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Tree tag – Tree of the year

Every year is represented by a tree of the year and this year’s is the Parsley Tree

The Parsley Tree

Mr J. Sterling Mortor was a firm believer in the beauty and benefits of trees. He published articles on the value of trees for soil protection, fruit and shade and urged people to plant trees. Finally he persuaded the local agricultural board to set aside a day for planting trees and so Arbor Day was celebrated in every US state. Only in 1983 South-Africa celebrated Arbor Day and soon the national government realised the health, beauty and environmental value of trees in our communities and extended Arbor Day to Arbor Week.

Heteromorpha arborescens
Common name – Parsley tree (Eng) Wilde pietersielie (Afr)

TThe Parsley tree assumes a different guise from area to area over a large part of the African continent, therefor Heteromorpha – a Greek word meaning different forms. Arborescens refers to its tree like habit. The Parsley tree is variable in shape and size with four varieties (var. abyssinica, var. collina, and var. frutescens). There are several distinctive features when identifying Parsley tree. The bark is shiny and smooth and peels off in horizontal shapes.

This trees leaves are variable in size and shape and range from light-green to grey-green. Like most other trees during autumn, the leaves may turn yellow and red before falling off. Crushed – they smell of parsley and parsnips, hence the common name. During December-January the small green or yellow flowers bloom. They are strong-smelling and arranged in umbels. The fruits form from April onwards and are small with two wings on one side and three on the other.

South-Africa is represented by about 30 genera of its wide-spread family. The Parsley tree occurs from the Southern Cape, through Eastern Cape, Free-State, KZN, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Swaziland.

Uses and Cultural Aspects

The Parsley family has played an incredible role in the lives of humans. Many species have food and medicinal value, from parsley to carrots. An infusion of parsley leaves in enema treats abdominal pains and, strange enough, intestinal worms in children. Mashing and boiling the root is used to treat shortness of breath, coughs and dysentery.

Species of the parsley plant is also used to treat nervous and mental disorders. Chiefs in Lesotho believe planting parsley in their kraals will ensure the loyalty of their people. In the Free-State this tree is planted with charm intent in every lekhotla (meeting). Many also believe by inhaling the smoke from the burning plant will treat headaches. /td>

Growing Heteromorpha arborescens – Parsley tree

Early summer is the best time to sow parsley seeds (October to December). Many seedlings grow under other trees and once they are fully grown, they are frost and drought resistant making them perfect for an inland garden. Planting them yourself - once thinned out and sown in a plug tray with one part compost to one part river sand, the seeds are watered every second day. Do not let the sowing medium dry out. Remember to keep the plug tray in a shady area. It will take two weeks for the seeds to germinate and only after three months the seedlings can be transplanted.
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