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Ziziphus mucronata


Water Needs


Ziziphus mucronata
Tree medium
Buffalo Thorn, Blink-blaar-wag-‘n-bietjie

9 x 10 m


Light Conditions





yellow October to April; spring; summer; autumn

Garden Situation

sun; security; feature tree; wildlife birds insects bees butterflies butterfly host; slope bank; clay soils;


woodland forest; grassland; coastal eastern cape; coastal kzn; bushveld; hot dry


thicket; highveld; subtec; bushveld savanna; karoo

Rain Season

summer; winter

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Buffalo Thorn, Ziziphus mucronata, Blink-blaar-wag-‘n-bietjie (the translation from Afrikaans would be “shiny-leaf wait-a-bit”), umLahlabantu (Zulu). This tree represents life as we know it as the young twigs are zigzagged, indicating that life is not straight forward. The tree has two thorn shapes, one straight, indicating where we are going, and one hooked, showing us where we have come from. From Historically the Zulus planted a Buffalo Thorn on the grave of a deceased Chief as a symbol of where the Chief was buried the Zulu name thus umLahlabantu meaning “that which buries the Chief”. Even today a branch from the Buffalo Thorn is used to retrieve the spirit of a deceased person from the where he died. This small, slow growing tree has a varied height of between 4 and 8 m in height, its size and form depending on, and adapting easily to, a wide variety of soil, temperature and moisture conditions. It functions best not as a shade tree, for the shade it provides is never more than lightly dappled, but as a calling card to a diversity of birds, butterflies (food plant for many species of the Blue butterflies), bees and other insects. Included in a rockery or bush clump, or even on its own, the Buffalo Thorn adds height, texture and form. The trunk is often quite crooked with branching either well above ground or near the base; bark in mature trees is dark grey and fissured. A spreading canopy forms if given the space. Otherwise, the form is more upright and narrow. Leaves are ovate, shiny and hairy to smooth. Strong thorns of different sizes grow in pairs. The tiny, pale greenish-yellow flowers grow in tight clusters and produce good nectar supply despite their size, and are reputed to make excellent honey. In mid- to late summer, small round, red-brown fruits bring in birds and remain on the tree as food through winter. Deciduous, drought and frost hardy, and grows readily from seed. Natural distribution range: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West. Habitat: woodlands, scrubland, on rocky koppies, open grasslands, beside streams, in valley bottoms and on forest margins. In the wild giraffes feed off leaves, and Impala eat fallen leaves. Ziziphus mucronata is a well-known medicinal tree; boiled bark is said to improve respiratory ailments, and chewing a few leaves relieves stomach cramps and diarrhea. Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West

Ziziphus mucronata
Ziziphus mucronata
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