As South Africans, we’re fortunate enough to live in one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. We have an abundance of fauna and flora species, many of which can be found nowhere else on Earth. It’s easy, however, to take this incredible diversity for granted, and we don’t often take the time to really appreciate the splendour of the natural wonders we have on our doorstep.

Left to her own devices, Nature does an incredible job of keeping our precious planet healthy. Fresh water, clean air, fertile soil and an abundance of plants for food and medicine are just some of the gifts we enjoy from nature’s bounty. Unfortunately, when we pollute our rivers and seas, cut down natural forests and pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we drastically reduce Nature’s ability to do her job properly. Recovery from natural disasters takes longer, and the Earth finds it more and more difficult to adapt to our changing climate. This is why nature conservation is so important. It will be way too late to start appreciating the beauty and diversity of our natural surroundings when they’re on the verge of extinction or destruction. We have to stop taking Nature for granted and instead become actively involved in preserving the diversity of plant and animal species that share our home.

The Spectacular Soutpansberg – Nature Conservation At Its Finest

The Soutpansberg area of Limpopo is recognised as a centre of endemism and biodiversity. Here you’ll find almost 600 different species of trees – almost 400 of which occur in Morning Sun Nature Reserve. By way of comparison, the Kruger National Park, which is many times the size, features just 336 tree species.

Although South Africa has more than a thousand species of indigenous trees, large species are relatively scarce in many parts of the country. Not so in the Soutpansberg! Giant baobab trees adorn mostly the northern slopes of the mountains. Some of these legendary trees which can reach heights of up to 30 metres, and have trunk diameters of between 7 to 11 metres – a real natural wonder!

There is something special about the big baobab trees occurring in Morning Sun Nature Reserve. They are all very old and are positioned on ancient archaeological sites where, in many cases, the remnants of stone wall ruins can still be seen.

Several species of yellowwood trees, forest fever trees, giant cabbage trees, proteas and ancient tree ferns are just some of the other magnificent species you’ll find in this very special part of South Africa.

In fact, the Soutpansberg boasts approximately one-third of all known trees in South Africa – even though it accounts for just 0.5% of the country’s total area. This is hugely significant, as it represents 18 to 22 percent of all known mountain range flora. As most vegetation types within the area are predominantly woodlands, it’s not surprising that the Soutpansberg has such a large diversity of trees.

In addition to its impressive number of trees, the Soutpansberg is also home to 60% of South Africa’s birdlife, 40% of its mammals, 30% of its reptile species, and several rare and endangered frog and toad species. In fact, many of these species are only found in the Soutpansberg, and nowhere else. The high biotic diversity of the mountain range is possibly due to the fact that it remains a climatically stable area even in times of environmental flux. It is also a known hot spot for butterflies during the day, and for moths at night. No wonder the area is known as our country’s “pantry!”

Why Trees Are Such A Treasure

Trees are, quite simply, crucial to life on Earth as we know it. They are the elephants of the plant world – the largest plants on the planet. They also live longer than most other plants, giving us a vital link between our past, present and future.

They produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. This helps slow the rate of global warming. Their leafy canopies act as physical filters, trapping dust and helping to remove pollutants from the air we breathe. They also help protect us from radiation from the sun and act as a noise filter. Even their roots are useful, helping to stabilise the soil and protect against erosion. And, because they absorb thousands of litres of water, they can help prevent flooding.

Many species of trees also have medicinal properties, and even just being surrounded by trees can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and slow your heart rate. And of course, we all know standing in the shade of tree cools us down, but trees actually do more than that. As they lose moisture from their leaves, they cool the air and reflect heat upwards from their leaves. Some experts estimate trees can reduce the overall temperature of a city by as much as 7°C!

Of course, trees also provide habitats for hundreds, if not thousands of different species of insects, birds and small mammals, as well as many varieties of lichen and fungi.

To truly appreciate the majesty and wonder of trees, why not visit Morning Sun Nature Reserve? Situated in the Soutpansberg region of Limpopo Province, the reserve is home to almost 400 species of trees, including a giant baobab known locally as The Big Tree! At Morning Sun, you’ll see nature conservation in action, and gain a whole new appreciation for the wonders of our natural environment and the importance of preserving it for future generations. Please help us achieve this!

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