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  • Writer's pictureShelby Pietersen

Milkwood Regulations in the Western Cape in 2024

White milkwood, Afrikaans: wit-melkhout, Xhosa: Ximafana, Zulu: Umakhwelafingqane is one of South Africa’s indigenous trees which grows mainly in and around the coastal region of the Western Cape. You can identify it by its dense foliage, blackberries and small, dainty white flowers.

If you are a property owner in the Western Cape region and you have one or more milkwood

trees on your property. Many milkwood owners who want to trim or prune their milkwoods think that it is illegal, but luckily that is not the case. Here is the most important information about owning a milkwood tree that you need.

Can you remove a milkwood tree?

Under the National Forests Act of 1998 (Act No. 84 of 1998) cutting or pruning of white

milkwoods (Sideroxylon inerme) requires a license, except if less than 25% of the crown is

pruned, but not for the topping of such trees, and not for new development or redevelopment

(exemptions published in Government Gazette no. 773 of 27 August 2007).

Are milkwood trees protected in South Africa?

Historically, dense forests of large milkwood trees used to exist along the coast and bays of

Cape Town, especially at Noordhoek, Macassar and Gordons Bay. The Milkwood is not endangered but it is one of South Africa's Protected Trees, which means that it is illegal to damage, move, or destroy them.

Why is the Milkwood tree protected?

Unique micro-environments in the coastal scrub are created because milkwood trees grow in a dense group of bushes or trees. In traditional medicine, the bark of milkwood trees is used to treat broken limbs and get rid of nightmares.

Sideroxylon inerme (White Milkwood) trees are part of the natural coastal forest landscape.

What makes them so special is that they were an indicator species of the Western Cape and the natural forests of South Africa.

Do I need a permit to cut down a milkwood tree on my property in South Africa? You may not cut, disturb, destroy, damage or remove a milkwood tree in a natural forest in a declared protected area.

What are the ramifications when an owner has cut, destroyed, damaged or removed a milkwood tree?

In terms of section 62(2) (c) of the National Forests Act, 1998 ( Act No. 84 of 1998), any person who contravenes the prohibition on (i) the cutting, disturbance, damage, destruction or removal of protected trees referred to in section 15(1)(a); or (ii) the prohibition on the collection, removal, transport, export, purchase or sale or protected trees referred to in section 15(1)(b), is guilty of a first category offence. In terms of section 58(1), a person who is guilty of a first-category offence referred to in sections 62 and 63 may be sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to three years or a fine and such imprisonment.

Who to contact for advice on how to go forth pruning and cutting a milkwood tree? You can contact your local Municipality or even a local Arborist like us regarding advice on milkwood trees.



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