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Senegalia mellifera (Acacia mellifera )

(Black Thorn)

A deciduous, thorny shrub or small tree with sweetly scented white/pink pompom flowers in early spring. These attract insects and bees.The scent is strongest at night so it also attracts moths. It has attractive wood which is hard, termite proof and is used for handles of tools, fencing posts and fuel . The sapwood is yellowish. The wood ash is used to straighten hair and as a dye a it produces a red-brick colour. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. It is both frost hardy and drought hardy. Plant in the full sun and as it has aggressive roots don’t plant it too close to a building. The twigs are used as toothbrushes and it attracts birds for nesting. If planted close together and pruned it will make an impenetrable, thorny barrier. The gum is enjoyed by children, animals and birds. The roots are used medicinally for stomach pain, syphilis, sterility, pneumonia, an aphrodisiac and malaria.. The leaves and short pods are nutritious and are eaten by stock as well as game like black rhino, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, grey duiker, gemsbok, eland, wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and giraffe. It is the larval host for the Silvery Bar butterfly. It is named from the Greek 'acanth' meaning thorn and 'mellifera' meaning honey bearing.

Senegalia nigrescens ( Acacia nigrescens )

(Knob-thorn)

This deciduous, medium sized tree usually grows in single-species stands. They are slow growers and reach a height of 8-20m. The very strong hooked thorns are retained on old growth, eventually growing into large spiny knobs. This is an aid to identifying the trees when they are leafless. The bark is distinctive, dark brown, rough and deeply fissured. The creamy white flower spikes are at first rusty-pink, but white when fully open. Its flowering time is in spring and the sweetly scented flowers occur before the leaves and in profusion. Honeybees are fond of the nectar and it produces a good honey. The flowers are eaten by giraffe, baboons and monkeys and the leaves and pods are eaten by elephant, giraffe, kudu, duiker, impala and steenbok. The oblong pod is very dark brown. The leaves are round and much bigger than other Acacias. The leaves are also cooked as a pot herb or spinach. Elephant also eat the inner bark which has healing properties to fight tooth decay. The knobs are ground and used as a painkiller and to treat eye infections. There is a belief that if it is applied to young girls they will develop large breasts. 40 % of a girafffe's diet consists of the leaves and it is thought that they pollinate the flowers. It should be planted in full sun. It is frost hardy and survives moderate drought. It is an ideal plant for bonsai. This is a host plant for the Demon Emperor butterfly and the Dusky Charaxes. It is also the host plant of the Cream Striped Owl Moth which have distinctive eye-spots on the wings. Birds like Woodpeckers, Barbets, Scops Owl and Squirrels utilise it for nesting in holes. White backed vultures nest in those trees that are close to rivers. The wood is hard, heavy and difficult to work, but it is used for furniture, flooring, railway sleepers and mine props. It's useful for fencing poles as it is termite resistant, and is used for fighting sticks and long burning fuel. The inner bark is used to make twine while the outer bark is used for tanning leather. T In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. They are shallow rooted and elephant often knock the trees down, so don't camp near these trees. It is used magically as poles are planted in the ground to stop lightening striking the village. In Botswana a tree with a girth of 43 cm was carbon dated and aged at 313 years. That's 100 years before the French Revolution! The name is derived from the Greek word akis meaning a point or spike referring to the thorns and the Latin word 'nigrescans' meaning 'becoming black' which refers to the seed pods that blacken with age. Mistletoe is often seen growing on these trees.

Spirostachys africana

(Tamboti)

This medium-sized, semi-deciduous tree with a round crown occurs at low altitudes. It grows up to 18 m in height. The tree is commonly known for its toxic milky latex that exudes from all parts of it. Its characteristic bark is dark brown to black, thick, rough and neatly cracked into regular rectangular blocks that are arranged in longitudinal rows. Leaves are alternate, simple and are up to 70 x 35 mm and the margins are finely toothed. The young, red leaves are often visible among the older, green leaves in spring. The flower heads are 15-30 mm long, bearing mostly male and a few female flowers. The female flowers are attached at the base of each spike. Flowering takes place in August to September before the new leaves appear. The flowering spikes of this plant are unusual in appearance as the male flowers appear gold-coloured because of the pollen whereas female flowers are blood red. The flowers are visited by bees. The fruit is a capsule that is three-lobed and opens with an exploding sound that can be heard on hot summer days from October to February. The Knobthorn Moth lays its eggs in the fruit and the larvae cause the fruit to jump once they have hatched. This is why they are called 'jumping beans'.The fruit is eaten by birds, antelope and monkeys. This tree is very attractive in larger gardens, it is fairly drought and frost resistant, but grows very slowly. Although the latex is very toxic to humans it does have traditional medicinal uses, for example, a drop of the fresh latex is applied to a painful tooth as a painkiller. The bark is used to treat stomach pains but large dosages will cause damage to the internal organs. Powdered bark is rubbed all over the body to prevent having a hairy body. Wood smoke is inhaled to drive away evil spirits. Pieces of bark are worn as a protective charm and it is also used as a fish poison. It attracts birds, butterflies and is also ideal for bonsai. Antelope, stock and monkeys eat the fallen leaves while fresh leaves are eaten by Black Rhino and Elephant. Porcupine eat the bark. Although it is medicinal, all parts of this tree can cause nausea and death. The wood is hard and is used for furniture but is lethal if used for fuel. It is more fragrant than sandalwood and can be put into linen cupboards to keep fish-moths away. Even the sawdust smoke is lethal if burnt. I read of children who died after using the branches as skewers to braai their boerewors. The name is derived from the Greek speiros = spiralled or twisted ; stachys= spike as the flowers are in a tight spiral on the spike.

Tabernaemontanum elegans

(Toad Tree)

This small shrub/tree is deciduous to evergreen depending on the climate and frost. The trunk is usually single, upright, with a rounded crown. The foliage is glossy dark green and in autumn the leaves change to bright yellow. The white, fragrant flowers clusters towards the ends of the branches in spring to autumn. The fruit, which resembles a toad, are eaten by monkeys, baboons, rhino. birds and people. The orange fruit pulp is considered to be edible and is also used to curdle milk, whereas the roots are used for chest problems. The latex has been used to stop bleeding and is also reported to be useful as bird lime. It attract birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by game and the bark protects the tree from fire. Named for Jakob Theodor von Bergzaben (1522-1590) also known as 'Tabernaemontanus' a German physician, pharmacist and botanist. He developed a passion for herbs and then studied medicine. He was known for his life's work, an illustrated book on medicinal herbs published in 1588. Throughout his life he tried to find a cure for the plague, typhus. The meaning of 'elegans' is elegant.

Trema orientalis

(Pigeonwood)

This is a fast-growing shade tree with soft foliage, best suited to gardens and streets in the warmer and wetter regions of southern Africa. Depending on climatic conditions, trees may be evergreen or deciduous. It's a good shade tree or street tree although not as tough and cold-hardy as Celtis africana (white stinkwood). In forests it is a straight, slender tree, up to 18 m on forest margins, and in the open it is wider-spreading, sometimes drooping, and in the KwaZulu-Natal bushveld it often grows as a shrub approx. 1.5 m tall. The less water it receives, the shorter it is. Flowers are small, inconspicuous and greenish, carried in short dense bunches. They are usually unisexual, i.e. male and female are separate, occasionally they are found together. Flowers appear irregularly from late winter to autumn and are pollinated by bees. Fruits are small, round and green, becoming black when ripe. They are eaten by birds like the Lesser Striped swallows, white-eyes, canaries and bats. The leaves are carried on very short stalks-this is the easiest way to tell this tree apart from the White Stinkwood whose stalks are up to 13 mm long. The leaves are browsed by kudu. The young leaves are eaten as spinach by the Zulus, who also use the roots and bark as traditional medicine. Fruit, leaves, bark, stems, twigs and seeds are used in traditional medicine in West Africa, Tanzania, East Africa and Madagascar.It is a food plant of several charaxes butterflies. The wood is used as box wood and the roots bind the soil. The name is derived from the Greek trema=aperture. hole, opening. The kernel of the fruit is pitted.

Typha capensis

(Bulrush)

These plants are deciduous and grow to about 2 m tall. They are often seen on the verge of a dam, wetland or river where the roots filter the water. It is frost resistant, fast growing and has brownish flowers in summer. Birds use these as nesting sites and humans utilize it for many things eg the rhizomes are used for meal and the leaves are useful for brooms, weaving, mat and basket making and thatching. It is also medicinal as a root decoction is used in childbirth, for urinary tract problems and for the treatment of VD. The brown woolly flower is used to staunch bleeding and this is also done by the Chinese and the American Red Indians. Tea from the root is also used for diarrhoea, dysentry, and enteritis.The hollow stem is made into a flute. They are used in the kitchen as the new shoots are edible as are the thicker older roots which are ground and boiled and made into flat cakes. The Tswana pick the young flower stalks and fry them in fat. Some farmers feed their pigs and cattle the roots and stems in times of drought. The brown flower stalks are also used in flower arrangements. The name is derived from the Greek typhos=marsh; referring to the plants natural habitat.

Vachellia abyssinica ( Acacia abyssinica)

(Nyanga Flat Top)

This medium sized, deciduous tree is frost resistant, fast growing in the sun. It grows to about 16 meters. The white flowers open in spring. It attracts birds, butterflies and mammals. It has a flat crown with beautiful flaky bark. The bark on young trees is yellowish and it fades to red/brown on older trees. The twigs are hairy and the thorns are paired and straight. It's a lovely shade tree with edible gum It enriches the soil as it fixes nitrogen in the soil. A useful tree for bee farmers. This tree has many uses and although the wood is not durable it is used to carve crafts, instrument handles, utensils and firewood. The branches are fed to goats. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. Medicinal. 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 erubescens ( Acacia erubescens )

(Blue Thorn)

A small to medium-sized tree which is often multi-stemmed. The thorns are hooked, about 6 cm long, in pairs at the nodes. The leaves are not large, with a raised gland near the base. It flowers in axillary spikes, white in summer, before or with the new leaves. The pods are straight, more or less oblong and leathery. It is an useful for hedging/screening. It is a drought resistant and it should be planted in sun. Frost tender. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. 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 hebeclada ( Acacia hebeclada )

(Candle Thorn)

This beautiful, deciduous small tree, 5m is very variable. The flowers are scented and are creamy yellow pompoms that open in spring. It is frost hardy and drought resistant. It should be planted in full sun and is an ideal plant for hedging/screening. The roots are aggressive so it should be planted 5m from buildings and pools. They have been measured at 35 meters deep in Botswana. It attracts birds like the shrikes and robins. . The seed pods stand up along a branch, hence the common name. There are pairs of hooked thorns. They are hard, woody and covered in fine hairs.They and the leaves are eaten by stock and game. In the Kalahari it is a host plant to desert truffles. 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. The Motswana call it 'The house of the Lion' as it is favoured by lions as a shade tree. The wood is hard, durable and is used for implements. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. It is used to treat leprosy and the roots are used for diarrhoea. The roots are also ground, mixed with fat and used as a hair treatment in Namibia. The name is derived from the Greek 'acantha' which means thorns and the Greek 'hebe' which means hairy and 'klados' which is a branch so it refers to a 'hairy branch'.

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. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. 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. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. 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 rehmanniana ( Acacia rehmanniana )

(Silky Thorn)

This deciduous, small, flat-crowned tree has young branches which are densely covered with golden, furry hairs. Later they become grey and peel off to expose a powdery, rusty-red bark. The spines are long and straight, white with a reddish-brown tip. The flowers are white balls, grouped at the ends of the young branches, seen in summer. The fruit is a straight, flat greyish-brown pod. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. It is both frost and drought resistant. An ideal plant for hedging/screening and it also attracts birds.It occurs naturally in Zimbabwe, Botswana and the Transvaal. Named for Matthew Augustine Joseph Rehnn (1779-1831) a German physician. 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 robusta (Acacia robusta)

(Splendid Acacia)

This is a very upright tree and it has dark green foliage that grows more erect than other Acacia species. The leaflets are also larger. The white, scented ball shaped flowers open in spring and it starts flowering when it is about six years old. The flowers attract insects for the insect eating birds. It has a pair of straight thorns.This is an ideal garden tree and it is fast growing, about 1m per year. The bark is used to make twine and it is eaten by Rhino. The bark is also used for tanning. Baboon and monkeys eat the young shoots and the gum. It can be used for security hedging /screening. It attracts butterflies like the Hutchinson Highflier as it is the larval host. The weavers eat the seeds and the leaves are browsed by kudu. The roots are apparently poisonous but the tree is used medicinally as it is inhaled for chest complaints and applied for skin ailments. It is also used magically to get rid of snakes. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 3 meters to a building or a pool. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. 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 sieberana (Acacia sieberiana var. woodii)

(Paperbark Thorn)

This tree occurs in Northern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal. It is easily identified by its dense, widely spreading foliage, a flattened crown and flaking bark. The fluffy, scented white pompom blooms are conspicuous against the deep green, feathery foliage. The papery bark is exceptionally attractive and peels off in flattish strips, displaying yellow under bark. The bark is highly flammable and sensitive to fire, so perhaps it’s best not to build a braai under it. Legend has it that one should write one’s wishes on a piece of bark and blow it away. This apparently guarantees that your wishes will be fulfilled. The bark shelters insects which are foraged by insect eating birds. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. The Buffalo Weavers nest in these trees. Pied and Crested Barbets like to make nesting holes in the bark. The bark is also used to create a grey dye. It will remain evergreen in a moist habitat but in cooler or drier parts it is semi or completely deciduous. The paired, white thorns are joined at the base and grow up to 100 mm in length. The light brown pods have a musty or fruity smell and are 100 to 200 mm long. The pods are browsed by game and the Grey Hornbills crack open the pods to eat the seeds but the leaves contain prussic acid which is dangerous to stock. A wonderful nesting and lookout site for many birds, and is a ‘food basket’ for a variety of birds, beetles, bees and other bugs. It is the larval host of the Black-striped Hairtail, Common Scarlet and the Silver-spotted Grey. It is medicinal as an infusion from the roots is used as an antiseptic and a bark decoction is a painkiller. It is also used to wash children who have a fever, stomach ache, acne, gonorrhoea, colds, tapeworms and diarrhea. The leaves are a vermifuge. The wood is used for general timber although easily damaged by insects. It is fasts growing and would make useful firewood and timber. It is often seasoned under water for 6 months to make it more durable. The gum is clear and of a good quality. Soot is added to the gum to make ink.It has been recorded as growing to about 200 years. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 7 meters from buildings and pools. This is a popular bonsai subject. Branches fall from these trees. All thorn trees drop their thorns so it is not suitable for a lawn. 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 tortilis (Acacia tortilis)

(Umbrella Thorn)

It is a most classically shaped Acacia and is the well known emblem of one of our commercial banks and was the subject of many of Pierneef's paintings. The flat top droops slightly at the edge, producing an umbrella shape. It occurs naturally in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Noah apparently used this wood to make The Arc. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. It has both hooked and straight thorns.The flowers open in summer and are white pompoms and sometimes so profuse that the tree appears blanketed in snow. Baboon and monkeys enjoy eating the flowers. It makes a striking specimen and is highly sought after for bonsai. It requires full sun and survives drought and frost. It grows well in any soil even in clay soil although it is an indicator in the wild of good soil and grasses for grazing. It stabilizes the soil. The bark is used to make fibre for ceremonial skirts and it is used to make a yellow dye. Elephant are fond of the bark and often tear off strips which result in the death of the tree. In the Kruger National Park sharp rocks are placed around the trees to protect them from the elephants as they don't like walking on sharp rocks. Attracts birds and butterflies. The leaves are browsed by elephant, giraffe, eland, waterbuck, kudu, gemsbok, nyala, springbok, bushbuck, impala, duiker and giraffe while the contorted pods are enjoyed by monkeys, baboons and parrots. The gum is edible and is enjoyed by Bushbabies. It is slow growing but the wood is used for fuel. It is planted to stabilize the soil as it has an extensive root system. It is the larval host plant for the Topaz Blue and the Brown Playboy. 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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