Comparative evaluation of Celtis africana in Lesotho with that in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Ts'ehlana, Moses Ts'eliso.
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Research was conducted in three study sites in Lesotho, and the fourth, which was used on comparative basis, was in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study was suitable for Lesotho as it is a small country with very limited natural resources. Lesotho's weak economy, exacerbated by the increasing population, needs concerted efforts to redress its socio-economic problems. This study is one of such efforts to explore the potentials of the indigenous forests with the aim of addressing wood demands. Celtis africana is one of the species with a proven record in Lesotho to have been a well adapted, resourceful timber tree in the past. Over-exploitation has degenerated it to its brink of extinction. It is against this background that this research was conducted with the aim of restoring Celtis africana to its original status in Lesotho. The results revealed that due to climatic conditions, seeds from Kwazulu-Natal are heavier than those from localities in Lesotho. However, wood densities from study sites in Lesotho are higher than those of KwaZulu-Natal. Pre-treatment method of manual scarification showed the best outcomes in terms of germination percent and vigour while the control was the last. The diverse nature of Celtis africana allows it to survive and prosper in a wide and varying range of habitats. Its pliable and adaptive characters are manifested by its ability to adapt in novel environments. Under ideal warm and moist conditions Celtis africana keeps its foliage all the year round, but in dry or abnormally cold years it becomes a deciduous tree. Though it is distributed in a variety of habitats, Celtis africana prefers moist habitats. It also demonstrates greater "affinities" for the carbonates in the soils, in particular, calcium carbonate (CaC03) and dolomite (CaMgC03). More research and determined reforestation programmes are required in order to improve the status of Celtis africana in Lesotho. Its natural existence in Lesotho can curtail expense of provenance identification. Both extension strategies and silvicultural operations, which can assist in tree improvement, should be adopted. Social benefits which, are rendered by Celtis africana in South Africa, can be emulated and adopted in Lesotho. Other than being an admired and valuable recreational tree (planted in parks and in the homesteads), it is a protected tree in South Africa.
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