Mother Nature was really smiling down on us on Saturday, 26 May, when NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (NFMV) members went to Thurston Gardens to help protect newly-planted trees there. We were graced with beautiful, clear weather as we placed protective barriers around the seedlings to help ensure their safety as they become established in their new locations.
To celebrate the International Day of the Forests this past March, the Suva City Council (SCC) and the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests (MFF) planted more than 150 new trees, in Thurston Gardens. Andrew Malden, a NFMV club member with a deep appreciation for trees and their critical role in our symbiotic relationship with nature, wanted to help give these trees the best possible beginning in their new environment. So he consulted with the SCC and MFF, who him the go-ahead to lead volunteers in this seedling protection effort.
Andrew explained how simple our task was: First, we needed to clear the weed growth from around the base of the tiny trees. Then we would place a ring cut from a used water bottle around the them, thus providing each with its own little fence to keep the brush cutters from accidentally getting too close, as well as people from inadvertently trampling on it. He showed us how to twist the ring in a circular motion to get it to cut into the soil, so it could be placed about 2.5 inches (6 cm) into the ground for stability.
We divided into four groups that each covered a different section of the Gardens. And because we had such a large number of volunteers–around 50 people–we were done in less than an hour! This gave us plenty of time for Andrew to lead us on a walk through the Gardens, giving us information about the 13 different species of seedlings we were protecting (including Vesi, Dilo, Cinnamon, Ivi, Kura, Sikeci, Mokosoi, Sekoula, Kavika and Kauvula) and showing us what they’d look like when mature. He also pointed out the many other species, and shared interesting facts such as which ones had good timber for building, edible parts, medicinal uses, and more. NFMV Director Nunia Thomas-Moko provided details on the local customslinked with various trees.
Nunia also pointed out one of Fiji’s endangered endemic trees, the Sago Palm, which only flowers and fruits once in its life, when it is about 25 years old. We were excited to learn that the one she showed us was currently fruiting, but this meant it would not live much longer.
Throughout our walk, many participants shared their knowledge and love of trees, too. We noticed an unusual growth pattern at a certain height in a number of different trees, leading a few people to share stories they’d heard about a severe flood that hit Thurston Gardens some fifty years ago. This had us all pondering the things these trees had witnessed. It was fun to think about the children who were volunteering with us, and how they’ll be able to take pride in the trees they’ll find in the park 50 years from now.
We were pleased to be joined by a large team of volunteers from ANZ. And special thanks go to Pleass Global, manufacturer of AquaSafe® and VaiWai®Artesian Waters as well as a corporate member of NFMV, for providing the recycled water bottles we placed around the seedlings.