Trees of the Suburb

REPORT ON AUDIT OF TREES ON THE PUBLIC PAVEMENTS OF THE SUBURB OF KENSINGTON, GAUTENG – report by Fleur Honeywill January 2020

The tree audit focused on the trees on the pavements of Kensington suburb. The tree audit was conducted under the auspices of the KRRA. Initiated and managed by Fleur Honeywill it was undertaken between 21 to 28 November 2019. Fleur was assisted by 4 community service volunteers from Jeppe High School for Girls.

Purpose of the tree audit

  1. Many residents of Kensington have observed that a number of trees on the public pavements of Kensington appear to be “sick” and/or affected by something;
  2. There has been a lot of publicity about the PSHB beetle and its infestation of trees. Kensington residents are concerned that the sick and affected trees could be infested with the PSHB beetle and this concern needs to be proactively addressed;
  3. Kensington is one of the oldest suburbs in Gauteng and has a significant urban forest and tree canopy. This tree canopy is ageing, and it may be nearing the end of its lifespan. If this is the situation, then steps must be taken to replace the trees in phases to ensure that the tree canopy remains in place;
  4. The focus of the tree audit is that a replacement programme must be developed and implemented. A budget for the removal and replacement of trees must be developed and third-party sought to ensure the sustainability and longevity of the Kensington urban forest.

 

Involvement of City Parks and Zoo of Johannesburg

It was agreed by all stakeholders and concerned parties that City Parks must be involved as the audit focuses on trees on pavements. A meeting was held with representatives of City Parks and emails exchanged. The tree audit was supported by City Parks and the outcomes will be addressed in collaboration with City Parks to ensure a successful tree replacement programme.

Below is a copied excerpt from an email from Adelaide Chokoe from City Parks:

“We have met with Kensington community members to discuss how the community can assist JCPZ on doing tree assessment and counting. Fluer Honeywill thoroughly explained what the community need to do and how JCPZ can help.  Below are summarized pointers:

  • KRRA (Kensington residents ratepayers association) would like to conduct overall tree assessment with the assistance of JCPZ
  • They noted that the canopy is very old and the replacement of trees is required
  • Concerns with regard to old trees are mainly oaks as they have reached their lifespan. PSHB has nothing to do with the decline of these trees.
  • Data collected will be shared with JCPZ, this will assist in planning tree removal.
  • KRRA would like to be part of the re-greening programme in Kensington
  • We have agreed that trees affected by PSHB can be mapped, however, trees must not be painted
  • JCPZ has explained the process required for tree planting and for further assistance and clarity Hebron will assist. “

 

Summary of Tree Audit observations:

The total number of trees, gaps and stumps counted is 2, 542. About 60% of Kensington’s pavement trees have been counted. The audit team counted 2, 196 trees and 346 dead and/or dying trees, gaps and stumps. At this point 346 replacement trees are required, with many sick trees that will die and need to be replaced.

The audit team found no obvious PSHB beetle infestation in any of the trees assessed. Therefore, the audit report makes no pertinent observations or recommendations about the PSHB beetle infestation and its impact or effects on public trees in Kensington.

The audit team observes and notes that the oak trees of Kensington are mostly all sick. Something is making the oak trees sick. Many oak trees are dead or dying. Without exaggerating, it is safe to say that all the public oak trees in Kensington will need to be replaced over the next 5 years.

The audit team observes and notes that the Jacaranda trees of Kensington are in fair health. Several trees are infested with wood termite, and numerous trees have a bark disease.

The audit team observes and notes that the London Plane trees of Kensington are 50% in good health and 50% in poor health.

It is observed that the indigenous trees appear mostly to be in good health.

The audit manager observes and notes that the urban forest of Kensington is ageing and has a limited lifespan. It is important to develop and implement a tree replacement programme to be rolled out over the next 5 years in the short term. The replacement programme will need to be designed such that over the medium term all Jacaranda and London Plane trees must be replaced as they are starting to show obvious signs of ageing.

Special Note on the Oak Trees on Kensington pavements

The pavement oak trees are “sick”. It does not appear to be PSHB beetle infestation, although the symptoms may appear similar. The reason why it is unlikely to be the PSHB beetle is because in most instances the trees next to or between the oaks are healthy. Kensington’s Pin Oaks are healthy and as a reproductive host tree, they are vulnerable to PSHB beetle infestation. However, although they are situated next to oak trees on some streets, they show no signs of illness. This is best observed on Kitchener Avenue and Roberts Avenue. The oak trees are all sick, but the other tree species around and next to the oaks appear fine or healthy.

The oaks on Cumberland, Langerman, Lancaster, Kitchener, King Edward and Roberts Avenue are badly affected. For example, the oak trees on Roberts Avenue from Sanitation Avenue to the end of Roberts at the Marathon/Kitchener intersection are in a bad state. Many trees are dead and dying. The team counted 242 trees, with 99 replacements required. On Langerman Drive the team counted 180 trees, with 53 replacements required. Kitchener oaks are sick. Travelling from Rhodes Park to Darras Centre on the left pavement, 35 trees were counted. All 22 oak trees need to be replaced.

Whatever is affecting the oaks seems to be restricted to the oak trees. The infestation or disease may be transmitted by airborne spores or by the roots or both. Desk-top research indicates that the oak trees could be blighted by oak wilt, a fungus that only affects oaks. Further research must be conducted by experts. It is safe to state that the oak trees need to be replaced over the next 5 years and that those streets that have mostly oak trees must be the focus of the first phase of the replacement programme.

Special Note on the Jacaranda Trees on the pavements of Kensington

It was observed that the Jacaranda Trees are mostly in good health. However, there are numerous trees that have been infested with wood termites. A large number of trees have a bark disease. Some trees are not in good health. The Jacaranda trees are ageing and will need to be replaced over time. The trees are iconic to Kensington and play a vital role in aesthetics, air quality, shade and carbon capture. It is crucial that a replacement programme is developed for the Jacaranda trees.

Special Note on the London Plane Trees on the pavements of Kensington

There are London Plane trees on Protea Street, Northumberland (from Queen Street to Protea) and New York Street. London Plane trees are reproductive hosts to the PSHB beetle. The London Plane trees did not appear to have been infested with the PSHB beetle. However, about 50% of the London Plane trees appear to be ill. The London Plane trees on New York Street and some of the trees on Northumberland appear to have an illness. The London Plane trees on Protea are mostly in good health. Some of the trees on Protea are ill, and a few have died. These are magnificent trees and so the cause of illness needs to be ascertained and these trees must be closely monitored.

Recommendations based on findings:

  • A replacement programme for the Kensington urban forest must be developed and implemented as a matter of urgency.
  • Funds must be raised for the removal and the replacement of trees.
  • There are 346 replacement trees required as a matter of urgency, with special focus on Roberts Avenue, Kitchener and Langerman as the most focal thoroughfares.
  • The oak trees on Kensington pavements are mostly ill. Many oaks are dead and dying. Priority should be given to replacing the oak trees over the next 2 years.
  • The Jacaranda trees on Kensington pavements are ageing graciously but will need to be replaced over the next few years as many trees are showing signs of wood termite infestation and bark disease. The trees are going to reach the end of their lifespan and a plan must be in place for their replacement.
  • The London Plane trees on Kensington pavements are showing illness. The London Plane trees require special attention and monitoring. Steps should be taken to treat the affected trees and to ensure their continued survival.
  • The tree audit needs to be completed and a full data set compiled.
  • A project team to be constituted to develop a replacement programme and raise funds for the removal and replacement of trees. City Parks must be involved in the implementation of outcomes.

The audit and finding was based on F.H observation and personal knowledge and research in the matter.