City welcomes the return of rare apple tree

The City of Cape Town, Tru-Cape, Hortgro and the Cape Heritage Fund plant the tree.

A rare but familiar apple tree was brought back to the Company’s Garden last week.

The City of Cape Town in partnership with Tru-Cape, Hortgro and the Cape Heritage Fund planted a Witte Wijnapple tree, also known as the wine tree, in the gardens on Wednesday April 17.

It was first brought to South Africa 357 years ago by Jan van Riebeeck to feed sailors on passing trade ships.

The original trees have since disappeared. The tree planted lasted week was grown from a cutting taken in the Netherlands, and imported to the South Africa.

It made its way to South Africa with the help of Tru-Cape quality assurance manager, Henk Griessel and, new variety expert, Buks Nel. Through extensive research, they managed to track down a variant of the original apple tree in the Netherlands and imported the “budwood”, as the cutting is called.

“The replanting of the Witte Wijnappel is a historic moment in the South African fruit industry,” said Tru-Cape Fruit marketing managing director, Roelf Pienaar.

“Not only was the return of the tree celebrated, the impact made by the fruit industry on modern rural economies in the Western Cape and beyond, was honoured.”

April 17 marks a significant day when the first two apples were picked from the Wijnapple tree in the gardens, then called the Company Nursery Gardens, in 1662.