plant of the month The Fever Tree

Vachellia xanthophloea, commonly known as the Fever tree (English), Koorsboom (Afrikaans), mooka-kwena (Northern Sotho), umHlosinga (Zulu), nkelenga (Tsonga), munzhelenga (Venda), is a stunning, semi-deciduous to deciduous tree which grows to between 15 and 25 meters tall.

The trees almost luminous, lime green to greenish-yellow bark is smooth, and coated in a yellow powdery substance.
Rubbing away the powdery substance reveals bright green bark beneath.

And these trees pack a mean punch!
The long straight white thorns, arranged in pairs can easily pierce thin soled shoes, and are extremely painful if trodden on.
The thorns are particularly prevalent on young trees, but on older trees are often barely noticeable.> Tiny clusters of bright yellow flowers have a sweet heady scent and appear on the trees from August through to November.
These trees occur naturally mainly in depressions and shallow vleis where there is an abundance of underground water or surface water after the summer rains, and it is this preference for swampy type environments that led early settlers to believe the tree was responsible for causing fevers.
The assumption was however of course false, with the swampy environment being an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos carrying malar
The name Fever Tree however remains widely used.
Ironically the bark of the tree is used in traditional medicine to treat fevers and eye complaints!

This beauty is an ideal tree for impatient gardeners, growing up to 1.5 meters per year, and attracting an abundance of bird life who love to nest in the protection that the razor-sharp thorns provide.
Young branches and leaves are also eaten by elephant, (should you by any chance have these resident in your garden), and the leaves and pods are eaten by giraffe and vervet monkeys. Monkeys and grey louries are also particularly fond of the flowers.

Interestingly this plant has root nodules which contain nitrogen fixing bacteria which play an important role in the nitrogen enrichment of soils, in turn having a positive impact on the growth of plants around it.
It’s a tree which does not cast significant shade, with the canopy offering dappled shade and protection from the full might of the sun, whilst still allowing sufficient sunlight through for plants.

This tree is easy to propagate – Soak the seeds in hot water overnight, which causes them to swell and sow into seed trays the next morning.
They should reach the two-leaf stage within 6 to 8 weeks and can then be transplanted into larger containers.
Once mature enough they can be transplanted directly into the ground.

Remember that these trees do grow to a relatively large size so take that into account when deciding where to plant them.
Needless to say they are fond of water, and for those who live on the highveld, they can tolerate mild frost.