Historic Tree Garden

Botanical Gardens / Landmarks in or near Bloemfontein, Motheo Region in Free State, South Africa.

Free State Tourist AttractionsHistoric Tree Garden

Where? President Brand Street, Bloemfontein, Free State

Overnight? Accommodation in Bloemfontein, in Free State

Few people know that there are orange trees in Bloemfontein.

A surprise for those who, for years, were fed the classic one-liner about the Orange Free State (the former name of today’s Free State province) - “there are no oranges, nothing is for free and it’s in one **** of a state” (if you haven’t heard this, take it from one whose father-in-law grew up in the Free State!).

Along President Brand Street (Bloemfontein’s ‘historical mile’) you will find classic sandstone buildings that surprise with their grandeur - the 3rd Raadsaal (originally Government Building and today the National Afrikaans Literary Museum and Research Centre, or NALN), the 4th Raadsaal (now the Free State Provincial Legislature) and today’s Old Presidency Museum.

A walk along here is a highlight of any visit to Bloemfontein. In front of the 3rd Raadsaal (NALN) you’ll find the historic Tree Garden.

It began when President Brand planted a couple of trees on the 25th Anniversary of the Republic (the Orange Free State was, at one time, ruled independently by the Boers) and, as further dignitaries followed suit over the years, an historical tree garden slowly emerged. There are hawthorn shrubs, Deodar fir trees and five orange trees (although the orange trees are in the main courtyard, not in front of the building).

By the end of the Republic, the Orange Free State’s coat of arms featured an orange tree, despite starting out as a ‘freedom tree’. Historians claim that one possible reason for the orange tree is that the London-based printers confused the trees (assuming that ‘orange’ referred to the tree and not to William V of Orange, the Dutch monarch after whom the state was actually named).

The other theory is that it was the artist, HR Hochapfel, who painted the Republic’s coat of arms for the museum who confused the ‘fertility tree’ for a fruit-bearing symbol of fertility and productivity.

With renovations to the NALN building in 2002, one of the orange trees in the courtyard died and three of the original five were removed later in 2007. Since then the trees have been replaced with newer versions, in a tree planting ceremony 100 years after the originals were planted.

Where to find it: In front of the National Afrikaans Literary Museum and Research Centre (NALN) in President Brand Street, Bloemfontein

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