Family: FABACEAE (Pea family) Sub-family: MIMOSOIDEAE (Thorn-tree sub-family) Name Derivation:
- Dichrostachys – of Greek origin, from ‘di’, two, ‘chroos’, colour and ‘stachys’, spike, referring to the bi-coloured flower spikes.
- cinerea – ash coloured (referring to the Indian subspecies).
Common Names: Sicklebush (Eng), kleinblaarsekelbos (Afr), moretse (Nso), lusekwane (Swa) ndzenga (Tso), moselesele (Tsw) murenzhe (Ven) and ugagane (Zul).
SAF Number: 190 Zim Number: 213
Form: A shrub or small, thorn- tree like tree.
Size: 2 – 6 m by 2 – 5 m.
- Distinctive pendulous flowers are spikes that are pink or mauve on the top part and yellow below.
- Borne along the branches.
- Quite spectacular in flower.
Colour: (White) pink to mauve above, yellow below.
Flowering Months: Oct –Feb.
Fragrance: Flowers are scented.
- Deciduous or semi-deciduous.
- Leaves are bipinnate, light green, soft to touch and resemble those of some Thorn-trees.
- Long, tough spines that are modified branchlets.
- The spines are known to penetrate even tractor tyres.
- Seedpods are distinctly curly and hang in twisted clusters.
- Pods remain on the tree for quite a long time.
- Bark is dark red-brown or grey, rough and fissured.
- Its attractive lantern-like flowers and interesting branch patterns while leafless make for a good feature plant.
- Selective pruning will result in a well formed specimen tree.
- Planted closely together, Dichrostachys cinerea can be effectively used as a security hedge.
- A good choice for wildlife friendly gardens, attracting insects, butterflies and birds.
- Good bonsai subjects.
- Plant with plenty of compost and bonemeal, in most soils.
- A low maintenance garden tree.
- Moderately fast growing, 600 – 800 cm in a year, feed regularly.
- Prune selectively to create a well shaped single stemmed tree.
Cold Hardiness: Cold hardy.
- Very drought hardy.
Light Requirements: Full sun.
Roots: The roots are not aggressive.
- Used by insectivorous birds for foraging and gleaning.
- The thorny branches are used as nesting sites by some birds.
Butterflies: The larval host to the Satyr Charaxes, as well as 3 moth species.
- Used in traditional medicine to treat many ailments from body pain to backache, toothache, syphilis, leprosy, elephantiasis and more.
- Chewed leaves are used to treat snake bites and scorpion stings.
- Also used as a purgative, diuretic, styptic and even an aphrodisiac.
Poisonous: Not poisonous.
- Pods, leaves and young twigs are eaten by stock and many game species.
- Dichrostachys cinerea readily encroaches overgrazed and trampled pastures.
- Make good charcoal as well as fire wood for braais.
- Rope is made from the inner bark, tool handles from the wood.
- Two subspecies are recognized in southern Africa, africana and nyassana, but are hard to differentiate.
- KZN, Moz, M, G, L, NW, northern NC, Bot, Zim and Nam.
- Outside southern Africa the distribution extends through Africa, the Middle East, India, south-east Asia and Australia.
- Grasslands, Nama-Karoo, thicket, savanna-bushveld, savanna-Kalahari, savanna-lowveld and savanna-woodland.
© Malcolm Dee Hepplewhite & Witkoppen Wildflower Nursery, (Text and Photographs) 2011 & 2018.