King Filip and Queen Mathilde at Kirstenbosch

Breadfruit trees are royal gift to South Africa

King Filip and Queen Mathilde concluded their 4-day state visit to South Africa by presenting an extraordinary gift to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town: two breadfruit trees from the Botanic Garden in Meise (Flemish Brabant).

The Belgian royals donated the two extremely rare breadfruit trees and received a gift in return: seeds of South Africa’s national flower, the king protea. 

Biodiversity was the theme of the last day of the royal visit.  The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute that can also count on support from the Flemish authorities. 

Botanic gardens like Meise and Kirstenbosch routinely exchange plant varieties in a bid to halt loss of biodiversity. Rare breadfruit trees have been around since the Age of the Dinosaurs, but according to the Meise Botanic Garden are as threatened today as the rhinoceros.  Two types of breadfruit tree exist.  Of the Lillie breadfruit tree only 350 specimens are known to be in existence, for the Middelburg breadfruit tree the figure is barely 180. Thieves often get away with both varieties, some even from Kirstenbosch.  In the Kruger Park armed park wardens guard the remaining breadfruit trees against poachers.

King Filip and Queen Mathilde will donate the king protea seeds to the Meise Botanic garden where they will be grown in the renovated greenhouses that are reopening for Easter.  Here they will grow together with Mediterranean, South African and Australian plants.

The Middelburg Breadfruit Tree
C T Johansson op Wikimedia

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