Fever Tree

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.

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46 thoughts on “Fever Tree

  1. naturebackin

    You have some wonderful photos of these beautiful trees. I recognise the Mkuze picnic site trees at
    Nsumo Pan. I was sad to see on our last visit there that some of the old trees there have fallen down.

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          I think the blame for that lies squarely with the drought as well, for the ground cover was so denuded when those trees died during the drought that even if there was a fire started it wouldn’t have been able to spread to that extent.

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          1. naturebackin

            Yes that’s true. I can remember how Sontuli Loop vegetation was before the devastation from the incredible floods due to cyclone Demoina way back in 1984. It has been interesting to watch the recovery, but that was until the drought. And although there has been rain it is still not good in the region.

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            1. de Wets Wild Post author

              Sadly my first visit to Hluhluwe and Umfolozi came about a decade after the ravages of Demoina, but I have seen photos of the lush riverine forests and everytime we visit I try to imagine what it will look like again one day.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Mooi as wat hulle is, is ek nie n “fan” van Jakarandas nie, Tannie Frannie – hulle vernietig regtig soveel van die klein bietjie inheemse woude wat ons nog oor het. Maar ek stem saam dat Pretoria se sypaadjies ook nie die plek is vir koorsbome nie – hier in die beboude gebied kom hul skoonheid nie vir my tot sy volle reg nie.

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  2. Expatorama

    Fun fact: It’s from the bark of a different tree – the cinchona – that quinine is extracted – the basis of tonic water which was mixed with gin (to counter quinine’s horrid bitter flavour) to try and ward off malaria caused by the mozzies that thrive in the vicinity of the Fever Tree. Negligible quinine in modern day tonic water though.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Good thing we don’t have cinchona trees growing in Africa, for then many of our wonderful wildlife Parks on this continent would’ve been settled by humans – thankfully the malaria kept people at bay and environments pristine so that we can enjoy them today as sanctuaries!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I’m very grateful for the association between fever trees, mosquitoes and malaria causing people to avoid settling such places and today those places remain havens for nature!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Absoluut! Hulle skep soveel atmosfees waar hul voorkom, en n klomp bymekaar is seer sekerlik van ons mooiste natuurtonele. Daar in Mkuze se wereld in Natal is daar net sulke mooi voorbeelde van Koorsbomwoude as by Pafuri in die Wildtuin.

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