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Guide to the tree species of Southern Africa

Dichrostachys cinerea - Sickle Bush
Travel Writer: EcoTravel Africa  

Mimosaceae - Thorn-Tree family
SA Tree no 190

Photographer: EcoTravel Africa 

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.

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 Sickle Bush - Dichrostachys cinerea with Wildlife Campus. Course content includes in-depth information about Sickle Bush habitat, distribution, ecology...

Wildlife Campus offers many courses including: Field Guide Courses (FGASA); Game Ranging; Wildlife Management; Photography; Astronomy...

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.
Southern Africa Wildlife - Fauna & Flora
Amphibians Ecology
Birds Trees
Fishes Shrubs
Mammals Grasses
Reptiles : Snakes Herbaceous Plants
Invertebrates Fungi : Mushrooms
Copyright Information: The travel information, images and, landscape, safari lodge and wildlife photographs on this Sickle Bush page are the © of Eco Travel Africa and the Travel Writers / Photographers. Royalty Free Images and Photos of African wildlife, including Sickle Bush of Southern Africa are available on this website.