Tree of the week: Vachellia sieberiana – Paperbark thorn – Papierbasdoring – Umkhamba

Formerly known as Acacia sieberiana, the Paperbark thorn is a magnificent thorny tree with a wide flat crown. It is semi-deciduous to deciduous and is found growing naturally in woodlands, wooded grasslands, and along riverbanks in South Africa. Its common name ‘Paperbark thorn’ was derived from the texture of the bark. When growing conditions are favourable, this tree can reach a mature height of 18m.

The leaves are bipinnately compound and up to 150mm long. When young, the leaves will be covered with thick yellow hairs. V.sieberiana produces some cream-scented flowers which entice insects. After flowering, creamy brown pods follow in Autumn and these ripen on the tree. This tree is a favourite nesting site for birds like the Pied and Crested Barberts.

The tree is suited for medium to large gardens. When planting the Paperbark thorn trees, one must not crowd them as this may affect the trees’ ability to show off their wonderful shapes. This tree is also very valuable for fodder as the pods are relished by livestock and game animals. V. sieberiana’s root system is not invasive making it an ideal species for street planting. Although the tree is a fast grower, young plants must be protected from cold, wind, and frost.