroy it. thank you to the private people who are doing this. trees also need TLC.


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