Van Riebeeck’s Hedge, Kirstenbosch

Van Riebeeck's Hedge, Kirstenbosch

Photo Caption: Do you know where this epic tree is?

It is known as Van Riebeek’s hedge, and has a bit of a dark history. This type of tree is called a Wild Almond but is actually part of the protea family. Read about it on our website to learn more.

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Photo by @funforlouis

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On the lower slopes of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden lies Van Riebeeck’s Hedge. With the nickname of magic forest, this is a series of indigenous wild almond trees. In 1660 governor Jan van Riebeeck gave orders for its creation. It served as a boundary to the settlement of the Cape. The wild almonds, together with a series of thorny shrubs, tried to prevent any cattle or sheep from getting through and to stop the Khoi Khoi from raiding livestock from the Dutch settlement. Characterized by their enormous intertwined branches and a tendency to grow horizontally as much as vertically, the wild almonds formed a defensive barrier which runs from the mouth of the Salt River, along the Liesbeeck River, up Wynberg Hill to Kirstenbosch.

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The hedge was an ineffective demarcation line of the settlement and a futile attempt to deter livestock thieves. Some consider it the symbol of the start of apartheid for successfully cutting the indigenous Khoi Khoi off from their traditional grazing land.

Today, there are only two remaining sections of Van Riebeeck’s Hedge. One section is the trees on the banks of the stream at Kirstenbosch, declared a national monument in April 1936. The other section is in Bishop’s Court, declared a national monument in 1945. The two sections are the oldest national monuments in South Africa.