Monday, November 19, 2012

The Distinctive Umbrella Thorn

There are few images that are more symbolic of the South African savannah and indeed, the African continent, than the iconic form of the umbrella thorn (Acacia tortilis subs heteracantha).

The blue - black silhouette etched against a burning African sunset, standing as a sentinel on an arid plain or looming out of the early morning mist, speaks it’s own silent poetry, appealing not only to the mind but also to the heart of all who behold it.

Listed as one of the Big Five most photogenic trees of the Kruger National Park, the umbrella thorn provides a bounty of nourishment and shade for man and beast alike while the wood, bark and roots have benefitted countless generations of people throughout the continent.

These fantastic, sculptural trees can reach a height of 20 meters while the dark, gnarled branches can achieve an impressive spread of up to 13 meters.

The name Acacia is derived from the Greek word ‘akis’ meaning pointed or barb while the Greek word ‘tortilis’ means twisted, referring to the spiral shape of the pods. The word ‘heteracantha’ means different thorns alluding to the straight as well as the hooked thorns that are found on the umbrella thorn.

Wherever the traveller encounters this remarkable symbol of Africa, the sight is bound to leave an indelible impression on the memory, of beauty, dignity and the ongoing rhythm of life that the umbrella thorn represents.

Sophiatown Tree Before 

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