Acacia xanthophloea

I suspect this is the last photograph and write-up from Jackie for 2008 — I very much appreciate her efforts in helping with BPotD. Jackie writes:

The goal for most visitors on safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, is to capture a glimpse of the “Big Five” — buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. The term “Big Five” was first used by game hunters, to describe the five most dangerous (and thus most coveted) animals to hunt. Nowadays, the majority of hunting is done by wide-eyed tourists with cameras, and the thrill comes from the moment you see one of these magnificent animals sauntering across the savannah (if you haven’t seen it, check out this Youtube video: Battle at Kruger).

Some of us embark on safari with camera in hand looking for a different kind of thrill, the chance to see the “Big Five” trees — baobab (Adansonia digitata), knob thorn (Acacia nigrescens), marula (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra), mopane (Colophospermum mopane) and the fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) in the wild.

Acacia xanthophloea definitely merits inclusion in the coveted “Big Five”. Native to southern Africa, this large deciduous tree, can reach 10-30 m. It is the smooth, luminous, green-yellow bark that grabs your attention as it glows in the African sun. The trunk is coated in a yellow powder, which rubs away to reveal bright green bark beneath.

The genus name Acacia is derived from the Greek akis meaning “a sharp point”, in reference to the sharp spines possessed by many members of this group. The species name xanthophloea is derived from the Greek xanthos (yellow) and phloios (bark).

The common name, fever tree, was given by European settlers who associated the tree with terrible illness. In reality, it was the habitat that caused the fevers — not the tree. Acacia xanthophloea is native to hot, dry parts of southern Africa. Within these locations, the trees tend to thrive in low lying pockets of water. These swampy places are breeding ground for mosquitoes, and the fever people were suffering from was malaria.

The leaves of the fever tree are small and pinnate, the flowers are fragrant yellow pom-poms produced from September to November, and the seeds are contained in straight, flat pods. Aluka has a technical description of Acacia xanthophloea, accompanied by a good photograph of the bark.

Acacia xanthophloea

8 responses to “Acacia xanthophloea”

  1. Ken

    This is in the process of changing from an Acacia sp to a Vachellia sp. See for a description of some of the nomenclature problems.

  2. Roberta

    This looks almost identical to my Sweet Acacias that I just pruned this morning. The thorns are deadly, but the yellow flowers are fragrant in the spring. Then the ugly pods get all over the place, causing “friendly letters” from the HOA.

  3. Annie G.

    In Rudyard Kipling’s “How the Elephant Got His Tiny Trunk”, “the great grey-green Limpopo River [is] all set about with fever trees”, and I used to imagine just what you report: namely, that the trees gave people some awful sickness. My children may have missed getting the right information, but my grandchildren will be more fortunate! I’m also interested to learn that it’s an acacia. Thanks.

  4. Equisetum

    What a wonderful series this has been, Jackie.
    I note that there’s not all that much left of 2008 and hope for another orgy of Jackie pictures in 2009!

  5. Amanda

    What a great writeup! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm! I’ll always remember what a fever tree is now and how it got its name.

  6. A

    Oh my Word! That would be such a lovely plant to have in the backyard!

  7. Patricia

    Wow! How cool looking. I learned allot from your write up. Thanks!

  8. elizabeth a airhart

    thank you for another wonder
    to learn about and all the links

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