Wonderboom - Pretoria's 1000-year-old wonder tree

Incomparably beautiful

"Onvergelijkelijk schoon en verheven boven alle andere staan hij daar als een monarch van het woud. Hoeveel geslachten van menschen en dieren hebben zich niet in zijnen schaduw verkwikt! (Incomparably beautiful and above all others he stands there like a monarch of the forest. How many generations of men and animals have not refreshed themselves in his shadow!") - Thomas Burgers, newly-elected president of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) in 1871, on visiting the Wonderboom.

The tree which excited the new-elected president to such raptures (and please forgive my poor translation - I don't really have any High Dutch so this was a bit of a guess!) has been around a long, long time - at least 1000 years, and it is indeed a beautiful sight.

The tree itself is a wild fig of the variety Ficus salicifolia and was once, before a fire drastically reduced its size in 1870, big enough for 1000 people or 22 ox-wagons with 20 oxen in front of each to shelter under its branches.

When Burgers saw it, it had already been reduced in size and the tree has since been the victim of a parasitic infestation. It remains an awe-inspiring sight.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Diagram of the Wonderboom on one of the information plques in the reserve. The walkway into the heart of the tree.Mmakoma Diane Maila enjoying the coolness of the interior of the tree.Inside the treeThe steep, stony path to the ridgeThis little guy seemd more surprised than frightened by my passing by.The view from the top is breathtaking.Looking out over the northern suburbs of PretoriaThe ruins of the fort
Diagram of the Wonderboom on one of the information plques in the reserve.
Diagram of the Wonderboom on one of the information plques in the reserve.
The walkway into the heart of the tree.
The walkway into the heart of the tree.
Mmakoma Diane Maila enjoying the coolness of the interior of the tree.
Mmakoma Diane Maila enjoying the coolness of the interior of the tree.
Inside the tree
Inside the tree
The steep, stony path to the ridge
The steep, stony path to the ridge
This little guy seemd more surprised than frightened by my passing by.
This little guy seemd more surprised than frightened by my passing by.
The view from the top is breathtaking.
The view from the top is breathtaking.
Looking out over the northern suburbs of Pretoria
Looking out over the northern suburbs of Pretoria
The ruins of the fort
The ruins of the fort

The nature reserve and the fort

The enormous size of the tree is because of the length of the branches which then dip and touch the ground far from the "mother" tree. Where some of the branches touch the ground a "daughter" tree grows, spreading the branches further.

The effect is of a grove of trees all connected. The tree itself and the surrounding countryside have been turned into a national monument and nature reserve administered by the City of Tshwane's (Pretoria is a part of the metropole Tshwane) Agriculture and Environmental Management Department.

The Wonderboom Nature Reserve is on the northern side of the Magaliesberg range of mountains in the north of Pretoria.

At the top of the ridge behind the reserve is a fort built in 1897 by the ZAR government to protect Pretoria. It is one of four forts built around that time, two of which are in ruins, including this one. This fort was built by Krupp and Company of Germany at a cost of 49000 UK pounds. It was blown up, perhaps on the order of then Prime Minister of South Africa Jan Smuts at the beginning of World War II for fear that it might have been used as a rallying point for right-wingers opposed to the entry of South Africa into the war on the side of the Allies.

The climb up to the fort is quite a difficult one, especially on a searingly hot day, as it was when I made the climb. The beauty and tranquility at the summit though, by far outweighs the aching muscles it cost to get there!


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Early stone age implement. From information plaque in the ReserveKing Mzilikazi. Image Nuwe GeskiedenisRobert Moffat. Image Wikipedia
Early stone age implement. From information plaque in the Reserve
Early stone age implement. From information plaque in the Reserve
King Mzilikazi. Image Nuwe Geskiedenis
King Mzilikazi. Image Nuwe Geskiedenis
Robert Moffat. Image Wikipedia
Robert Moffat. Image Wikipedia

Some history

The site of the Wonderboom is one rich in history and pre-history. Evidence has been found of early, middle and late stone age settlements, each yielding significant finds in the form of hand axes, scrapers, cleavers and arrow heads.

Then closer to the historical era members of the Kwena Magopa group of Tswana-speakers settled in the vicinity of the tree. Later they were displaced by members of the Po group of Nguni-speakers. This was in the early 19th Century.

Later Mzilikazi, the great chief, set up a kingdom in the Magaliesberg and a group of his followers, the Kungwini, settled in the Wonderboom area.

The first white visitors to the area were three hunter-traders from Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, the Scotsmen William Mcluckie, Robert Scoon and David Hume (not the philosopher, I guess!). These three told Mzilikazi of the work being done in Kuruman by the great missionary Robert Moffat. Mzilikazi sent a deputation to Moffat, who subsequently visited Mzilikazi, thus starting what became an unusual friendship between the two men.

A markerWonderboom Nature Reserve, Pretoria -
Wonderboom Nature Reserve, Pretoria, South Africa
[get directions]

A thousand-year-old tree rich in history

Copyright notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2010

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Comments 63 comments

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Thanks for the info. It looks like a place I'd love to see. I'll have to add it to my wish list.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 5 years ago from Minnesota

Very interesting and informative hub Tony. Love the pictures too. Love trees and learning their history. Trees are one of God's greatest creations. I had a huge apple tree in my yard as a child and loved climbing in it and hiding in it. It brought me so much peace:)


ExpandYourMind profile image

ExpandYourMind 5 years ago from Midwest USA

Neat, TonyMac. Reminds me of Avatar and the significance of the mother tree. Thanks for sharing this.


Makiwa profile image

Makiwa 5 years ago from Australia

Life gets in the way and we forget the beautiful things around us - thanks for the reminder


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

It does look more like a copse, very interesting Tony, the fort would have been difficult to attack by the sound of it. Cheers nice hub.


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 5 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Great job. Thank you soo much


ocbill profile image

ocbill 5 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

It's interesting this tree has survived all these centuries given the weather, fire, quake events that can happen anywhere. It is truly special.


Raymond Tremain 5 years ago

Tony I have heard about this tree long ago and yes it is good that developers have not come in to cut it down.

There is a tree in Nottingham England which is many years old as well, and some branches need props to hold them up, this tree is where Robin Hood used to use as a shelter, I have seen it and it is huge but not as large as your tree, well done

God loves all

ramon


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Another great hub from you, Tony. I never knew about this information before. I learn much from you about this tree. This was amazing to find an old tree. Thanks for share this valuable information. Rating Up as usual.

Prasetio:)


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

The tree is beautiful with so much history,I'm happy that it survived so much strife. Thank you Tony for sharing another part of your country.

Love and Peace


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

You do these so well! You're great at so many different topics and FAST! God bless you BrotherMan Tony! Keep us in that beautiful head of yours!


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 5 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

This tree is spectacular! I love the explanation of it. The history is amazing. The nature reserve is just beautiful. I always expect a special treat like this from you. Thanks so much.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Rob - you ae welcome and thanks for the visit and the comment. There is much to see and enjoy in South Africa, so do come by some time!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Minnetonka Twin - I too love trees. As a child I also climbed whenever I got the chance - and since we were in a very wooded area I got lots of chances!

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

EYM - thanks for the comment! Have yet to see Avatar but will do so soon!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Makiwa - you are welcome and thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Attemptedhumour - thanks for stopping by and commenting. The fort would have been difficult to attack back when it was built, though I guess with modern weapons rather less so!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Granny's House - thanks for the comment. I appreciate your visit.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Bill - I appreciate your stopping by and commenting. It is a wonder that the tree has survived all those things. I just wishI could have seen it in its prime more than 100 years ago!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ramon - thanks for the added information. I would love to see the tree in Nottingham Forest. Great to have you drop by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Prasetio - I appreciate your comment so much. Thanks. It is an amazing tree.

Love and peace

Tony


AnnieRoseVA 5 years ago

Thanks so much for writing about the Wonderboom tree - what an amazing miracle of nature. I love reading history, so found your whole article very interesting.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Aye, Tony, you've taught me some history and shown a miracle of Gods miraculous ability to keep a part of creation alive so many years, Peace and Love, Dusty


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

This account, how wonderful. And a fig! On my ranch there was a brave fig tree, growing by the water tank. But a porcupine attacked it and ate its bark and killed it. I have a large spot in my heart for fig trees. And this one you've featured is so amazing! How marvelous that it is honored so. Just so good. Thanks for this share!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

I have to visit that amazing tree again. Thanks so much for writing a hub about it. You’ve mentioned Mzilikazi – he truly deserves to be regarded as successful as Shaka. What about a hub about him, Tony? I have the idea that the Voortrekkers were able to settle themselves much more easier in Transvaal because of the havoc caused by him in his endeavor to conquer ‘the world’. Did you know that he caused cannibalism in ±1937-1938? Did you read the book “My People” written by Credo Mutwa? This is a very interesting book, revealing a lot we never knew. And did you hear Gideon Joubert, writer of Die Groot Gedagte’ died last week or when?

We lived a few miles away from that tree; I was many times ‘a monkey’ on that Magaliesberg. Loved to climb it. Even set it on fire once – no, not I, my cousin. But I was with her, so just as guilty as she.

Laat dit goed gaan met jou, my vriend. Geniet die naweek.


BJBenson profile image

BJBenson 5 years ago from USA

I love trees. The home we are renting has lot of trees and wildlife. I hope that your life has been doing fine while I was moving and starting my new life. This was a wonderful lesson, thank you.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ruby - I appreciate your visit and comment very much indeed! The tree almost didn't survive, but it did, for which I also am grateful.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Micky, my brotherman, you are always, always in my head! How could I forget this wonderful brother? Never!

Love and peace

Tony


cameciob profile image

cameciob 5 years ago

Hi Tony, you always bring up new - or old (in this case) - interesting things for your reders. That is indeed a wonder tree. I'll put this place on my travel list. I hope the tree would still be alive by the time I'll get there. Voted up and rated.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Lisa - the tree and the place are both very special. Thanks for your kind words.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

AnnieRose - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you enjoyed the read.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Dusty - thanks for coming by, my friend!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Nellieanna - you are so right about fig trees. I also like them very much! We have quite a few varieties here in South Africa and they provide a favourite food to some of the monkeys in the wild as well as birds.

Naughty porcupine!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Martie - jammer ek het so lank gevat om te antwoord! En dis nou alweer laat na 10.30 die nag.

As jy weer Wonderboom-toe gaan laat weet my en ek bring lekker brood en kaas en ons maak piekniek daar, of hoe? (Kan jy vir 'n bietjie wyn sorg?) LOL!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

BJ - good to know you're back here! I had sondered where you had gottne to! Thanks for stopping by.

I am well and busy, thank you.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Camelia - thanks for the visit and the kind words. I really appreciate them and I'm so glad that you enjoyed the read - makes it all worth while!

Do come on over - the tree has lasted 1000 years and so I don't think it's likely to go away too soon! I would love to show you around!

Love and peace

Tony


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 5 years ago from I'm outta here

WOW there are so many magical treasures in this amazing creation we call world, I really appreciate your bringing such magestic to our attention. I enjoyed learning about and seeing the Wonderboom Pretorias 1000 year old tree, the cherished tree! Love and Peace :)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Katie - the is truly wonderful, is it not? And this "wonder" is certainly a tree to be cherished. Thanks for stopping by with such a great comment.

Love and peace

Tony


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

You always manage to write really interesting hubs whatever the subject. Thank you for this one. (In Tenerife we have a tree protected, supposedly 2000 yrs old. They call it the Dragon tree (EL Drago)My husband doesn´t believe it. Cynic.!


HendrikDB profile image

HendrikDB 5 years ago

Thanks. It brought back fond memories. I lived for 26 years in Pretoria and it was a favorite picnic spot of us!


reddog1027 profile image

reddog1027 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

An amazing tree. I can only imagine what it looked like before the fire. Because of your great hubs, I learn a little more about South Africa every time I read one. Thanks.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

The USA has had opportunities to protect its ancient trees, and in some respects is able to. But this protection is rare. I hope your Hub is an inspiration to those who know the fates of ancient live oaks and sequoias in this country and write about them for the benefit of all.

As reddog stated above, "I learn a little more about South Africa every time I read one [of your great Hubs]." Thank you so much for bringing your country alive to readers far away.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Dim - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I wish could see El Drago!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Hendrik - glad you enjoyed this one! When I first saw the Wonderboom nearly 30 years go one could still picnic under its branches, but now they have closed off the area. A good thing to preserve the tree I guess but a bit sad nonetheless!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Carol - I would also have loved to see the tree in its full glory! Must have been an amazing sight, indeed!

Glad you enjoyed this one and the others I have written.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Sally - I do hope someone does write about those wonderful trees. I would really like to read more about them. I have loved trees since I was a child swinging on them and climbing so high into some that I gave my mother grey hairs!

I'm also very glad that you enjoy reading about this wonderful country I share with so many wonderful people!

Love and peace

Tony


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Of course I am of Norwegian ancestry and have a history of loving elder trees such as Yggdrasil, so this hub was a must read for me, dear Tony. And I was not disappointed, nor am I ever when it comes to your hubs. Here, then, is another trip to add to my Bucket List.

I purchased a Bristol cone years back to honor a loved one. This tree is considered the oldest in existence and if mine is any example, survives harsh circumstances with grace and determination.

Trees do inspire. Thanks. I needed this on what is a tough personal day. Hugs, Barb


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Barbara - sorry to hear that you had a tough day and glad that this Hub helped relieve the gloom a little! Hope things are going better for you now.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a Norwegian perspective! Interesting about the Bristol cone - will have to look that one up!

Love and peace

Tony


mulberry1 profile image

mulberry1 5 years ago

WARNING: Useless comment.

Sounds perfectly lovely. If it involves trees, I'm all over it. Actually, I'm pretty sure my sanity is completely dependent upon being able to commune with trees regularly. I'm not familiar with this particular variety, but I once had a Ficus tree of some sort...however I believe it was a tropical kind of tree. Had to be kept indoors. (Um, it's 1:15 a.m. here and I'm rambling...just to let you know I'm not drunk)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Christine - not a useless comment at all, at all! And I would never suspect you of being drunk!

Trees are essential to our well-being on many levels I think.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 5 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

The tree is - just beautiful! Many thanks for sharing, Tony.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Tatjana - it is indeed a "wonder tree"! Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

Love and peace

Tony


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Amazing Wonderboom tree...and a 1,000 years old! The way it spreads reminds me of banyon trees which can also take up much space expanding out from what was an original base trunk. Thanks for sharing information about this most interesting specimen. Rating this useful and beautiful.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Peggy - thanks so much for stopping by. Sitting in the shade of a tree that old is a wonderful experience. I love trees generally and this one is super, indeed! I would like to see a banyon tree.

Thanks again for the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

How fortunate that you were able to picnic under the Wonderboom Pretorias 1000 year old tree. Would love to see this treasure. I am grateful to you Tony for this marvelous hub. I might never have known about this famous tree. Thank you for the pictures, map and illustrations. Well done! May every moment be wonderful for you!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Audrey - thanks for the comment and the kind words. It was wonderful to picnic under the great tree!

Love and peace

Tony


elnavann profile image

elnavann 5 years ago from South Africa

Tonymac, I have been going through some of your South African hubs. I could not resist commenting on this one, since I live quite close to this tree. Those ruins of forts provided my son and his friends with great ideas for adventure (more in their minds really).


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks for stopping by, Elna. I appreciate it.

Love and peace

Tony


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Absolutely amazing. I loved reading about this bit of our world. And what tales might be told by those who've lived under this tree.


Johannes van Zyl 3 years ago

Dankie vir die Wonderboom informasie. Ek will asseblief meer hoor van die 1880-1910 tydperk toe hoeveel (?) transportryers onder die wonderboom kon uitspan.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USA

This tree reminds me of the ancient redwoods here in California. It was amazing to read about this tree, and I will share your hub.


Johan Smulders profile image

Johan Smulders 20 months ago from East London, South Africa

Grew up in Pretoria and the article brought back many memories. A very interesting tree and a great article.


Godirilwe 2 months ago

I'm wondering if can you help me were can I get full information about the Tree. I do have some but it doesn't say much about the tree can you reply: gtshwane6@gmail.com

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