African soil, a blessed soil that bears out beautiful plants. Trees are important to our environment and in our lives as they play a very important role in the air that we breath. Here are the best popular African trees:
FEVER TREE (VACHELLIA XANTHOPHLOEA)
This tall tree is one of our favourites! It’s one of the few trees where photosynthesis takes place in the bark, giving it a stunning yellow-and-green colouration.
The fever tree gets its name from its tendency to grow near swampy areas – early European settlers in the region noted that malarial fever was often contracted in areas where these trees grew (of course, we now know this was a mosquito-related mistake!).
These beautiful trees are a favourite in gardens and their feathery foliage is a choice home for birds, but they’re not revered everywhere. Fast-growing and short-lived, they can stage a quick takeover on other plant species – in Australia, a fever tree cousin (Acacia nilotica) costs the grazing industry over $3 million annually!
Upside-down giants with record-breaking lifespans, baobabs are the continent’s (and possibly the planet’s) most iconic and outlandish trees.
Add to that their towering bulk, fire-resistant bark and extraordinary drought resistance, and you’ve got yourself one truly epic tree.
Perhaps the best place to feast your eyes on them is on the island of Madagascar (home to six native species), along the famous Avenue des Baobabs (pictured), where the 30-metre giants stand sentry along a dusty track.
SAUGAGE TREE (KIGELIA AFRICANA)
It’s not hard to figure out where the sausage tree gets its name. Weighing in at 5-10kgs, its hefty sausage-shaped fruit can make pretty dangerous projectiles for unwary passers-by or carelessly parked cars.
That same fruit also makes the sausage tree a favourite with the local wildlife, from bush pigs and baboons to hippos and elephants (the animals kindly return the favour by dispersing the trees’ seeds in their dung).
Humans have also found uses for the fruit, from the medicinal to the intoxicating (the fermented fruit makes a great addition to traditional African brews).
QUIVER TREE (ALOE DICHOTOMA)
Because of its distinctive beauty, the quiver tree has been named one of Namibia’s national plants.
The thick tree is actually a giant aloe in disguise, and has soft pulpy tissue in the trunk and branches rather than actual wood.
Its name comes from the indigenous San people’s tradition of hollowing out the tubular branches to make quivers for their arrows.
But the tree allegedly has even more ingenious uses – dead quiver tree trunks are sometimes hollowed out and used as ‘natural’ refrigerators.
LEADWOOD (COMBRETUM IMBERBE)
As the name suggests, this is one strong and hardy species – in fact, its wood is so dense, it actually sinks in water.
That density also makes the tree incredibly resistant to termites, which is why leadwood skeletons (like the one pictured) remain dotted across the African landscape long after the original trees have died.
You can also identify this tree, one of the largest in Africa, by its distinctive rectangular bark pattern.