One tree we in Africa can never forget is the umbrella thorn tree, also known as acacia tortilis. The crown is shaped just like a huge umbrella, and the thorns are different shapes, either small and hooked or straight and long. For this reason the acacia is also known as the “haak-and-steek”, because it hooks and pricks us if we come too close. This tree likes to grow in warm places. Near it we will find sweet grasses, which it protects from heat and rain. Once the rains have come, creamy blossoms decorate the tree’s crown; soon after that, the curled twisted fruit hangs down in thick clusters. The pods are rich in food. Baboons and monkeys, bush buck and bush pig love to eat them. Giraffe, duiker, eland, kudu and impala feed on the leaves.
The umbrella thorn also supports many insects, which, in turn, are food for birds. It is the home of our Spinosa Spider narrator of “Tales of the Full Moon” and the busybody of the bush. She spins her web between the spreading branches that catches delicious moth steaks!
Another tree in the bush is the marula tree. This is a large tree with branches that form a big green umbrella. Marulas shed their leaves seasonally and have a small fruit that is very juicy. Rumble Drum the elephant loves to eat it and is known to get a little tipsy. The tree features in Spinosa’s tenth tale, “Rumble Drum, Lord of the Land”.
This tree poem by Daktari Sue will remind us of how important trees are to all of us:
You who would pass by and raise your hand
against me, listen ere you harm me.
I am the heat of your fire on the cold
winter’s nights, the friendly shade
screening you from the summer sun,
and my fruits are refreshing draughts
quenching your thirst as you journey on.
I am the beam that holds your house,
The board of your table, the bed on which you lie and the timber that
builds your boat.
I am the handle of your hoe, the door of
your homestead, the wood of your cradle
and the shell of your coffin.
I am the gift of God and the friend of man.
You who pass by, listen to my prayer.
Harm me NOT!
Everyone should plant two for each one that is cut down!