Learn about SA’s indigenous trees

Southern Africa has about 1 700 different native trees. Annelie Coleman investigated a few of the most common trees found in the Free State and North West and compiled notes on some of them.

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The karee (Searsia lancea) is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree that usually grows to a height of 7m and a width of 7m. It occurs naturally in acacia woodland and along drainage lines, rivers and streams. The karee can be found from Zambia in the north to the Western Cape in the south.

The Buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata) is a small to medium tree, distributed throughout the summer rainfall areas. In traditional medicine a blend made from the roots is used as a painkiller and for dysentery, while the bark and leaves are used for respiratory ailments and sepsis on the skin.

The sweet thorn (Acacia karroo) is widespread throughout Southern Africa. It is found from the Western Cape through to Zambia and Angola. It grows in a variety of habitats from low lying areas to the highveld. It is an indicator of sweet veld, indicating good grazing and fertile soil.

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Puzzle bush (Ehretia rigida)
is a deciduous small tree or shrub, usually multi-stemmed, with an untidy rounded crown. It has tangled branches which arch downwards. This rather ‘puzzling’, haphazard look is the source of its common name.

The Karoo bluebush (Diospyros lycioides) is a deciduous to evergreen shrub that grows up to 5m tall with an open crown and drooping branches. It occurs all over southern Africa with the exception of the winter rainfall area of the Cape, parts of Botswana and eastern Namibia. The marble-sized berries are eaten by birds, dassies and monkeys, among others.

Sources: www.plantzafrica.com, www.sanbi.org, www.ispotnature.org.

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.