Planting trees to celebrate important events is a tradition at IITA. Usually one person plants a single tree but to celebrate IITA50, the Forest Unit scaled up and organized the planting of 50 trees – twice!
The first 50 were planted on 26 July, Alumni Day, as part of the IITA50 anniversary program. In advance of the event, the Facilities Management Services (Building and Grounds, B&G) assisted the Forest Unit to prepare planting holes along the length of Equatorial Crescent.
At 2 pm on that day, tree planters and onlookers were addressed first by Kwesi Atta-Krah, IITA50 Committee Chair, who welcomed alumni especially, and then by Deni Bown, Head of the Forest Unit. She first acknowledged the presence of Alec Butler, Head of the Physical Plant Services (PPS) in the early days of IITA, who was responsible for planting the fine avenues of trees along the residential roads. Then she explained that this event was to replant Equatorial Crescent with African nutmeg/Làkòsìn (Monodora tenuifolia) to celebrate the gathering of alumni on this important occasion. African nutmeg, a small tree found in the IITA forest, was chosen because it bears beautiful golden-yellow flowers followed by orange-like fruits, making it the perfect tree to celebrate a Golden Jubilee. Being a native tree, the African nutmeg is good for biodiversity and for people. The seeds are ground as a spice and used for medicinal purposes.
But why replant Equatorial Crescent? The reason is that the lovely pink cassias—planted by PPS almost 50 years ago—have sadly reached the end of their days. Few are still standing and valiant efforts by B&G to replant with ylang-ylang have not succeeded as it does not do well here. So while leaving what’s left of pink cassias and ylang-ylang, space has been made for a new avenue of African nutmegs.
Before the plantathon started, the Director General cut the tape to change the name of the road from Equatorial Crescent to Golden Jubilee Crescent. He then planted the first tree to applause and great enthusiasm by those who carried on planting the other 49 or watched while others did all the hard work!
The following week, on 4 August, the Forest Unit planted another 50 trees. On this occasion each tree was different, forming a Golden Jubilee Grove in the new Tree Heritage Park. As well as commemorating this milestone in IITA’s history, Golden Jubilee Grove acknowledges some of Nigeria’s most useful and interesting trees, such as bitter kola/Orogbo, star apple/Agbalumó, African breadfruit/Afon, and locust bean/Ìgbá.
The plan for Golden Jubilee Grove over the next 50 years is to maintain it as a visitor attraction and resource for researchers. Each tree will have a sign with a barcode so that detailed information can be accessed by phone.