Monday, November 25, 2013

Namibia's Shepherds Tree

The tree is found all over southern Africa and as far as Zambia, is the aptly named shepherds tree (Boscia albitrunca) also known as 'witgat' in Afrikaans. It is fairly easy to identify with its generally whitish trunk, and feeding animals give shepherds trees a distinctive browse line, making them appear to be clipped to an even height on the underside. It has a shady canopy of evergreen, highly nutritious leaves and they always occur singly.

The trees bear small, round, yellowish berries that are edible and sweet tasting. The leathery leaves are grey-green. Birds, kudu and giraffe are particularly fond of them and the roasted roots can be used as a coffee substitute. As with other trees, shrubs and plants, the branches are cut and fed to feed sheep and cattle in times of drought.

In some areas, farmers and locals will bend and tie down the branches, so that animals can reach them. Various parts of the tree are used to cure different ailments in traditional medicines. The shepherds tree is protected in Namibia.

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