Warburgia salutaris Project | Sappi

The Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark Tree) Project supports the efforts of the Kruger National Park to protect South Africa's most endangered tree. 

Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark Tree), was once widespread in South Africa and has long been one of the most sought after commodities in the Southern African traditional healthcare sector.

The Warburgia salutaris Project supports the efforts of the Kruger National Park to protect South Africa's most endangered tree by reintroducing it into communities. The focus is on growing and supplying Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark) to Traditional Healers and communities to reduce the commercial poaching value of the plant. 

The Warburgia salutaris has been categorised as 'endangered' on the International Conservation Union (IUCN) and South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) red species list. It was identified in 1926 as a tree of significance and is now under threat from overharvesting. For centuries the Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark) Tree has been traditionally used to treat malaria, common cold, coughs and sinusitis. It is believed to have been traded by Arabs at one time and is now used in commercially available western homeopathic remedies. 

In the past, only Traditional Healers would harvest the bark of the tree. Thin strips would be taken, which allowed for the tree to regenerate. However, fuelled by the demands of a growing urban population, Warburgia salutaris groves in the Kruger National Park are repeatedly raided by illegal harvesters who send the bark to the muti markets in Johannesburg and Durban. The whole tree is debarked resulting in destruction of the tree. The switch from sustainable collection to commercial gathering has meant that this tree in its natural habitat is now on the brink of extinction.  

Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark Tree) Project

In 2013 Sappi ran a Typek Earth KindTM Green Promotion in conjuction with Makro. Consumers were encouraged to purchase a box of Sappi TypekTM from any Makro store which enabled them to nominate any community greening or tree rehabilitation project. For every box of Sappi TypekTM sold, R1.00 would be donated towards the selected cause. The Kruger National Park Warburgia Salutaris was selected as the winning nomination, receiving funding and expertise in support of the project. Sappi is working with the Kruger National Park, the Agricultural Research Commission,  SANBI Lowveld Botanical Gardens and the Sappi Shaw Research Centre to enhance the sustainability of the tree through the following:

  • Sappi purchased stock of the Warburgia salutaris trees from existing growers and transferred them to the SANPARKS Skukuza Nursery. The nursery looks after the trees for distribution by the project to communities on the Kruger National Park borders.
  • Sappi funds workshops with traditional healers along the borders of the Kruger National Park area to teach sustainable planting and harvesting methods, and to learn more about the uses and their importance to the communities of South Africa. 
  • Sappi provides the stock of potting bags and consumables for seedlings.
  • Sappi helps to raise awareness about the need for protecting the Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark) Tree.
  • Trees have been provided to Swaziland to kickstart their own local Warburgia salutaris (Pepper Bark) Tree Project.
  • Sappi has provided funding for uniforms and bicycles to assist the rangers who safeguard the trees in the Kruger National Park.


  • Over 200 traditional healers have attended the Warburgia salutrais workshops.
  • Over 1200 Warburgia salutaris have been provided to Traditional Healers. 
  • Since 2015, through this initiative, some 30 000 trees have been grown and distributed to various communities and organisations, at no cost to the communities.

Going forward

  • The Kruger National Park and SANBI will contine to build up stock and continue with education programmes
  • ARC and Sappi Shaw Research Centre will continue trials to establish alternative propagation methods
  • Establishment of partnerships to get trees into the ground from stocks grown from viable seeds


Learn more about the Warburgia Salutaris species > Warburgia Salutaris species