Call to move Arbor Day

It has been suggested that Arbor Day be moved to allow for Cape Town's winter rainfall.

A motion could be passed to move Arbor Day in Cape Town from September to a date in May or June.

The idea was born out of a meeting called by Ward 59 councillor Ian Iversen at the end of May, in which residents discussed retaining existing trees and adding new trees to the southern suburbs.

During the meeting, a resident suggested Arbor Day was in the wrong month in Cape Town.

“Arbor Day in September was decided upon by officials in Pretoria as that is the beginning of their rainy season, but certainly not ours in Cape Town,” Mr Iversen said.

“If trees are planted in Cape Town after the winter rainfall season, then the Parks branch or residents are needed on virtually a weekly basis to water the trees. If this doesn’t happen the trees often die.”

A motion was introduced at the Sub-council 20 meeting a fortnight ago to change Arbor Day to a date in May or June when the winter rains are at their peak.

“The motion further stated that when council reconvenes after the August elections and portfolio committees are created this motion be placed on the agenda for discussion and hopefully accepted,” Mr Iversen said.

South Africa’s Arbor Day was established in 1982, although the tree-planting tradition originated in the US as early as 1872.

Since the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of South African schoolchildren have planted trees to celebrate the environment while also learning about the value of trees in reducing carbon dioxide levels and providing oxygen.

Arbor Day was celebrated from 1945 until 2000 in the country, when the national government extended it to National Arbor Week, which lasts from September 1 to 7.

Dr David Gwynne-Evans, chairperson of Collaborative Archive of South African Biodiversity, said the motion was a “brilliant idea”.

“Though we all love the start of September, perhaps it (Arbor Day) could co-incide with the Kirstenbosch Plant Sale. I think that may have been optimised for good survival rate,” he said.

Isabella Hayden, secretary for the Friends of the Rosebank and Mowbray Greenbelt (F.R.O.G.) said the organisation would “fully support” the motion for Arbor Day in June.

“It makes no sense to start planting when the rainy season is coming to an end. People in the Western Cape are now starting to realise that autumn is our planting season, so that the plants have the whole rainy season to settle in and become at least somewhat established before our annual summer drought,” she said.

“It’s imperative that we learn to work with the natural climate, instead of against it, because we simply don’t have enough water available to water luxuriously in the dry months. June is probably safer than May, if this year’s late start to the rain is anything to go by.”

Resident Carol Thomson agreed that June would be a better time to plant trees as it appeared to be the highest rainfall month.

However, she pointed out a thorough analysis of the latest statistics needed to be done, as some studies in the past suggested June had the highest rainfall while others indicated July would be the best time to plant.