Brackenhurst Garden and Forest

The Story of Brackenhurst Forest

Can you restore a forest that has been lost?

When people cut down the forest around Brackenhurst for farming, the birds, animals and insects, that lived there, disappeared as well. In time, people planted more trees. But these trees came from other countries and couldn’t provide a home for local wildlife. The area became a ‘wood plantation’, not a forest.

Mark Nicholson, a local tree expert, asked the owners of Brackenhurst Baptist International Centre if he could try and turn their land back to forest again. The owners said ‘Yes’.

Mark and his team started by cutting down the plantation trees. Next, they began planting. They planted the types of trees that originally grew here as well as endangered trees that they collected from around the country.

Twenty years after the first trees were planted, the area has become a forest again. Over 120,000 trees and shrubs are growing here. And, as the trees grow, and the forest matures, the birds, animals and insects are coming back.

Some of the trees that have found a refuge here are very rare. The Gigasiphon macrosiphon tree was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1990s. It is now growing happily in Brackenhurst Forest.

In 2021, the forest and gardens of Brackenhurst became the first accredited Botanic Garden in Kenya.

The Brackenhurst team are still working hard collecting and planting trees. They are keen to share their knowledge, experience, seeds, and seedlings to help people conserve and restore forests in other parts of Kenya.

Come to Brackenhurst and be inspired! The Forest is open daily from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm.

With a thanks to Mark Nicholson, Jonathan Jenkins and Nicola Heath for making me welcome at Brackenhurst and for your help in getting the facts right!

How long does it take to restore a forest?

Mark estimates that a moist forest, like the one at Brackenhurst, can be restored in 20-30 years. A dry forest can take 50-100 years. But if there has been a lot of soil loss (which can happen easily when trees are gone), it could take 100-1000 years). It’s a lot easier to look after the forest we already have!

Did you know that clearing land for agriculture is the number one threat to our trees?

The Botanic Gardens Conservation International Report, The State of the World's Trees (September 2021) names clearing for agriculture as the number one threat. Other threats, in order of importance are Logging, Livestock farming, Residential and commercial development, fire, energy production and mining, wood and pulp plantations, invasive and other problematic species and climate change.

Useful Links

Brackenhurst Botanic Garden and Forest is open from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm. The entrance charge is 200 ksh. For more information visit the Brackenhurst website:

Plants for Life, and the newly formed Kenya Centre for Restoration, are on a mission to restore Kenya’s ecosystems into life-giving landscapes for people and nature. Find out more here:

The Brackenology team create wonderful maps,images and stories about the Forest. Click here to have a look. There is lots more interesting information on their website:

Brackenhurst Garden and Forest received accreditation to become a Botanic garden from Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). BGCI works with 800 botanic gardens in 118 countries. Their combined work forms the world’s largest plant conservation network. You can read more about BGCI’s work and have a look at the 'State of the World's Trees' report here.

Follow this link to read Rupi Mangat's article on her visit to Brackenhurst

Email for a free, printable, fact sheet about Brackenhurst.