The Tree Detectives visit Spring Valley

Click on the picture below to to see what the Tree Detectives found when they visited Spring Valley in Nairobi.

A good detective is curious and observant.  They look for clues in all the things around them. If you want to find out more about a place, then trees can give you lots of clues!  Big old trees can tell us about the people who lived here before us, or even how the place was before people came at all.  Recently planted trees tell us what’s important to people today. 

Why not go out and investigate the trees around you? You may be surprised at what you find!

Let’s see what our Tree Safari detectives found out when they set out to explore Spring Valley estate in Nairobi.

Trees have always been important to humans. We use them for so many things: for shelter, building houses and furniture, firewood, food and medicine…  Sometimes we town dwellers forget how useful trees are. We think they are just there to make the place more beautiful. But for the colonial farmers who settled in Spring Valley, more than a hundred years ago, trees were very important. They brought trees with them.  They planted Grevillea trees from Australia to give shade to  their young coffee plants. They planted Norfolk pines from the South Pacific, Acrocarpus (the Indian Ash) from Indonesia and Cypresses from Australia. These were fast growing trees useful for firewood and to supply the steam trains which used wood for fuel.  

They also brought ornamental trees like Jacarandas from South America, Senna from Australia, Toona and Oleander from Asia and Frangipani from the Americas.

The farmers  planted fruit trees. They brought Avocado and Guava trees from Mexico, guava trees from, mangoes from India, macadamia trees from Australia and mulberry trees. Most of the gardens in this street still have old fruit trees in them.

As well as bringing new trees, the farmers saw that many of the old forest trees were very useful.  The big fig trees provided shade for cattle.  The Cordia trees were good for shading the new coffee plantations, the Podocarpus trees were good for timber.  Cedar trees have strong smelling sap. They are good for fence posts because the termites don’t eat them.  The Nandi flame trees have such lovely red flowers that they were kept just for their beauty.

Some of the old trees from the farms are still here. They are very big now. The big Grevillea tree in this picture might have been planted by the first farmers.

Though many people like planting palm trees, some people are planting the original forest trees in their garden.  The community is beginning to appreciate their value and their beauty and the fact that the bees, butterflies and birds prefer these trees.

Lots of people in Spring Valley came originally from India. They have planted some of the trees which were most useful to them there. For example the curry tree, the pomegranate and the mango tree.

Lets hope future generations will see that we planted many trees to keep our environment clean and fresh and provide food and shelter to our birds, animals and insects.

If you would like us to send you a free printable fact sheet about being a Tree Detective, email Tree Safari on

Find out more about the Tree Detectives' adventures here.