Vachellia erioloba – Meet the Camelthorn Tree

Vachellia erioloba, popularly known as the Camel Thorn, is a tree that is very much at home in the southern parts of Africa. It’s a common sight here in Namibia, where it loves the deep, dry sandy soils. You can also spot it in South Africa, Botswana, and some western parts of Zimbabwe.

This tree is a bit of a chameleon. It can be a small, spiky bush just 2 meters tall, or grow into a sturdy tree reaching up to 16 meters. When it’s young, the stem is a shiny reddish-brown, but as it grows older, the bark turns grey to blackish-brown. It has deep grooves and pairs of almost straight, whitish or brown spines.

The Camel Thorn’s Role in Nature

The Camel Thorn is a bit of a superhero in the Namibian landscape. It’s adapted to survive in the tough, dry conditions of its home and plays a big part in supporting the wildlife around it. It offers food and shelter to many animal species and even helps the local economy by providing firewood and construction material.

The tree’s leaves and seed pods are a feast for animals like giraffes, elephants, and antelopes. Birds love to perch and nest in its strong, thorny branches, and smaller animals find a safe haven among its roots and foliage.

Cultural Importance of Vachellia erioloba

Vachellia erioloba is not just a tree; it’s a symbol of endurance and survival in Southern African folklore. Its wood is known for its durability and resistance against termites, making it a valuable resource for building fences, furniture, and tools.

The tree’s bark is believed to have healing properties for skin ailments, and the gum is said to soothe a sore throat. The seeds are often used as a coffee substitute because of their rich and nutty flavor.

Threats and Conservation Efforts

Like many other species, the Camel Thorn faces threats such as habitat loss, climate change, and competition with invasive species. Conservation efforts in Namibia aim to address these threats and protect the unique ecosystems that the Camelthorn inhabits.

Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Namibian Nature Conservancy work towards conserving the habitats and natural resources of Namibia. They also help protect the diverse wildlife native to the region, like the African elephant, black rhino, and white rhino.

Economic Uses of the Camel Thorn

The Camelthorn is a tree of many talents. Its wood is incredibly dense and rich in tannin, making it highly durable and resistant to termites. This makes it an ideal material for fence posts, construction, and furniture.

The seed pods are a vital source of nutrition for many animals such as giraffes, desert adapted elephants are very fond of these pods.

Humans sometimes use the seeds as a coffee substitute. The gum from the tree is edible and consumed by both humans and animals.

The dried pods also make for some interesting table decorations.

Fun Facts About the Camel Thorn

Did you know that the Camel Thorn’s taproot can go down up to 60 meters to reach groundwater? This is how it survives in incredibly dry areas with annual rainfall less than 40mm to 900mm.

The Camel Thorn is a favorite among giraffes, which is quite evident from its nickname, the Giraffe Thorn. The giraffe’s long neck and tongue allow them to feast on the tree’s leaves, which are a valuable source of nutrients for these tall mammals.

The camelthorn trees are maybe most famous for their appearance at Deadvlei as fossilized remains!

Vachellia erioloba vs Acacia erioloba

The camel thorn was previously known as Acacia erioloba, but the taxonomy was updated around 2005 due to demands from Australian botanists! You can find more details of the taxonomy update of Acacia erioloba to Vachellia erioloba here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common uses for Camel Thorn wood? Camel Thorn wood is known for its strength and durability, making it an ideal material for various purposes such as fence posts, furniture, and, (unfortunately for the tree), it makes excellent firewood.

How is Vachellia erioloba adapted to its environment? Vachellia erioloba is well-adapted to its harsh, arid environment through a deep root system that can access water sources far below the surface.

What are the main features of the Camel Thorn? The Camel Thorn is a slow-growing tree ranging from a 2-meter spiny shrub to a 16-meter robust tree. Its distinctive features include dark brown bark with a rough texture, small, grey-green leaves, and straight, white spines.

Can you name some common habitats of the Camel Thorn tree? Camelthorn trees are commonly found in the arid and semi-arid regions of southern Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

What is the scientific name for the Camel Thorn tree? The scientific name for the Camel Thorn tree is Vachellia erioloba.

That’s it for our tour of the Camel Thorn tree. We hope you enjoyed learning about this remarkable tree as much as we did!