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Autumn at the tree nursery

Autumn at the tree nursery

Autumn at the tree nursery
ALISON ASHBY

In the cool of autumn, branches are heavy with seed and dry leaves flutter in droves from deciduous trees. When I visited the Kasane Tree Nursery, maintenance work was in full swing and employees were occupied with replacing torn tree bags and topping up each specimen with rich compost – ‘tender loving care’ to see them through the winter months.

While supervisor Obusitswe Kakambi, known as KK, was showing me around, four Botswana Defence Force men tracked him down and enquired about available trees. One among them was eager to green up his property in Gaborone and wanted to take home a variety after his Kasane posting.

They trooped off with KK and after their tour I noticed that the soldier had settled for two Scotsman’s rattles, (Amblygonocarpus endongensis) that thrive in the Kasane forest reserves - tall, beautifully rounded evergreen trees with fascinating rattley pods; two pod mahoganies, (Afzelia quanzensis) - magnificent spreading deciduous trees, with seedpods like exquisite jewellery boxes, their large and colourful seeds encased in crafted spaces; and a nyala tree (Xanthocercis zambesiaca) – a large evergreen which develops a dense crown, whose shade and fleshy edible fruit is enjoyed by animals and birds alike.

The pleasure he took from his purchases clearly made an impression on one of his comrades, who ran back and chose a nyala tree for his own home. It was encouraging to see the soldiers patronise the Nursery; it is becoming a tradition among BDF personnel posted to the Chobe area.

While KK was busy with his customers, a lady employee showed me the seedbeds under shadecloth protection from monkeys and baboons: troughs of river sand which had largely been emptied, the germinated seedlings having already been pricked out into bags. There was only one species left, still too small to disturb – these were bird plum (Berchemia discolor), popular indigenous fruiters.

KK told me that the busiest period in the tree nursery is August, when temperatures rise and the marvels of rebirth stir below and above the soil surface – a time to anticipate.

More from this issue:
ZT17 (June 2014) - Main Menu
ZT17 (June 2014) - Full Content Listing

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