Conservation, Reforestation and Tourism

The rugged and beautiful Cederberg Mountains in South Africa’s Western Cape are named after one of the rarest trees on the planet. The Clanwilliam cedar lives nowhere else in the world. This iconic species originated up to 225 million years ago and survived the last ice age. But today it is critically endangered and its future hangs in the balance. For the past 17 years, conservation manager Rika du Plessis has been committed to saving the Clanwilliam cedar.

This region was once lined with avenues of cedars, but today they are mostly found high up in the mountains, sparsely spread out between rocks, where water is scarce. She estimates there are some 13,500 Clanwilliam cedars left in the wild.In an effort to save the species, CapeNature has developed a tree-planting scheme. It’s a delicate process that begins with harvesting seeds. The seeds are then used to propagate the cedar trees in nurseries before planting them on the rocky outcrops where they grow naturally.


Rika Du Plessis

The Clanwilliam cedar is an amazing plant. I have to believe that the efforts that we are putting in will, and is, showing results and it is making a difference.” 

“Even a small difference is a difference.”


“In some cases we have to hike up high into the mountain,” says du Plessis. “There’s no roads, so everything that we need needs to be carried in. Some places we even have to carry the water to water the seedlings when we plant them. It is hard work, but I have a dedicated team. “Du Plesis has personally been involved in planting more than 13,000 trees. But life isn’t easy for a cedar seedling. Rodents love to eat the trees’ young shoots, and fire is a significant threat. Only 10% of trees planted in the wilderness will survive, so to boost their chances Du Plessis is also creating cedar plantations.
Trees are planted in “waterboxxes” — plastic containers that collect water when it rains and slowly release it through a cotton string to the roots of the tree. The waterboxxes provide water for the trees throughout the year and we are finding that we almost have a 100% survival rate on the trees that we plant with the waterboxxes.
With each individual capable of living for thousands of years, Du Plessis describes the Clanwilliam cedar as an amazing plant.