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The Orange Tree in the Rustenburg Love Story 1901

Aletta squeezed fresh orange juice for her dying lover, Lieut. Frank Irving, after he received a fatal chest wound at the Battle of Moedwil on 30th September 1901. Where did the oranges come from? Most likely the orange orchard at President Kruger’s farm near Rustenburg - now part of the Kedar Heritage Lodge.

From 1870 to 1875 Kruger planted over 500 orange trees on his farm Boekenhoutfontein, and the oranges were known throughout the district as being deliciously sweet. The trees were still there in 1960, but now one can only see the crop marks of the neat rows of trees in front of Kruger’s historic farmhouse on Google Earth. To find the traces of the old orchards just north of the farmhouse search Google Earth for Kedar Heritage Lodge, Rustenburg, North West Province.

Kruger’s old farmhouse is clearly marked within the property. Zoom in to an altitude of about 1.7 kilometres above ground level and hover over the co-ordinates 25 degrees 33 minutes 313 seconds South; 27 degrees 7 minutes 294 seconds East, and 25 degrees 33 minutes 330 seconds South; 27 degrees 7 minutes 441 seconds East, and you can clearly see the shadows of the two orchards.

A couple of old orange trees have been found on the Kedar property and more trees will be propagated from these to re-build a small orchard on the original site just north of the farmhouse. Orange pips were brought to the Rustenburg area from the Cape by the Voortrekkers in 1837, and the first orchards were planted in 1859. Jan van Riebeeck had brought the first orange pips to the Cape in 1652, but it was not until 25th July 1661 that his wife picked the first oranges from the VOC Company Gardens.

From 1910 until 2000 an orange tree was part of the South African Coat of Arms, representing the Orange Free State Province – a symbol of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau after which the Province was named. Returning to Lieut. Frank Irving’s final hours in the tender care of his lover, Aletta.

His last sustenance was fresh orange juice which reminds one of the accomplishment of Jan van Riebeek’s original mission: “….so that tired and sick travellers between the east and the west can give thanks in this oasis established through your dedication, to those in need, fresh and good for their health – water, vegetables, and fruit”.

(Source and further information: ’N MANDJIE VOL WOORDVRUGTE UIT DIE KOMPANJIESTUIN, deur Helena Liebenberg)

The orange tree represents generosity and wisdom. In the Middle Ages brides wore the white orange blossoms in their hair, symbolising purity and chastity.