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Blog > The Post Office Tree


Did you know that the oldest (unofficial) post box in South Africa is not an actual box… but a tree?

It’s true! In 1500, Pêro de Ataíde, captain of a Portuguese ship returning from the East, left a letter under a tree in Mossel Bay. The letter detailed the loss of some of the ships on their fleet and warned of troubles in the eastern seas. It was customary for passing ships to stop on the bay to take on food and fresh water, and so some years later, the letter was discovered and delivered to Portugal by another sea captain.

This was the start of the South African postal service, as seamen often left correspondence there, in the hopes of it being delivered by passing ships.

Post office tree

The impressive milkwood tree is said to be over 600 years old, and still stands there overlooking the bay. It has been declared a national monument, and a postbox was set up under it with its own special cancellation mark and everything! The postbox sits on what is now the Bartolomeu Dias Museum complex.

Mailing a postcard home Special cancellation mark

A big thank you to Cathy, the South African member who pointed out this tree for us and took the nice photos above. That is her auntie Chris on the left, mailing a postcard home!

49 comments so far

radiofan, Austria

Wow, great story!
I'd be happy to get a postcard from that marvellous historic place! - What a wonderful old tree!
Thank you for sharing this on the blog!

Elizma, South Africa

I there. Elizma from SA. It was very nice to see this info about our tree from SA on the blog.
I was at the tree last year and it was of great interest
because I started postcrossing! I also posted a postcard from the tree.
A great place and town to visit if you come to SA.

Roadrunner73, Germany


nisnoopy3, Malaysia

I would like to get a card send from this cool mail box with such deep history feel on it! :D

edo, Spain


lucymonty, United Kingdom

Wonderful story, thanks for sharing this Cathy!

proudlysouthafrican, South Africa

Oh wow! How awesome to see my pics on your page! We had a wonderful visit to Mossel Bay and next time I pass by, I have a list of people I have to send mail to from there. By the way, that is my Auntie Chris from the UK in the photo...thanks again.

CDNLib, Canada

What a cool post! And a beautiful old tree!

Broe, Germany

Loved to read about it! Thanks for sharing :)

DianeM, United States of America

I love it!

Luziaceleste, Brazil

What a nice way to keep people honoring hystorical sites! Congrats to SA Mail system and to SA postcrosser Cathy!

emoffdayz, United States of America

wow! thats a great tree and interesting information thank you for it! :)

shui, Taiwan

What a wonderful postbox and the tree!! As a tree fan, it will be fantastic if I can visit there myself someday or receive a postcard from there. Thanks for sharing this information! :D

riazkhan4880, India

Amazing story. I want that postcard cancellation from that tree too....Every thing in this world has a story. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and amazing information.

Knerq, United States of America


Poste, United States of America

Thank you for sharing this history! Life is good and great stories are very worthwhile and enjoyable. Happy Valentines Day to everyone and especially to this tree.

rosenbusch, Germany

Thank you for sharing this interesting story....

Loli-ts, Spain

No words... just =-o :-) :-)

Laughing_Hsiao, United States of America

Awesome! I'd love to receive a card from there!
Thanks for sharing this story;)

ch_nz, Germany

There is something similar on one of the Galápagos Islands. It is a postbox though, not a tree, but it doesn't have a cancellation. I used it and it worked, put a postcard in (to a relative) and it arrived in Germany about three months later. No stamp, no cancellation, someone had picked it up in Galápagos, taken it home and then driven by and put it in the postbox. The recipient (and me too) were fascinated. I didn't take a card because none was supposed to go anywhere near me.

deHamer, Netherlands

Wauw, that's an old tree and with a lot of history.
It looks so much better that the steal boxes in my village.....

Topas, Germany

great natural monument. Very special postbox. Lovely story.

Geminiscp, Portugal

so cool! I wish I could visit it one day! :)

petrini1, United States of America

Wonderful story! I wish we could mail cards from somewhere so interesting, here in the U.S.

nugget, United States of America

Enjoyed this interesting story! Thanks for sharing it.

mar872, Canada

So cool. I will have to add this to my list of places to go to in South Africa. :)

susandg, Philippines

Interesting story! Thanks for sharing. I love trees and I love postcards, so this is really a perfect combination. I would love to receive a postcard from there, too. Well, who knows, I might get to SA someday. How I wish! :-)

RosaRosae, Spain

Thanks for share this true storie

Ksuschka, Russia

It's a really great story! Thank you for sharing!

Robin67, Austria

How cool is that? I'd love a card sent from there too! :-D

e_santoso, Indonesia

Wooow... awesome. Thank you for sharing this interesting story.

Janestar, United States of America

What a great story! Thanks for sharing it with Postcrossers.

ZenCat, United States of America

Wow! That is amazing! Thank you for sharing!

dogfan, United States of America

Fantastic! That postmark would be a great prize!

Sidolix, Germany

Great Story and Information !
Thank you for it !
A Picture postcard with this tree would be good to my tree collection...

ConstantGardener, United States of America

WOW!!!! LOVE the Tree and the Story behind it! Shared it with my brother - a retired Postal Letter Carrier!! Thank you so much!!

Sunny1215, China

It's amazing.If I can use it to mail postcard,it will be interesting.

Traumkatzen, Germany

Great story, i would love when I maybe get someday a postcard from this place. Amazing

ambica, India

many such stories are there in India too. Like people used to know the content of a letter without opening its Envelop.

jaygray, Canada

Such a lovely story! :D

Ilmushka, Russia

Wonderful story, I'd be happy to get the map of the area.

Isolaluzie, Germany

I see this tree with my own eyes when I travelled to South Africa - he is wonderful!

seascape327, United States of America

Great Story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Husi, Germany

wow... more than 20 years ago I visited South Africa, visited also Mossel bay and was impressed by that tree and it's history... and now I find story about it here. Thank you for bringing back a lot of memories.

Alice_828, Taiwan

Wow, I love this story!!

Simon_L, China

What a wonderful story.I really wanna travel there by myself~

squirrelygirl, United States of America

Fascinating story! Thanks for sharing!

amit19, India

Awesome! Just loved reading about it!

JanineW, South Africa

@everybody who expressed the wish to receive a postcard with this cancellation on the stamp: your cards have been posted. Watch your mail box!


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