It's hard to believe Eucalyptus trees are not native to South Africa. From our cities to the most remote rural areas all over the country, they thrive, dominating the landscape.
Native South African trees are generally slow growing, and only grow in sites that receive higher rainfall, but because the climate is mostly arid, these site are few and far between.
The British settlers brought Eucalyptus trees over from Australia in the late 18th century, once indigenous forests had been over-exploited. Australian trees are fast-growing in warm climates where most trees won’t grow, and they produce strong timber. They were planted in huge numbers for various economic, environmental and aesthetic reasons.
Today they are widely considered as one of the greatest threats to many of the country’s unique native plants, and they use precious water needed for local flora, rural communities and healthy rivers. They are foreign, invasive, and a legacy of the colonial industrialisation of South Africa. And yet they are an icon that helps me identify a South African landscape.