Africa is a rich continent filled with weird and wonderful vegetation, so let’s take a look at ten of the most Iconic trees to be found on the dark continent.
We’ve all read one African work of fiction or the other that featured the Baobab tree. It holds a sacred role in African tradition, sometimes described as the ‘tree of life’. A handy source of Vitamin C, the Baobab tree can measure up to 30m in height. Unfortunately, these trees might be dying out, but if you can get to see one before that happens, I promise, it’s a beautiful sight.
Quiver tree (Aloidendron dichotomum)
This tree, also known as the Kokerboom in Afrikaans, has sharp leaves that point upwards and bears a striking resemblance to a quiver full of arrows, what more, the indigenous bushmen DID make quivers from this tree. The Quiver tree is also a great source of aloe plants.
Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)
Spekbooms are weird. They grow in shrubs and little trees. They are kind of edible since they have succulent, fleshy leaves which have a lemony taste. It has a number of other names including Porkbush or Elephant bush.
To survive, the Spekboom require arid conditions and it’s most commonly found in South Africa.
Sausage (Kigelia africana)
Found in countries such as: Eritrea, the south of Chad, Senegal, Namibia, and parts of India, what makes the Sausage an iconic tree isn’t the name (even though that’s pretty awesome) but rather the beautiful red blooms, the fruits are what look like sausages and where the tree gets its name from. But don’t eat it because fresh ‘sausages’ are poisonous and have been known to be used as a natural laxative. Properly handled through fermentation and you have something to eat and in some places in Kenya, drink. The Sausage also has medicinal qualities and through it can come products which can heal the skin.
Marula (Sclerocarya birrea)
It already sounds like the Irish Cream brand, Amarula and it should probably be even more famous as it has eight times as much as Vitamin C as oranges. The seeds are also good to eat and use as a cooking ingredient. Depending on who you listen to, the dried skin of Marula fruits can be used as a stand-in for coffee.
Whistling Thorn (Vachellia/Acacia drepanolobium)
As far as Iconic trees go, the whistling thorn is a rather awesome tree. The name comes from the legend that when wind blows over the trees’ thorns, it produces a pitchy, whistling sound. The tree, which contains nectar and is generally a favoured spot for herbivores is protected by both the thorns and bulbous spheres which can be found at the base of the thorns.The gum which comes from the tree can be used to make glue.
Acacia (Acacia s.l.)
The Acacia has one of the largest species of tree in the world and there are about 28 species of Acacia in Southern Africa alone. It can also be found in Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Egypt. Its thorny leaves are an excellent snack for Giraffes who are left unbothered by the thorns due to their thick tongues. Acacias can be used for their gum and are even useful in the production of perfume.
Also called the koorsboom in Afrikaans, this iconic tree grows mostly in swampy regions. The rather suspicious name comes from the popular belief in the past that the tree caused Malaria. The tree can be found in South Africa, Botswana, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Here’s a fascinating science fact, the tree doesn’t photosynthesise through its leaves, but through its bark.
Yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius)
This tree is particularly popular in South Africa where it can be found in various parts of the Norther part of the country. Some of the trees are mighty old, win some dating as far back as 500-600 years. The trunks are a thing of wonder as they can sometimes be as wide as 40m wide.
Mopane (Colophospermum mopane)
Also called the butterfly tree because of its winged appearance, the Mopane also exudes a fragrant smell which has also led to it being called the balsam tree. It has a third name; the turpentine tree which its also called for the same reason. Its an iconic tree as the wood is almost always used to make furniture and musical instruents, this is due majorly to the fact that the wood is termite resistant. The tree is home to Moths who keep their larvae there, and elephants, impala and kudu snack on the leaves. Mopane trees can be found in countries such as Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.