It is that time of the year again! Once again we celebrate some of the world’s most threatened trees as described by those who love them. This year we have asked project partners as well as Global Tree Specialist Group (GTSG) members to pick their #OneTreeLove.
Follow your heart
Daudet Andriafidison, Biologist, Conservation & Community Manager Madagasikara Voakajy, Madagascar
I love fruit bats, and fruit bats love baobabs – especially feeding on their flower. Hence, I too love baobabs. With their strange and gigantic forms, I like all six species of baobab in Madagascar. My favourites are the two species pollinated by the two fruit bat species, Grandidier’s baobab and Diego’s baobab. Baobabs have very long lives; a tree in southern Madagascar is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. They survive in difficult environments in the west and north of Madagascar; enduring rain, heat, and fire. In western Madagascar, baobabs are also called ‘Renala’, which means mother of the forest. I am convinced they really do play this maternal role, not only for the forest but also for people, as they provide refreshing and nutritious fruits, their leaves and bark can be used in medicine and the poorest people rely on bark for building their houses. The different forms of exploitation of the baobab trees might not be sustainable in the long term, nonetheless, these trees are striving to survive within their environment. One of my fondest memories of working in western Madagascar was watching the sunset over the world-famous Baobab Avenue.
Not all hope is lost!
Lucas Moraes, GTSG member and part of the Red Listing Team of the Brazilian Centre for Flora Conservation.
During my time working in the Rio de Janeiro Botanic Garden, I became aware of a very sad story about a tree whose living individuals were solely known from a few specimens within the botanic garden. The species, commonly known as “Guarajuba”, was considered to be extinct in the wild because of intense harvesting (its wood has superb quality) and was last known from a collection dating back to 1942. That is, until we received information that, possibly, there still were a few individuals in the wild! As soon as we heard, we headed to the region. After talking with some locals, we discovered a huge flowering individual in the garden of an elderly man, a moment that showed that not all hope is lost for this beautiful species. That is, currently, the only mature individual of the species known occurring in the wild.
One tree among the forest
Pablo Hoffman, Executive Director, Sociedade Chauá.
I can’t say that it was an easy task to choose, among so many beautiful trees within the Araucária Forest in the south of Brazil, but yes I have my favourite: Ocotea odorifera, the Sassafrás. When I get into the forest, I can almost feel this beautiful tree far away, even surrounded by the 350 tree species of this region. The deep green leaves are beautifully spiralled, providing a refreshing shadow below the trees. The leaves, bark and wood contain high quantities of safrole, which smells very good and makes the experience of seeing a Sassafrás even more enjoyable. Finding a Sassafrás is always a good sign, a tree like this only grows in very well conserved forest fragments. It is also very good to know that when you find one individual, then you probably will find many of them in the surroundings – the Sassafrás occurs naturally in groups. As always, the overexploitation for timber and biomass was a critical issue in leading the species to become Vulnerable. Today all the greatness of Sassafrás is quickly disappearing. Soon it will be an endless unrequited love for something that doesn’t exist anymore. Read how we are working to save this species.
Ben Jones, Curator, University of Oxford Harcourt Arboretum
Although I had seen Hagenia abyssinica (Kosso) planted in various collections or hotel gardens across Ethiopia, it wasn’t until I saw this magnificent tree in its natural range that I could truly appreciate it. Traveling through the Bale mountains, we drove across the Sanetti plateau and down into Harena Forest. This forest is a magical place and the Afromontane Juniper-Hagenia forests of the Bale Mountains represent a forest type unique to Ethiopia. Endemic species of fauna are also associated with this forest type, including the endangered Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni) and many bird species, highlighting the value of this ecosystem for biodiversity conservation. On my first visit, the clouds were very low, and as we descended into the forest, this magnificent tree started to emerge. Huge panicles of pinkish-red flowers graced its canopy and the compound leaves themselves in almost equal measure of 60cm or more. Not for the fainthearted, the leaves from Kosso are used in a local spirit called Araqé, which certainly provides a warm glow on those cool nights in the mountains!
To find out more about our projects to save threatened trees, visit the GTC project pages here.