Fever Trees (Vachellia xanthophloea)
The fever tree has become iconic for many South Africans for its unique bark and beautiful silhouette. Few know the history behind this gentle giant, but the benefits are immense. Here are the reasons the fever tree has caught our attention and earned its spot as our plant of the week.
- The fever tree is a giant, growing to approximately 15 - 25 meters tall in ideal conditions.
- Although not an evergreen tree, the bark on the fever tree remains a lush colour throughout the year.
- Its beautiful thin, smooth bark ranges in colours from dark green to lime green to a greenish-yellow colour and covered in a fine powdery substance.
- Young twigs and branches start growing blood red in colour and as the bark peels away with maturity it will reveal the green to yellowish bark.
- The fever tree has beautiful long white thorns which grow in pairs to protect young saplings but eventually become less noticeable as the tree grows.
- Fever tree flowers appear during spring and early summer with bright golden puffballs giving off a sweet scent.
- During late summer these flowers transform into brown seed pods which attract grey louries and other fruit-eating birds.
- The feathery leaves create a dappled shaded area for animals to enjoy as well as helping to protect smaller, more delicate plants which are susceptible to sunburn.
- Fever trees naturally grow in shallow depressions where underground water is present or where water collects after rain storms.
- Fever trees are indigenous to South Africa and are commonly found growing naturally from KZN through to the Lowveld, and have been used throughout South Africa for its beautiful shape and colour scheme.
- It's a popular nesting tree for birds and is a bee friendly tree with its sweet smelling flowers which are rich in nectar.
- This attractive tree is often used to decorate landscapes and gardens in rural and urban areas, it has also been used to decorate roads and create lush tree avenues.
- Under ideal conditions, the Fever tree is a fast grower, able to grow at a rate of 1.5 meters a year.
- Fever tree roots contain nitrogen-rich nodules and are a perfect companion to plants with a high nitrogen requirement.
- Early settlers and ecologists believed that the fever tree was the cause of malaria as they grew in swampy areas, which produce conducive conditions for the breeding of mosquitos, hence the name fever. Ironically, the fever tree's roots have been used to help combat the symptoms of malaria and reduce fever.
This tree is not only interesting in terms of aesthetic appearance and the origin of its name but has a variety of benefits that will bring intrigue to any garden.
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Author: Lillian Rencken