Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Acacia sieberiana var. woodii- Paperbark thorn

The Acacia sieberiana is arguably one of our most magnificent Acacias. As a garden subject this tree is truly spectacular, with it’s wonderful wide spreading flattened crown of deep green feathery foliage, the attractive papery bark and a profusion of white to yellowish scented flowers, this distinctive tree deserves to be planted more extensively in our urban environment. In South Africa, the Paperbark thorn occurs naturally in woodland, wooded grassland and along river banks. Being evergreen and drought resistant, Acacia sieberiana is also the ideal tree for street planting in our hot and dry climate.


Botanical Name: Acacia sieberiana – var. woodii
Common Name: Paperbark thorn
Genus: Fabaceae
RSA National Tree No’: 187


This beautifully shaped tree with it’s perfectly flattened crown and unique bark is a striking addition to any medium to large garden. Allow space around the tree to maximise the impact of the Paperbark thorn’s remarkable shape. On a large property or in a park, five or six trees may be planted fairly close together forming an impressive group. As with so many of our indigenous trees, the Acacia sieberiana is an excellent choice for those who wish to attract a variety of birds to their garden. Pied and crested barbets make nesting holes in the tree whilst the flowers lure beetles, bees and butterflies, attracting insectivorous birds such as the bar throated Apolis as well as white bellied, black and collared sunbirds.


Height: 8-15m
Spread: 12m
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Growth Habit: Acacia sieberiana occurs in bushveld, wooded grassland and along river banks.
Bark: The bark is creamy tan to yellow brown and inclined to be corky. Papery bark peels off in flattish strips revealing yellow underbark.
Foliage: The Acacia sieberiana has fine, feathery, deep green foliage. The branchlets are densely hairy with white spines and leaves with 8-28 pairs of pinnae, densely hairy to hairless; leaflets 12-40 pairs per pinna; petiolar glands are present at the base of upper pinnae pairs.
Flowers: The flowers are creamy to pale yellow globose heads that are sweetly scented and appear in profusion in Spring.
Fruit: The pods, which appear from March, are yellowish brown, thick, woody and straight and are often covered with velvety hairs. The musty scent of the pods is attractive to livestock and game.
Seed: The seeds are similar to small black beans and are released after the pods have fallen to the ground.


Growing regions: The Acacia sieberiana is widely distributed throughout South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Northern and Eastern Botswana, Northern Namibia and tropical Africa North to Ethiopia.
Growing conditions: The Paperbark thorn enjoys a sunny position. Plant the tree in a large hole filled with a generous mixture of compost, kraal manure and garden topsoil and water well in the beginning.
Best season: Spring
Hardiness: This lovely tree is ideal for dry areas with only a little frost.
Propagation: To propagate, soak seeds in water before planting into ordinary garden soil.

Growth rate: Fast – approximately 1 ½ metres per year.


Throughout Africa the tree has traditionally been valued for it’s medicinal properties. The leaves, bark and resin are used for a variety of ailments including inflammatory conditions and chest complaints. The edible gum makes an excellent adhesive whilst twine, made from the inner bark is used to thread beads. The wood is widely used for tool handles and mortars.

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