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Cussonia transvaalensis

(Transvaal Cabbage Tree)

Small to medium-sized tree up to 5 m, with attractive, coarsely textured grey-green foliage. The bark is corky and deeply longitudinally fissured. The small, green flowers are borne in dense finger-like structures in spring-summer and they are pollinated by insects. The flowers are followed by the production of small, purple-black berries, which are relished by many species of fruit-eating birds. It requires well-drained soil and a warm garden as it is frost tender. It can tolerate more water in the garden than what it gets in the wild and makes a lovely garden subject. It attracts birds. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who traveled extensively and wrote many publications.

Senegalia burkei ( Acacia burkei )

(Black Monkey Thorn)

This tree grows in thee Savanna areas and can be seen in the Magaliesberg. This is a deciduous single-stemmed tree which branches fairly high up. The main stem in young trees is yellowish with papery flakes and mature trees have longitudinal fissures. The white, spike flowers open in summer. The recurved thorns are dark grey. Bright red pods are found in drooping clusters and are reddish-brown, straight with a pointed tip and split while still on the tree. It has aggressive roots therefore it shouldn’t be planted closer than 5 meters from buildings or pools. The roots are used to produce yellow dye. It attracts birds like Woodpeckers and Red Billed Wood Hoopoes as they forage on the insects that hide in the fissured bark. It is also a fodder tree for Elephants, Giraffe and Antelope. Pods are also eaten by game and bush babies. Monkeys, Bushbabies and people enjoy the gum. Bark and roots are used medicinally for eye and back complaints. A popular bonsai subject. The wood is termite proof and is used for riempie benches and chairs as well as fencing posts. It is heavy and is utilized for fuel for cooking. It is the larval host plant for butterflies like the Pennington's Playboy and the Van Sons Playboy.

Senegalia erioloba ( Acacia erioloba)

(Camel Thorn)

This is a very beautiful and distinctive tree which is slow-growing. in 1760 it was named 'camel thorn' by Jacobus Coetzee which is a translation from the afrikaans 'kameeldoring' which is the acacia of the giraffe as they are fond of the leaves. The camel thorn grows well in deep sandy soils with a high ph and in harsh environmental conditions, where it can reach 17 m. This is a protected tree in South Africa. The tree bears bright yellow ball-like flowers that are sweetly scented and has blue /green foliage. The seed pods are large boot shaped and the seeds are roasted and used as coffee. They are borne in late winter and last through to summer. The thorns are swollen at the base. The bark is distinctive and a dark brown black. It has numerous medicinal uses. The inner bark is powdered and used as a body perfume. The dry, powdered pods can be used to treat ear infections. The gum can be used for the treatment of gonorrhoea and the pulverised, burned bark is used to treat headaches. The root is used to treat toothache. To treat tuberculosis, the root is boiled for a few minutes and the infusion is swirled around in the mouth and spat out. It an ideal plant for hedging/screening and a thorny, security barrier. It has been exploited in the past as it has very strong wood and was used for wagon building, mine-props and excellent firewood which smells like cinnamon when burnt. It attracts birds and mammals.The Dark Chopper moth's hairy caterpillars can denude the trees. The cocoons are used for leg rattles during traditional dancing and some attempts have been made to use them for silk. It is the larval host plant for butterflies like the Linda's Hairtail. Good quality gum is produced which could be exported.It is eaten by animals, birds and people. These trees are home to the tree rat which eats the gum, leaves and seeds. It makes grass lined nests in hollows in the bark which are a fire hazard.The bush-baby is also a resident as they eat the gum. This tree is regarded as sacred and some believe that it attracts lightening. It is believed that if you take refuge in the tree, you will be protected from lightening, enemies and wild animals.

Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo)

(Sweet Thorn)

Previously known as Acacia karroo. This very popular deciduous tree is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The bright yellow pompom flowers occur in spring and they are honey scented which attracts insects and they attract insect eating birds. It is favoured by honey farmers. It is also a popular tree for nesting sites. This tree has pairs of straight thorns.The leaves are eaten by mammals, bush babies, rhino, giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, gemsbok, impala, springbok, nyala, and monkeys. I once watched vervet monkeys carefully picking the top 4 leaves off of the branches which could be a prickly affair. They also eat the flowers. The Xhosa use the leaves to feed their goats. This is a useful tree for thorny, security barriers but do remember that it does have aggressive roots so allow 7 meters from a building or a pool. There are a host of medicinal properties using all parts of the tree. The roots are used for infant colic. The gum is used to draw abscesses, splinters and to treat thrush and is also eaten by people, bushbabies and monkeys. It was once exported as Cape Gum. It was also used as glue. Ground bark is used for stomach ache, dysentery, diarrhoea, loss of blood and ailments as a result of sorcery. The thorns are used for heart pains and magical purposes. Crushed roots are mixed with food to treat infant colic. The roots are used to treat body pains, dizziness, convulsions and VD, It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Parts of the tree are also used to kill parasites in fowl runs. The bark is used to tan leather red and it makes strong twine. It makes excellent firewood. The seeds are a coffee substitute. The wood is hard and is used for building, furniture and fuel. Simon van der Stel wrote of the Sweet Thorns in Namaqualand 'These trees are never found except where surface or underground streams run. ' It indicates fertile soil and good grazing. It is useful in a garden as the roots fix nitrogen in the soil. It is the larval host for many butterflies like the Common Hairtail, Black-striped Hairtail, Otacilia Hairtail, Talbot's Hairtail, Black Heart Common Scarlet, Natal-spotted Blue, Thorn - tree Blue, Topaz-spotted Blue, Silver-spotted Grey and the Burnished Opal. This is a popular bonsai subject. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

Vachellia natalitia (Acacia natalitia)

(Coastal Sweet Thorn)

This is a fast growing, deciduous, medium sized tree. It is frost resistant and should be planted in sun or light shade. It produces fragrant yellow ball shaped flowers in Spring. It attracts birds and mammals. An excellent tree for game lodge. It is the larval host for Club-tailed Emperor butterfly. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

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