Piet Stoker (PhD)
The quest for single stem straight trunk trees
Nine out of ten clients ask for singe stem trees with an upright, straight trunk, branching at about 2m. In addition all specimens of the same species should look alike.
Look at the Wild olive tree (Olea europaea ss africana) shown on the left.
I can only speculate why this growth form is preferred. Perhaps we are all "programmed" that trees should look like this, because it is what we see everywhere along our streets and in our parking lots.
But I challenge you to go to the veld and observe the natural growth form of our indigenous trees. Often multi-stemmed, almost never upright with straight trunks and certainly not always branching higher than 2m.
Notwithstanding, this total disregard by nature of our "man made standards", South Africa's indigenous trees are exceptionally beautiful in variety and presentation.
Although I admit that for functional reasons the standard may be important and applicable (for example shade tree in a parking lot), we must have an open mind when planting indigenous trees to beautify our environment. Observe on the right the same species as above, but grown to resemble its natural growth form.
You decide which growth form will make a striking feature in your garden.
And below you can see a young Wild olive in the wild. There is no game around, hence there is no browsing line.
So next time when you set out to buy trees for your garden, think twice and consider what the natural growth form is of the tree that you intend to buy. Here is a case where beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder.