Camel Thorn

Camel Thorn
Setswana Name: 
Mogotlho
Scientific Name: 
Acacia erioloba
Family: 
Pod-bearing Family (Fabaceae)

Description

This species is synonymous with Botswana and, like everywhere else in the country, very common in Moremi and the Okavango Delta. The dark, blue-green canopy and the black branches sharply silhouetted against the straw-coloured grass make for yet another of the most striking landscapes to be found in Botswana.

The name "Camelthorn" was given by Jacobus Coetse in 1760 some 50 years before Burchell described it. It is a direct translation of the Afrikaans name "Kameeldoring", meaning "Acacia of the Giraffe", and is therefore not at all associated with the camel Giraffes are partial to all acacias and have a specially adapted tongue and lips that appear to be immune to the vicious thorns. The Camelthorn can grow up to 17m high.

It is distinguished from other acacias by the blue-green colour of the foliage, the almost black bark and the untidy, pendant, broken branches and twigs. Young twigs are noticeably angled (zigzagged) between pairs of large, white thorns. The most outstanding characteristic, however, are the large ear-shaped pods which are relished by all browsers. It is a deciduous tree which loses its leaves for a short period only.

In order to obtain water, the roots penetrate the deep, sandy soil to great depths, which accounts for their green foliage virtually throughout the year. It has been recorded in Namibia that the roots of a particular tree attained a depth of 46 m. In the Kalahari Desert, where the Camelthorn is very common, it has tremendous value as a shadow tree both for humans and animals. It is also one of the first species to get new leaves in late winter, providing valuable fodder at a time which is critical for most browsers.

Bark

Very distinctive and very dark-brown to black.

Leaves

Compared to other acacias, the leaflets are quite large (7x3mm).

Flowers

Sweet smelling, bright, golden-yellow balls (1,5cm in diametre).

Fruit

A large (12x6cm), thickened, ear-shaped pod, which is grey in colour with a yellowish tinge.

Thorns

Paired and very well developed, strong, white and up to 5,5cm in length.

Flowering

July to September

Fruiting

December to April

Distribution

This species is widely spread throughout Botswana wherever deep sand occurs. It is also often a constituent of marginal floodplain woodland.