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Guide to the tree species of Southern Africa

Sjambok Pod - Cassia abbreviata
Travel Writer: EcoTravel Africa  


Cassia abbreviata ssp beareana is a medium sized tree (3 to 10 meters tall) -- most trees have a neat round crown. The trunk is straight and the bark, on older trees, is deeply and regularly fissured. The leaves are evenly compound with 5 to 20 pair leaflets per leaf. The leaves are a dull green. It flowers in large loose sprays of yellow. The flowers appear with the new leaves and the masses of yellow flowers, lasting between 4 and 6 weeks, makes a striking display. The fruits are also very curios, being up to 1 meter (3 feet) long, thin and cylindrical (hence the name . The pods ripens nearly a year after the flowers. The whiplike shape of the pods lends the tree its common name - a sjambok being a short short whip which used to be used quite often in South Africa.

Photographer: EcoTravel Africa 

Interesting Facts:

The Cassia abbreviata ssp. beareana is used in traditional medicine. Both the root and the bark are used. It has been proven that extracts from the root/bark are effective in the treatement of bilharzia and blackwater fever. Other ailements which are treated with various part of this tree includes backache, constipation, diarrhea, skin ailments, headache. The pods are eaten by monkeys and baboons and the seeds by barbets. Some local people believe that eating meat cooked over the bark of this tree will ensure a successful hunt…


The fresh seeds of the Sjambok Pod germinates easily - soak the seeds overnight in warm water and plant the next day in a mix of river sand (50%), compost (30%) and pumice/vercumilite/perlite (20%). Keep the the mix moist but not wet. The seeds germinate best in a temperature range of between 18 and 25 deg C. The seeds should germinate after 10 days although it might take longer with older seeds. It is also difficult obtaining viable ripe seed in the wild as they are normally infected with parasites. The tree develops a long taproot from quite early. The growth rate is about 50 cm per year. Flowering normally starts in the fifth year and is reliable thereafter. This tree needs a dry period in winter (it is very drought resistant), which also ensure good flower period.

Alternative Names:

Monepenepe (Setswana)
Sjambok peul (Afrikaans)
Long tailed cassia (English)

Best places to see the Sjambok Pod in Southern Africa:

Kruger National Park

Tree species of Southern Africa    >> Printable Tree List <<  
South African Trees    >> Printable Tree List <<
The Plant Kingdom (Plantae)
Wildlife - Fauna & Flora of Southern Africa

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Learn more about the Sjambok Pod - Cassia abbreviata with Wildlife Campus. Course content includes in-depth information about Sjambok Pod habitat, distribution, ecology...

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Southern Africa has many top Game / Nature Reserves, and is home to many of the mammals of southern Africa. Numerous wildlife safari and tour companies operate guided tours to Southern Africa. Popular adventure travel activities in Southern Africa include: horse riding safaris, elephant back safaris, mountain biking, birding, wilderness walking trails, science safaris and volunteering especially for GAP year students.
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Invertebrates Fungi : Mushrooms
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