Saving Trees

Some consideration please before removing older or “damaged” trees from our environments: 

Structural integrity vs. vitality or healthy growth in trees –

Structural integrity can be further compromised by vigorous healthy growth developing on poor or weakened portions of the tree, causing hazards to develop with high risk below the tree. This risk typically develops when trees are cut back to stubs and “coppice” growth develops around wounds from the tree’s dormant buds. This re-growth might be poorly attached, like in Eucalyptus, or develop on wounds which have poor structural integrity due to wood rot as seen often on Oak trees. This re-growth developed from dormant buds is a survival mechanism of trees to quickly regain a crown with leaves which provide the sugars trees need for survival via photosynthesis.

It is possible that these trees can be saved and made safe again by lowering their risk. This way trees are retained and continue being valuable ASSETS, in terms of their landscape value, environmental functionality, and cultural / historical significance in our communities. Tree work requirements can be applied to ensure a tree’s long term healthy / safe growth by applying a Tree Restoration process using acceptable arboricultural practises.

Why the fuss? Older or so called mature trees are the most valuable in the Urban Forest – they contain and maintain large amounts of bio-diversity. Above ground in their canopies Oak trees are supporting up-to 500 different organisms, and below ground millions of species of which we know very little of. It is my opinion that these trees could be supporting the soil bio-diversity and organisms which were there when the then natural vegetation or forests on the lower Table Mountain covered these slopes in Cape Town. Felling a tree removes the supportive environment bio-diversity is built on over decades. This has a significant impact on Carbon sequestration. It is well documented that older trees produce more oxygen, remove more pollutants including impurities such as dust particles, and excrete the volatile organic compounds which make us feel good, and so on.

The point is replacement trees of 2 or 5 years old cannot do what these older trees can for our Urban Environment – they are vitally important and are disappearing to fast.

Trees are different to humans – they can rejuvenate and replace damaged portions and re-develop into valuable viable trees after receiving care. Damaged trees could be saved by tree restoration. Hazard reduction can be done which will require removing heavy end weight and shaping the tree and developing a structure from where new growth can develop. A program over 5 years could redevelop a crown which will be viable and remain an asset. The cost of cure and care will be insignificant over the trees life span compared with the values it brings. Trees asset values, once quantified in monetary terms far outweigh the long term costs which our taxes will pay for to maintain these trees.

Contribution by: Riaan van Zyl / BSc Forest Conservation (SU) / A member of TreeKeepers and Practicing Arborist Since 1984 / 082 5737293 / 

For: Urban Forest Management, Arboriculture, and Conservation Forestry

Tree on palmboom

A formal application has to made to the Department of Forestry before a council tree can be removed.

City of Cape Town’s By-Law:

Trees on roadside verges or any public land may not be damaged, pruned or removed without permission from the City. Any such action is in contravention of Section 9(1) of the City of Cape Town’s By-Law relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Nuisances and anybody who is guilty of such action will be prosecuted

 You can report illegal tree cutting to any of the below officials:

1.Johan Herholdt
Head: Area Recreation and Parks , Newlands
Tel: 021 444 1692
Cell: 084 629 3257


2.Jennifer Pienaar
Senior Professional Officer: Recreation and Parks
Palmboom Municipal Offices
59 Palmboom Street , 7700 082 292 2826


3.Clare Burgess from Tree Keepers: 021 671 7002.


4.City’s Call Centre number 0860103089 (all hours) 


  1. Wynberg Law Enforcement 021-7974207 (office hours).