The Gnarled Milk-Wood Tree

Ancient trees are precious. There is little else on Earth that plays host to such a rich community of life within a single living organism.

—Sir David attenborough

Nothing could be more apt to describe this amazing tree that I’m sharing with you today. This one is a leaf out of our South Africa diaries from the summer of 2018.

Would you believe it if I told you that this gnarled milk-wood tree has been existing since the 1500s? And that’s not all. In fact, there is a very interesting story behind this tree. Believe it or not, it is said that the South Africa Mail System started because of this very tree!

The story goes that in the 1500s, one of the Commanders of the Cabral ships, Pedro De Ataide left a very important letter in an iron pot shoe under this very large tree while he was on a return journey from the East. The Commander of the third East India Fleet, Joao De Nova found it in 150, when he was on his way to India. That, apparently, marked the beginning of the post office system in South Africa!

If you ever happen to visit Mossel Bay, in South Africa, you can locate this tree on the grounds of the Bartholomeu Dias Museum Complex on Market Street. Interestingly, a boot-shaped post box has also been erected under the now-famous tree, and letters posted there bear a commemorative stamp as well. No surprise that the tree has now turned into one of the biggest tourist attractions in town.

That’s all from me now. See you again in two weeks’ time with more tree photographs from my travel diaries.


Thursday Tree love is a photo feature hosted on Parul’s blog every 2nd and 4th Thursday of a month. The next edition will go live on August 12, 2021. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog, and link it back to Parul’s post.

10 thoughts

  1. What a fabulous story and that tree is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this. I am so glad you went to this memorable trip. Every time you share a piece from that travel book, I see how much you cherish the memories. Thanks for joining, Esha. See you on the 12th!

  2. Wow! Amazing! The changes that tree must have witnessed through its lifetime! How insignificant are us and our existence in comparison. Thank you so much for sharing pages from your travel diary with us, Esha. This was such a beautiful one.

    1. I know, right? It’s a very old tree and it must be bearing so many stories in every branch and leaf, from the years that have gone by.
      So glad to know you enjoyed this picture, Vinitha.

  3. Wow!! Grand old tree and with a story!! Its always interesting to read about such trees that have survived time and vagaries of Nature! I dont know if I will visit that part of the world, but your post has brought some of its view to me!

    1. So glad to know that, Archana. It is a grand old tree and it’s amazing how it has weathered so much over the years and still stood tall.
      Thanks so much, for sharing your thoughts, Archana. 🙂

    1. Absolutely, Shinjini. Imagine seeing the world change through the eyes of this grand old tree!!

  4. What a fascinating story and such a beautiful tree. Thank you for sharing, Esha. I’ve never heard of a milkwood tree and I’m amazed at how ancient this one is. Crazy thought, but it would be great for ‘jhadbandar’ no? 😉

    1. Haha…came across that word after AGES, Corinne! ‘Jhadbandar’ must be a forgotten word now.
      Yes, it is a fascinating story. That milkwood tree is a great draw for the tourists, located at a very picturesque part of the town, overlooking the ocean.

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