Vachellia (Acacia) xanthophloea
The beautiful Fever Tree is a large thorn tree with a spreading crown, growing up to 25m high and characterised by its smooth, greenish-yellow bark. It grows on river banks, in swampy areas and in savanna and woodland with a high water table, occasionally forming “fever tree forests” that are, to me, among the most beautiful scenes to be enjoyed in some of our favourite South African wild places – among which the Pafuri area of the Kruger National Park and uMkhuze Game Reserve in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.
Early European settlers noted that malaria is often contracted in areas in which this tree grew, from there the name “Fever Tree”. It was only later that the vector for malaria was identified as mosquitoes, which of course also occurs in great numbers in the swampy areas the Fever Tree prefers to grow in. The leaves, shoots, gum, flowers and pods of young fever trees are eaten by browsing herbivores, while the bark is used in traditional medicine concoctions.
South Africa’s only naturally occurring populations of the Fever Tree is to be found in the north of Kwazulu-Natal, through the Lowveld and into the Limpopo Valley. However, despite being rather prone to frost, it has been planted widely as an ornamental plant in other parts of the country.