The reality is that billions of species have disappeared off the face of the Earth, schoolchildren learn on biodiversity day.

CITY Parks marked International Day of Biodiversity by planting a tree at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens Education and Research Centre in Emmarentia.

Mayor Amos Masondo unveils a plaque to mark the end of the 200 000 trees planting campaign
MMC for environment, Matshidiso Mfikoe, opens the Botanical Gardens Education and Research Centre

A Henkel's yellowwood was planted by the member of the mayoral committee for environment, Matshidiso Mfikoe, on Friday, 21 May.

The tree, which is scientifically known as a Podocarpus henkelii, is a tall, straight-stemmed forest tree reaching 20 to 30 metres in height. In time, its trunk can grow to massive proportions, reaching over a metre in diameter and becoming fluted and spirally twisted with age.

It is an evergreen, with a dark grey to pale grey-brown, longitudinally fissured bark. In older trees this bark sometimes peels off in large pieces, exposing a red-brown under-surface.

The event, attended by City Parks staff and learners from a number of primary schools, including Westbury, Emmarentia and Melville, was a celebration to mark International Day of Biodiversity.

International Day of Biodiversity, a United Nations initiative, is recognised worldwide each year on 22 May. It represents a milestone for preserving the diversity of life on Earth. The theme for this year is "Biodiversity and development".

Mayor Amos Masondo unveils a plaque to mark the end of the 200 000 trees planting campaign
Children from around Johannesburg will learn more about the environment at the education centre

The short planting ceremony was preceded by a performance by Joburg's emergency management services' theatre performers, who entertained and educated the learners about being safe and taking care of their environment.

"I am a firm believer that as local government practitioners we have been presented with a wonderful opportunity to build civic ownership by creating pockets of service excellence through greening," Mfikoe said.

She commended learners and their teachers for continually participating in greening programmes hosted by City Parks at various environmental education centres.

"I urge you to act as spokespeople for the environment, encourage your friends to value our environment and to always remember the reality that billions of species have disappeared off the face of the Earth, and there is no telling when we could be the next species to be wiped off the planet, if we do not take care of our environment."