Vachellia (=Acacia) siberiana var. woodii - The Paperbark Thorn has been called the quintessential African tree. It is one of the many South African Indigenous tree species that has grown to full and magnificent proportions at Random Harvest Indigenous Plant Nursery - please ask our staff to show you these beautiful trees.
Its spreading, flat-topped crown presents a mass of white pom-pom florets which give off an amazing scent to a whole variety of insect pollinators. Even though the tree is not trying to attract a specialised pollinator, the distinctive scent is there to give it a competitive edge over other plants that also strive to attract a broad spectrum of insect species.
If you are looking for a tree that supports biodiversity, providing habitat for insects, then the Paperbark Thorn is hard to beat. One can sit for hours with a pair of binoculars, watching the literal "buzz" of life on and amongst the flowers. Insects of all description visit for the bounty, and insect eating birds such as the Bar-Throated Apalis, Flycatchers, Shrikes and Cape White-eyes flit through the top of the tree after these insects. It is one of the best trees that attract birds, whether in flower or not. There is always a bounty of insects in the tree, including under the papery bark. Wood Hoopoes often scratch under the loose bark of this tree for insects. As the wood is relatively soft, it is easily chipped out by Barbets for nesting sites, and Woodpeckers can often be found drilling into the dead wood looking for tasty insects and their larvae.
Its common name is the Paperbark Thorn and this is because it produces thick layers of flaky bark. Suberin, a corky substance in the bark, forms layers of insulation against veld fires and in South Africa the bark of this tree is more powdery and brittle than its Kenyan counterpart, because the young pods are favoured by monkeys and the powdery substance on their hands and feet is uncomfortable and discourages them from utilising the tree as a food source.
The tree is relatively smooth stemmed in Kenya where it, in fact, relies on baboons and monkeys to disperse the seeds.
Both the pods and gum are nutritional and edible to livestock and game.
The dry, thin dead branches make excellent kindling for starting a fire.
It is a beautiful tree for the garden too, and can be allowed to grow in a space where its canopy covers a large area. Grass still grows well under this tree, as the shade it casts is still light enough for healthy lawn growth.
Below is an artist's impression of the amazing biodiversity that the Paperbark Thorn can sustain in the garden.
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