Fever tree

Acacia xanthophloea

Fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea)
A medium to large sized tree with a sparsely rounded to spreading crown. The fever tree has a very distinctive yellow trunk which is covered with a fine dust. It occurs on river banks, flood plains and swampy area.

7 amazing facts about the fever tree

1. Origin of the name

The fever tree gets its common name from pioneers who believed that the tree caused fevers. In fact the fever was actually malaria which they caught from mosquitoes that bred in the swampy fever tree habitat.

The African Plant Hunter, Gus goes to the banks of the Runde river, in Gonarezhou National Park, slightly north of the Limpopo, to look closely at the fever trees there.

2. Medicinal properties

Traditional medicines use the bark of the fever tree for treating fevers and eye infections, and the roots are powdered up for the treatment of malaria.

Gus, the African Plant Hunter, looks at the pharmaceutical uses of three compounds found in the bark extracts of this well-known African tree: catechins, catechols and catecholamines.

3. Self defence

The fever tree has pairs of long straight white thorns which slow the rate of browsing down. These thorns are prominent in young shrubby trees which are at more risk from browsers compared to the tall mature trees where they are barely noticeable.

Spines and emerging spring leaves of the fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea). The spines of African Acacias such as this are modified stipules. Note the emerging stipules beginning to form spines, and the older, hardened spines at the bases of shoots. Photo: Jean Geilland, Wikimedia Commons

Spines and emerging spring leaves of the fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea). The spines of African Acacias such as this are modified stipules. Note the emerging stipules beginning to form spines, and the older, hardened spines at the bases of shoots. Photo: Jean Geilland, Wikimedia Commons

4. Bountiful food

The fever tree offers sustenance to a range of animals – baboons, monkeys and bush babies for the nutritious gum. Giraffes and monkeys eat the pods, elephants the young branches and leaves, and monkeys, butterflies, bees and the grey go-away bird are attracted to the flowers.

Chacma baboon

5. Wild animal fencing

Fever tree trunks and main branches are used as fencing to keep hippos out of cultivated areas.

Common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

6. Prickly customer

The genus of the fever tree, acacia, stems from the Greek word, “acantha” meaning spine, thorn or prickle.

fever-tree-acacia-xanthophloea-thorns-close-up

Close up of the bark and thorns of a young fever tree. LBM1948 / CC BY-SA

7. Yellow bark

The species name for the fever tree has Greek origins, xanthophloea, refers to the tree’s bark, “xanthos” meaning yellow and “phloios” meaning bark.

Close up of the trunk of a fever tree depicting the greeny yellow bark.

Trunk of the fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) is covered in a fine yellow powder. Olga Ernst / CC BY-SA

The fever tree fact-file

Infographics about the fever tree

Three fantastic facts about the fever tree in one infographic

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Conservation status : Not protected
Height : 15 to 25 m
Foliage : Deciduous
family : Pod bearing (Fabaceae)

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The species name for the fever tree has Greek origins, xanthophloea, refers to the tree’s bark, “xanthos” meaning yellow and “phloios” meaning bark.

The genus of the fever tree, acacia, stems from the Greek word, “acantha” meaning spine, thorn or prickle.

Traditional medicines use the bark of the fever tree for treating fevers and eye infections, and the roots are powdered up for the treatment of malaria.

The fever tree gets its common name from pioneers who believed that the tree caused fevers. In fact the fever was actually malaria which they caught from mosquitoes that bred in the swampy fever tree habitat.

The fever tree offers sustenance to a range of animals – baboons, monkeys and bush babies for the nutritious gum. Giraffes and monkeys eat the pods, elephants the young branches and leaves, and monkeys, butterflies, bees and the grey go-away bird are attracted to the flowers.

The fever tree has pairs of long straight white thorns which slow the rate of browsing down. These thorns are prominent in young shrubby trees which are at more risk from browsers compared to the tall mature trees where they are barely noticeable.

Fever tree trunks and main branches are used as fencing to keep hippos out of cultivated areas.