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Shepherd’s Tree

The Shepherd's tree (Boscia albitrunca) is an easy tree to identify on your travels around the Reserve, especially in the northern reaches of Buffelsbed and Sibon.

In Afrikaans it is known as Witgat and in Venda as Muvhombwe.

Boscia albitrunca is a specially protected tree in South Africa, and an important food source to browsers such as nyala, kudu and giraffe.  It is heavily browsed on Ingwelala and that is why specimens in this land scape are mostly stunted in growth, in a way its appearance is almost “Bonsai” like.

The trunk is light coloured, whitish, smooth and without stems. “Albitrunca” refers to the white trunk.

The leaves are evergreen grey-green and the crown is usually rounded. Flowers are clustered and yellow-green may occur from July to November. The root system is exceptionally deep. See image of leaf configuration on left.

The Shepherd's tree prefers the drier parts of our country with lower rainfall. In semi-desert regions it contributes a critical part of suitable habitat for mammals providing much needed shade, lowering the ambient temperature considerably. The image below depicts the thick woodiness and dense leaves which provide year-round shade.

Boscia is part of the family Capparaceae which is the caper family.

Shepherd's trees are good for urban gardens, being drought-resistant, hardy and easy to grow from cuttings.


Facts researched off the Internet, text by John Llewellyn.