Pure stands of these beautifully shaped trees with their perfectly
flattened crowns are quite stunning. Where else but in Africa would
you encounter such a sight?
A magnificent, widely spreading, flat crown (12 m high, 16 m wide)
of deep green, feathery foliage (deciduous) and attractive creamy-tan
to yellow-brown corky bark, make this an easy tree to identify.
The flaky, papery bark peels off in flattish strips, revealing a
Balls of creamy to pale yellow scented flowers are borne in spring
to summer (September to November) and entice insects. Paired thorns
are long, strong, straight and white. Light brown, woody pods are
formed from autumn (March) onwards, are cylindrical and thickened
(often with velvety hairs).
This tree is found in woodland, wooded grassland and along riverbanks
(where it can reach 15 m) in South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe,
northern and eastern Botswana, northern Namibia and tropical Africa
north to Ethiopia. There are about 44 species of Acacia in
South Africa. Most are large, thorny trees with feathery twice-compound
leaves and fluffy flowers carried either in spikes or balls. Acacias
(with thorns) are mostly confined to Africa. Those found in Australia
do not have thorns.
Acacia comes from the Greek akantha (thorn), sieberiana
is named for Franz Sieber (1789-1844), a Bohemian botanist, traveller
and plant collector.
is a favourite nesting site for many birds - in valley bushveld
areas, Pied and Crested Barbets make their nesting holes in this
tree. Wood-hoopoes often scratch around under the loose bark for
insects. Grey Hornbills crack the pods open and eat the seeds.
The flowers lure beetles, bees, butterflies and thrips, in turn
attracting insectivorous birds (e.g. Bar-throated Apalis, White-bellied,
Black and Collared Sunbirds). The pods have a musty scent (like
old socks!) and are eaten by cattle and game (said to taint a cow's
milk). They contain hydrocyanic acid, so the quantities fed to livestock
should be limited (also quantities of wilted leaves).
Uses and cultural aspects
In Central Africa, a bark/root decoction is used for inflammation
of the urinary passages. Leaf, bark and resin are used as an astringent
for colds/chest problems, diarrhoea, haemorrhage and eye inflammation.
In Tanzania, bark is used to treat gonorrhoea. The edible gum is
a good adhesive. Twine from the inner bark is used for threading
Growing Acacia sieberiana var. woodii
This tree is easily propagated from seed that has been immersed
in boiling water and soaked overnight. Protect young plants from
frost. They are suited to medium to large gardens. Allow these magnificent
trees the space to show off their wonderful shapes - don't crowd
and clutter them. However, on a large property, five to six trees
planted fairly close together make an impressive group.
This tree is half-hardy and very fast-growing with fertile soil
and sufficient water, and tolerates temperatures ranging from about
-2°C to 40°C. Plant in the sun.
- Coates Palgrave, K. 1988. Trees of southern Africa, Struik,
- Germishuizen, G. & Fabian, A. 1982. Transvaal wild flowers.
- Joffe, P. 2001. Creative gardening with indigenous plants
- a South African guide. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa.
Balkema, Cape Town.
- Pooley, E. 1993. The complete guide to trees of Natal, Zululand
and Transkei. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.
- Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to the trees
of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
- Van Wyk, B., Van Wyk, P. & Van Wyk B-E. 2000. Photographic
guide to trees of southern Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Von Koenen, E. 1996. Medicinal, poisonous and edible plants
in Namibia. Klaus Hess, Windhoek.
- Watt, J.M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. 1962. The medicinal
and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa. Livingstone,
Pretoria National Botanical Garden