On 19 September we solved the mystery of the chainsawed palm tree. A small group of us visited City Park with the aim of visiting the site where, on a previous nature walk, we had come across chainsawed bits of a palm tree. Najma Dharani, Vincent Onyango & I met with Ernest Chege (Parks Superintendent), Dan Odera (Park Supervisor), Frederick Obwana (Security officer in charge of City Park).
I had previously sent Najma photos showing a palm cut into pieces, and strewn on the ground. When we got to the site, Najma identified it as an exotic Phoenix caraniensis from the Canary Islands. Chege explained that his staff, being responsible for all the greenery within Nairobi, had come across this tree leaning dangerously on Kenyatta Avenue. It had been cut down for safety reasons, and brought to the park for composting.
From the size of the trunk, Najma estimated the tree to be about 80 years old. It may have been planted by Peter Greensmith who joined the staff of the Nairobi Town Council as Parks Superintendent in the 1950s, and went on over many years – to develop many of the gardens up and down Uhuru Highway. Other such palms are still visible on Kenyatta Avenue.
As we were walking back, we came across the only example of a Phoenix caraniensis at City Park.
Chege mentioned that the spines could be counted to assess the tree’s age. We estimated this tree to be at least 100 years ago. It was a great afternoon for us since this was an opportunity for us to meet City Park staff, and to have a happy ending to the puzzle of the chainsawed palm – not wanton destruction of the City Park but Chege’s staff doing an excellent job within the very wide remit of their responsibilities.
By Baldip Khan