Conservation of an emblematic medicinal tree in South Africa

Conservation of an emblematic medicinal tree in South Africa

Strategic conservation of Warburgia salutaris, the Endangered Pepper Bark Tree, in South Africa (Phase 2)

Partner: Endangered Wildlife Trust
Years: 2022-2025

This project aims at securing the natural habitat of Warburgia salutaris (EN) through protected area expansion, restoring its habitat through invasive species management and reducing harvesting pressures in the wild by scaling up cultivation efforts.

The globally Endangered and emblematic South African medicinal tree species, Warburgia salutaris, is widely harvested for its bark by traditional healers, which threatens wild populations. This species, more widely known as the Pepper Bark tree, is also threatened by habitat transformation through alien invasive plant infestation and agricultural transformation. The project takes an integrated, threefold approach to protecting this threatened tree species.

Firstly, it will secure habitat of the relatively intact populations in the western Soutpansberg Mountains through protected area expansion. Some of the highest densities of this highly threatened species occur in these mountains.

Secondly, it will improve habitats by clearing alien invasive vegetation.

Finally, it will reduce harvesting pressures by substantially scaling up ex situ cultivation efforts. It will also include working with traders and harvesters in major regional markets for the first time in South Africa, whilst collaborating with people living adjacent to Warburgia salutaris populations to reduce harvesting pressures and improve the management of the tree’s natural habitats.