Sweet Thorn

Vachellia (Acacia) karroo

The Sweet Thorn is a cosmopolitan tree, occurring in almost every corner of South Africa and beyond our borders as far as Angola and Zambia. Depending on the depth and water content of the soil where it grows, the Sweet Thorn may be shrub-like in appearance or grow to a tree 5 to12m high. The formidable paired thorns, or spines, are often longest on younger plants and may be as long as 17cm!

The bane of hay fever sufferers all over the country, masses of yellow pom-pom flowers are produced during the summer months. These flowers are pollinated by a large variety of insects. Sweet Thorns are hardy, thanks to their deep en extensive root systems, live for up to 40 years, and does become invasive in areas suffering from overgrazing. The IUCN lists the Sweet Thorn as being of least concern.

The Sweet Thorn is an integral part of the history of many South African cultures, with uses as wide-ranging as traditional medicine, a coffee-substitute, bee farming, fodder for game and stock, fencing, tanning of hides, making ropes, and even needles! Even its name is suggestive of the sweet and tasty gum exuding from wounds on the trunk and branches, prized not only by humans but also animals like the lesser bushbaby.

18 thoughts on “Sweet Thorn

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      In our family it is poor Marilize that has to contend with the hayfever when the Sweet Thorns are in bloom, and there’s quite a number of them along the Moreleta Spruit flowing through our residential area.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      You are quite right, John – up until fairly recently our thorn trees were classified as “Acacia”, until the powers-that-be decided that the genus applies only to trees found in Australia, sending the Sweet Thorn and its African relatives to the genus Vachellia.

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  1. Anne

    Acacia … Vachellia … a rose by any other name … I love these trees and your photographs remind me of swathes of them in bloom in the Mountain Zebra National Park.

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  2. H.J. for avian101

    I love trees! I saw acacias in the Negev desert in Israel and in the arid deserts of Peru and despite being thorny the have a unique shape that I like. Even the considered “perfect medicine” Aspirin is made from an acacia from Africa. Great post, my friend. 🙂

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