The Shepherd’s Tree, growing up to 7m tall, is one of the most important fodder trees where it occurs. It has a very high protein content in its evergreen leaves and both the flowers and fruits are eagerly eaten by birds and antelope. It is also incredibly valuable as a shade tree – it is said that even ground temperatures of 70°C is lowered to 21°C in the shade of a Shepherd’s Tree! In South Africa, Shepherd’s Trees grow in the savanna regions from northern Kwazulu-Natal, through Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Gauteng, the North West and the Free State to the arid west of the Northern Cape. It is also found widely in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The dried, ground roots of the Shepherd’s Tree can be used to make a kind of coffee, while fresh roots can be pounded and eaten as porridge. Its bark is used to brew traditional beer and the edible fruit is an ingredient in traditional dishes.