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Umbrella Thorn - Acacia tortillis

About Trees

Common Trees In Botswana

As a guide it is important to have a good knowledge of the plants in your area of operation as well as their taxonomic classification from family to species.

Combretum imberbe (Leadwood)               Family: Combretaceae.

  • Tall, upright tree with a rounded crown; bark is pale grey and splits into longitudinal strips on older trunks.
  • It has a deep tap root.
  • The simple leaves of this deciduous tree are arranged opposite one another along the branch; leaves are medium sized and grey-green in colour.
  • The sweet smelling, creamy-yellow, pin-cushion flowers appear in late summer. The seed is encapsulated in a four winged structure that is typical of the Combretum species.
  • Excellent firewood and the ash makes an good tooth-paste substitute.
  • Protection mechanisms include tannins that are exuded by the leaves and the younger trees are armed with spines.
  • This Combretum is common along river banks and grows well in alluvial soils.
  • The oldest recorded C. imberbe was over 1000 years (J.C. Vogel and A. Fuls),
  • This has no real food value to mammals during winter.

Sclerocarya birrea (Marula)               Family: Anacardiaceae

  • Medium/tall, deciduous tree with relatively sparse leaf cover. The bark on the trunk peels off in large pieces.
  • It has a deep tap root.
  • This deciduous tree has alternate, imparipinnately, compound leaves.
  • The small, yellow flowers appear from September to November yielding a juicy, creamy-yellow fruit.
  • The fruits make a potent drink and the seeds in the cornel are much sort after by people and other animals. Mekoros are made from the trunk of these trees.
  • Protection mechanism includes the release of tannins and it’s grow above the reach of most browsers.
  • The marula is found in both woodland and grassland habitats but cannot withstand frost.

Diospyros mespiliformis (Jackal berry)               Family: Ebenaceae

  • A tall (20m) riverine tree with a dense crown. The dark bark gives the trunk an almost black appearance.
  • It has a tap root system.
  • The leaves are simple and alternate along the branches. The dark green foliage provides excellent shade.
  • The creamy-white flowers appear in October and November. The fruits are tasty and, when fermented, make a strong beer.
  • The local people of the Delta use these trees to make mekoros (dugout canoes).
  • Protective mechanisms: the tree produces tannins and branches of mature trees are out of reach of browsers.
  • The D. mespiliformis favour riverine forests and are often found growing in termite mounds.
  • Nutrients are not withdrawn during winter months and the leaves are browsed throughout the year.

Kigelia africana (Sausage tree)               Family: Bignoniaceae

  • This medium sized tree with a round crown grows along river courses. The bark is light grey and smooth.
  • It has a tap root.
  • The imparipinnate leaves are large and coarse to the touch.
  • The flowers (bat pollinated) are large and wine red and appear in spring. The large, sausage-shaped fruits are greyish to fawn in colour.
  • Mekoros are made from the trunk. The fruit is used to treat skin conditions and is said to have healing properties for the skin.
  • Protective mechanisms: herbivores do little browsing of this tree because of the tannins and the hard, leathery leaves.
  • K. africana grows in riverine forests and open woodland.
  • This deciduous tree has little nutrients for mammals during the winter months.

Acacia nigrescens (Knob-thorn)               Family: Fabaceae

  • This is a large, deciduous tree with dark, brown bark and the younger trees are heavily armed with hooked thorns.
  • It has a tap root that seldom goes deep into the soil as water is readily available in its natural habitat (river banks); because of the shallow root system this tree is often uprooted during storms.
  • Leaves are bi-pinnately compound.
  • The white flowers are borne in spikes from August to November. The seeds are encased in a short, flat pod.
  • Wood is used for fencing posts. Elephant enjoy the leaves, roots and bark of this specie and are responsible for the ring barking of many of these trees. Strips of the bark are soaked in water and used as rope.
  • The hard, curved thorns are a good deterrent against would be browsers.
  • A. nigrescens favours areas close to water.
  • Perennial use: although this is a deciduous tree, elephant strip the bark off in all seasons.

Croton megalobotrys (Large fever-berry)               Family: Euphorbiaceae

  • A small to medium tree with dense foliage with a smooth, light grey bark.
  • It has a tap root system.
  • The leaves are simple and alternate.
  • Flowers are greenish-yellow and are borne on spikes from September to November.
  • Bark and seeds were used to cure malaria (Keith Palgrave “Trees of Southern Africa”). This tree is toxic but frequently browsed by elephant; this possibly assists in clearing the stomach. It is used to treat sexually transmitted diseases and is a powerful purgative.
  • Croton belongs to the Euphorbia family and has powerful toxins which discourage browsers.
  • C. megalobotrys grows along forest fringes with a preference for alluvial soils.
  • This evergreen tree is browsed by some mammals throughout the year.
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