Senegalia caffra is an indigenous tree of South Africa whose genus name ‘Senegalia’ was derived from Senegal [the West African country] and ‘caffra’ from Kaffraria, the former name for South Africa. Though it’s cultivated in other parts of South Africa, Senegalia caffra often occurs naturally in Gauteng’s suburb gardens, together with Vachellia karoo and Vachellia robusta. This tree is well known for its hardiness and drought resistance. It can reach a mature height of 3 to 8m with a growth rate of about 0.7 to 0.9m per year.
This fast growing tree has feathery foliage which gives it a weeping shape. The leaves are bright green, droopy and bipinnate, Senegalia is one of the first tree species that produce new leaves at the beginning of Spring. The hooked thorns on the tree exist in pairs or single. As the trees mature, they may have very few thorns.
From September to November, this deciduous tree bears fragrant creamy white flowers, these appear on the tree together with some new leaves thereby making the tree look more stunning. The blooms attract insects and birds to the garden. After flowering, long pale brown curved pods are produced. These remain on the tree even after opening.
S.caffra makes a very good specimen for bonsai. It also makes a good security tree for pavements as its thorns make it very difficult to climb. When considering planting this tree in the garden one should avoid planting it near paving or buildings as it reportedly has an aggressive root system.