Mimosaceae - Thorn-Tree family
SA Tree no 190
This shrub prefers clay-like soils, but is found on all soil types. It usually occurs in large groups, and is found close to rivers and brackish flats and often along roads where there is increased water available from the run-off.
This small, multi-stemmed shrub grows to a height of 2 - 6 m and has heavily intertwined or matted canopy with fine feathery foliage, The branches and twigs have long, straight spines; the flowers resemble chinese lanterns and the tightly coiled pods are very distinctive. Bark is light brown to grey-brown with shallow grooves.
Links with animals - The pods are very nutritious and are eaten by a wide variety of animals including rhino, monkey, giraffe, bushpig and buffalo.
Human uses - Roots, bark, pods and leaves are used for medicinal purposes including the treatment of toothache, snakebite and skin diseases. The leaves are said to have local anaesthtic properties, and the wood is used for fence poles. Fresh bark is used to make fibre.
Gardening - With its very attractive flowers, sharp spines and tendency to encroach, the sickle bush can make an attractive, impenetrable hedge for the indigenous garden. It grows slowly but is easily grown from seeds.
Leaves - Twice compound, paripinnate, with 4 - 13 pairs if pinnae, each carrying up to 27 pairs of leaflets,opposite, elliptic with a smooth margin. Very fine leaves, similar to those of the Acacias, but these close up when picked.
(8 pairs of feathers: 50 mm; 30 pairs of leaflets: 3 x 0.5 mm)
Flowers - The flower spikes are like Chinese lanterns. All floral parts in fives; stamens in 2 whorls of 5; the whole flower spike droops and hangs upside down on the tree. Fluffy, purple filaments at the top of the flower spikes are sterile, yellow flowers at the bottom are fertile, September to February. (40 - 60 mm)
Pods - Tightly coiled, dark brown, bean-like pods are borne in clusters on a long stem. The are visible for most of the year. (70 x 10 mm)
Best places to see the Sickle Bush in Southern Africa:
The Sickle Bush is found in the Kruger National Park in the Mixed Bushwillow Woodlands, Pretoriuskop Sourveld, Malelane Mountain Bushveld, Sabie Crocodile Thorn Thickets, Knob Thorn / Marula Savannah, Delagoa Thorn Thickets, Lebombo Mountain Bushveld, Olifants Rugged Veld, Stunted Knob Thorn Savannah, Mopane Scrubveld, Alluvial Plains, Tree Mopane Savannah & Mopane / Bushwillow Woodlands ecozones.
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Wildlife - Fauna & Flora of Southern Africa
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