Benefits of planting locally indigenous plants

Many greening projects focus on trees, but in cities like Cape Town, the remarkable diversity of the local vegetation includes very few trees. This means our energy is focussed more on greening with locally indigenous plants and shrubs, which have their own unique value, including:

  • Forming corridors or stepping stones and connecting locally indigenous insects and animals to nature reserves and other places to feed and breed
  • Providing accessible medicinal plants to local residents
  • Taking pressure off nature reserves by providing medicinal plants to harvest in residential areas
  • Forming pollination corridors so that isolated plants are pollinated by near-by insects, birds, or wind-blown pollen
  • Developing an appreciation for the beauty of local plants
  • Developing local general knowledge of local indigenous plants and how to propagate and care for them
  • Locally indigenous plants that support natural beauty of the area indirectly supports tourism

Benefits of planting trees

The following list has been compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

  • Trees play an important role in increasing urban biodiversity, providing other plants and animals with a favourable habitat, food and protection.
  • A mature tree can absorb up to 150 kg of CO2 per year. As a result, trees play an important role in climate change mitigation. Especially in cities with high levels of pollution, trees can improve air quality, making cities healthier places to live in.
  • Strategic placement of trees in cities can help to cool the air between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, thus reducing the urban heat island effect, and helping urban communities to adapt to the effects of climate change.
  • Trees can contribute to the increase of local food and nutrition security, providing food such as fruits, nuts and leaves for both human consumption and fodder. Their wood, in turn, can be used for cooking and heating.
  • Large trees are excellent filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates. They absorb pollutant gases (such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and sulfer oxides) and filter fine particulates such as dust, dirt or smoke out of the air by trapping them on leaves and bark.
  • Research shows that living in close proximity of urban green spaces and having access to them, can improve physical and mental health, for example by decreasing high blood pressure and stress. This, in turn, contributes to the well-being of urban communities.
  • Mature trees regulate water flow and play a key role in preventing floods and reducing the risk of natural disasters. A mature evergreen tree, for instance, can intercept more than 15 000 liters of water per year.
  • Trees also help to reduce carbon emissions by helping to conserve energy. For example, the correct placement of trees around buildings can reduce the need for air conditioning by 30 percent, and reduce winter heating bills by 20-50 percent.
  • Planning urban landscapes with trees can increase property value, by up to 20 percent, and attract tourism and business.

Benefits to the human community

  • Increased awareness and appreciation of the environment by a broader public
  • A way for us to positively contribute to building our own environment
  • Increased wellbeing as a result of physical and psychological health benefits of a healthy ecosystem
  • Interaction with people from the same neighborhood to work towards a common goal: enhanced feeling of belonging and purpose
  • Opportunity for those often excluded to participate (e.g. the elderly, people with limited mobility)
  • A way for people to develop an appreciation for the politics of conservation
  • A means to connect with environmental history and forgotten heritage

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