To local people, it was a sacred ground; to the Voortrekkers, a landmark spot where they rested for a short while before continuing on their journey from Pretoria further north.
Fortune-hunters dreamed that the Kruger millions would turn up here but they found only the Stone Age tools of the prehistoric hunters who ambushed their prey in the poort (entrance) nearby.
It has been an excavation site where archaeologists have exposed the largest single accumulation of stone artefacts ever to be discovered in Africa.
But what was it that brought all these people to this plain on the northern outskirts of Pretoria? It is a tree unlike any other - a wild fig known all over the world as the Wonderboom (literally, miracle tree).
A 5,5 m diameter trunk at the heart of the Wonderboom is the remains of the original wild fig that began growing here over than 1 000 years ago. Branches of this trunk first spread out radially but gradually drooped towards the ground, where they sent out roots from which sprang a circle of new trunks.
In time, two of the offspring produced a third generation. Today the Wonderboom has 13 distinct trunks that cover an area of 1,5 ha. The branches spread over an area of 50 m, and can provide enough shade for over 1 000 people. A typical example of the species Ficus salicifolia? Not so, say the experts.
The wild fig is a hardy tree flourishing in open woodlands, on rocky hills and outcrops, and near streams and rivers. The bark of the young trees is smooth and a pale grey, while the bark of older trees is rougher and darker. The leaves are thick and leathery, and the tiny white fruits, only about 5 mm in diameter, become a yellowish-pink colour when they ripen between August and May.
But while the Ficus salicifolia seldom grows higher than 9 m, the Wonderboom stands taller 23m. In addition to its great height, the way in which it has extended itself makes it an extremely rare natural phenomenon whose protection against the ravages of man is of great importance.
The tree was probably the safest during the period when only local people knew of its existence. They were animists, adherents to a primitive world view that attached spiritual significance to natural objects and phenomena.
Because the tree was so very unusual, they considered it sacred and allowed it to flourish without bothering it.
The tree was discovered in 1836 by the Voortrekkers, under Hendrik Potgieter, who named it the Wonderboom. After Potgieter, several other groups of Voortrekkers stopped at this tree, and the site continues to have a special significance for South Africans who identify with Voortrekker history.
Parks & Gardens
Other Pretoria Parks & Gardens provide an excellent opportunity to enjoy nature.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Greater Tswane-Pretoria Area are found in the cities of:
* Pretoria with suburbs such as Arcadia, Brooklyn, Garsfontein, Hatfield, Lynnwood and Silver Lakes.
* Centurion with suburbs such as Centurion Central, Clubview, Eldoraigne and Irene.