Vachellia karroo african tree
Photo: Vachellia Karroo - Wikimedia Commons

by John Bagnasco

Tree selections for homeowners seem to have diminished greatly with the rise of the big box stores and the disappearance of many independent garden centers.

This is especially true in the parts of the country that have dry climates. I have recently been researching some African trees that seem ideal and perfect for the water-thrifty part of my new landscape.

I decided on three trees in particular and since they were not available from any growers, I decided to plant my own from seed.

Sweet Thorn (Vachellia karroo) – an attractive small tree with fragrant, yellow, pompom flowers that is native to the southern partsof Africa. A loose canopy allows dappled sunlight through so that grass or other ground covers can been grown underneath. Supposedly, it will thrive in both clay and sandy soils. I planted 10 seeds and within one week, I had eight trees!

Splendid Thorn Tree (Vachellia robusta) – is a very hardy, deciduous, drought-resistant, medium to large, tree. It is fast-growing once planted in the ground. It has robust branches and twigs, thus the species name. This thorn tree has beautiful, bright-green leaves and when it is in bloom with its white flowers in spring it is indeed a “splendid” sight. It takes a little longer for seeds to germinate and I only have one plant so far.

African Bubblegum Tree (Thespesia garckeana) – the flowers resemble yellow hibiscus and produce a sweet, sticky fruit with a taste somewhat like a date. The fruit quickly dissolves into a fibrous mat that can be chewed like bubblegum. The pulp is exceptionally high in mucilage and fiber and is reported to assist with digestion.

I was able to get seeds for all three trees at very reasonable prices from an online company called The Seedstead. Complete directions for growing can be found on their website.

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