Albizia tanganyicensis subsp. tanganyicensis
Albizia tanganyicensis Baker f. subsp. tanganyicensis
Common names: paperbark false-thorn, paperbark albizia, sneezewood (Eng.); papierbasvalsdoring (Afr.); ugudha-mfeni (isiXhosa); mulelu, munungufhefhe (Tshivenda)
SA Tree No: 157
A very attractive tree with white to ochre peeling bark and creamy white, sweetly scented flowers in early summer, suitable for any medium-sized garden; it can also be successfully grown as a container plant, and will make an excellent focal point.
This medium-sized, deciduous tree can reach a height of 10 m when growing outside its natural habitat; it has been recorded that this tree can grow up to 20 m tall in ideal conditions. The young branches display smooth bark, which is greenish cream-coloured. The bark tends to peel easily from older branches and also from the trunk of the tree. This action exposes a yellowish powdery layer on the under bark. This together with the orange to reddish brown bark flakes, gives a beautiful showy display.
The leaves are evenly twice-compound, with 5–13 pairs of leaflets; the leaf tips are pointed and blunt. The base of the leaflet is asymmetrical, with an entire margin. A gland appears near the base of the leaf stalk, which is very noticeable.
The flowers are present in half-spherical heads, and the flowers are known to appear before the leaves. The stamens are noticeably much longer than the sepals.
The fruit takes the form of a pod, which shows a colour from reddish brown to dark brown. This pod can reach a length of up to 300 mm.
According to the Red List of South African plants, checked on the 2017/06/01, the conservation status of this tree is Least Concern (LC).
Distribution and habitat
Albizia tanganyicensis occurs quite frequently, from Tanzania in the north, to the North West Province of South in the south. The tree is quite happy growing on rocky formations, mountain slopes and loves to grow close together with the same species, forming small groups. It grows optimally in granitic and quarzitic, sandy soil.
Derivation of name and historical aspects
The genus Albizia includes subtropical and tropical trees, as well as shrubs in the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae and represents about 150 species. Albizia was named after an Italian nobleman, Filippo degli Albizzi from Florence, who introduced the species Albizia julibrissin to Europe for cultivation, around 1749. The species name tanganyicensis, means ‘from Tanzania’, which was previously known as Tanganyika. The genus Albizia has a pantropical distribution, which covers the tropical regions of both hemispheres.
Larvae of the Satyr Charaxes Butterfly (Charaxes ethalion) feed on the leaves of this tree. This butterfly belongs to the Nymphalidae family and it appears naturally in southern Africa. The wingspan of females range from 50–60 mm long and about 8 mm larger than the males. The Brown-headed Parrots find the green seeds to be a highly desirable delicacy.
The elephants love to eat the young branches and also the leaves of this tree. Kudu and impala were observed eating the flowers and leaves. It was reported that the tree pods can be poisonous to cattle when eaten off the ground. Furthermore, it was also noted that green pods are more toxic than the mature ones.
It was reported that the bark of this tree was boiled and the extract used as a cough remedy. The white wood of the tree is soft and its light weight, makes it easy to handle. The wood is of no commercial value and when worked the dust irritates the throat.
Growing Albizia tanganyicensis subsp. tanganyicensis
This tree will withstand very cold environmental conditions, but will be damaged by frost; however, it has adapted to grow well in drought-stricken areas.
Propagation is by seed or it can be grown from truncheon cuttings. Seeds need to be freshly collected and soaked in warm water overnight. Sow the swollen seeds in seedling trays filled with river sand. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sand and water well. It is important to keep the soil moist and place the trays in a sunny area. To prevent pre-or post-emergence damping off, a fungicide can be applied to the seeds; this will increase the success rate of germination. The seeds will take about 2 weeks to germinate; the germination rate has been recorded to be very high. The best time to transplant the seedlings is when they reach the 1-leaf stage. Damaging the roots during the transplanting process must be avoided.
When propagating from truncheons, cut the truncheons about 200 mm in diameter and about 1 000 mm long. Plant the truncheons directly in the ground and add coarse river sand at the base of the hole to encourage drainage. Apply hormone powder lightly as this will promote root development.
- Coates Palgrave, K. 2002. Trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
- Foden, W. & Potter, L. 2005. Albizia tanganyicensis Baker f. subsp. tanganyicensis. National Assessment: Red List of South African plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2017/06/01.
- Harris, G. & Harris, M.W. 1994. Plant identification terminology, an illustrated glossary. Spring Lake, Utah.
- iSpot southern Africa https://www.ispotnature.org/communities/southern-africa/species-dictionary/14259/albizia-tanganyicensis-subsp-tanganyicensis
- Raimondo, D. et al. 2009. Red list of South African plants. Strelitzia 25. SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute), Pretoria.
- Van Wyk, B., Van den Berg, E., Coates Palgrave, M. & Jordaan, M. 2011. Dictionary of names for southern African trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.
- Venter, F. & Venter, J.A. 2012. Making the most of indigenous trees. Briza Publications, Pretoria.
- Von Breitenbach, F. 1990. National list of indigenous trees. Second revised edition. Dendrological Foundation, Pretoria.
- Wikipedia: Charaxes butterfly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charaxes_ethalion. Accessed on the 2017/06/09.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Plant Type: Tree
SA Distribution: Limpopo, North West
Soil type: Sandy
Flowering season: Early Summer
Flower colour: White, Cream
Aspect: Full Sun
Gardening skill: Easy