Knob Thorns at Royal Jozini

Small disc like leaves – quite different from other thorny acacia trees


We are heading towards the end of August and the bush at Royal Jozini is covered in shades of beige & brown  –  the trees look stark & bare –  except for one tree, the Knob Thorn.

Knob Thorns flower between the months of August to September are always the first Spring trees to come into bloom at Royal Jozini, this being a sure sign that the season is changing. Very soon the mountainsides will be awash with swathes of soft creamy white blossoms bringing beautiful colour to the landscape at this time of the year. The blossoms fill the air with a pleasantly sweet, floral smell that drifts across the surrounds.

The Knob Thorn is a favourite amongst animals to feed on and is seen as a tree of life. This tree makes up 40% of the giraffes’ diet and what is interesting is that the tree has evolved to deal with this by producing sterile flowers, to limit the percentage of reproductive flowers consumed. The flowering season is also short, meaning that the giraffe can’t possibly consume all the flowers – allowing the insects to perform their role and widely disperse pollen as well.

Monkeys eat the scented flowers, often seen descending from the tree tops with their faces covered in pollen and elephants enjoy eating the branches and bark of the tree which is easily stripped. An array of birds is heard and seen fluttering in and out of the canopy of trees to take advantage of the nectar-laden flowers.

It is the unique knobbly appearance on the branches and trunk that give the tree its name. The knobs are often more prominent on younger trees and are said to have medicinal uses- one of which is to have properties that help fight tooth decay!

Some interesting facts about the knob thorn:

  • They occur as far north as Tanzania
  • They prefer deep sandy soils that are well drained
  • The knobs can sometimes be absent in individual trees
  • Knob thorns make good bonsai specimens
  • Botanical name : Senegalia nigrescens
  • Common names : (A) Geelhaak, Knopdoring, Knoppiesdoring, Merrietet, Perdepram, Perdepramdoring.  (E) Knob Thorn, Knobby Thorn, Knob-thorn.  (Nd) Umhlope.  (Ns) Mokgalô, Moritidi.  (Sw) Umhlofunga, umkhaya.  (Ts) Nkayi.  (Tw) Mokala, Mokgwa, Mokoba, Mokôba, More-omabêlê.  (V) Mudhaya, Munanga.  (Z) Umbambampala, Umkhaya.
  • Acacia in Latin means “thorny” and originates from the Greek word akakia
  • Nigrescens in Latin refers to the colour black.
  • The flowers contain a considerable amount of condensed tannins
  • They host the larvae of the dusky charaxes butterfly
  • It almost always has a single trunk
  • It is seldom used for making furniture as the wood is difficult to work and cut
  • It is a very good wood for making “jukskeie”
  • These trees are good for Fence posts as well as walking sticks and knobkieries (fighting sticks)
  • The bark has high tannins levels and is thus used for the tanning of leather.
  • The knobs are sometimes ground into a powder and used by villagers as a painkiller and to help with eye-infections & tooth ache
  • Parts of the inner bark can be used to make a strong twine.
  • The beautiful hard wood of the Knob-thorn is perfect for floors and has the durability necessary to make it a popular choice for people wanting wooden flooring.
  • Holes in the tree trunk and branches offer good nesting sites for birds
  • White-backed Vultures are known to nest on top of these trees.

We hope that you enjoyed learning about one of our many trees at Royal Jozini Private Game Reserve situated in the Kingdom of eSwatini (Swaziland).

Why not book a stay at Royal Jozini to see the Knob Trees in full bloom ?