The City of Cape Town says an alarming number of indigenous trees in the metro are being illegally stripped of their bark. The bark is then sold for medicinal purposes like treating fevers and coughs. An innovative plan to save the “fever trees” has been introduced.

The fever tree is native to eastern and southern Africa and is known for its medicinal value. In Cape Town, indigenous fever trees are dying  and the problem is clearly visible in open public spaces, along busy city streets and the CBD.

The bark is stripped with pangas, knives and bricks. Nox Makunga from Stellenbosch University says some people are a bit more conservative when they strip the trees.

“Some people are a bit more conservative when they strip. They strip a little piece for their own personal use, but I think the moment it goes into the mass market, then you need to have more for the demand. So then you end up stripping the whole entire bark which means that the tree will ultimately die.”

The fever tree is identified by its green stem and white thorns. After the bark is stripped, it can no longer grow healthily and the tree is weakened. Zahid Badroodien from the City of Cape Town says the practice poses a serious threat to biodiversity.

“So we encourage residents to pick it up, to report it so that the relevant person is arrested so that they can be taken to court and charged for damage to public property.”

In an effort to curb the problem, the fever trees are being painted with a non-toxic paint. The city’s called on members of the public to report sightings of bark stripping.

Meanwhile, the city has also warned about the spread of the tree beetle fungus in Somerset West.
It says thousands of trees have been lost. The beetle attacks various species by digging tiny tunnels to lay eggs.

The city says currently, there’s no fully effective or registered treatment for the insect and the fungus and severely affected tress are removed and destroyed to contain the disease.

You can watch a full report on bark stripping in Cape Town next week Sunday on FOKUS on SABC 2.