Camel Thorn Trees – Stalwarts of the Desert

I have to confess that I am known to hug beautiful trees.  Not wanting to appear loopy, I usually first have a good look around to make sure that no-one is watching me!  Namibia, having such a sparse population and vast areas of wide open spaces, as well as many beautiful Camel Thorn trees (Acacia erioloba), has been the perfect place to indulge this little fetish of mine.  These wonderful trees are part of this African landscape and can be found throughout the drier parts of southern Africa.

The beautiful Camel Thorn tree

The hardy Camel Thorn (Kameeldoring as it is known in Afrikaans – and which actually translates to Giraffe Thorn) is an acacia, easily recognized by its amazingly gnarled bark, small leaves and the little grey velvety comma-shaped seed pods that it produces.  It also sports rather nasty thorns, typical of the acacia family.  When in bloom, small round yellow flowers adorn the trees.

Apparently I’m not the only one who loves them.  It must be the tree most favoured by animals and birds, not only for its food, but the deep shade that it offers in intensely hot areas like the game reserves.  Cattle, camels and small herbivores also enjoy eating the seed pods that drop onto the ground below.

Small herbivores enjoy the pods

The tree gets its name from giraffes that like to feed on the succulent leaves.  Their leathery tongues and lips pay no heed to the thorns as they feast on the foliage on the uppermost branches.

Giraffes don't mind the thorns

There’s no telling what you will see in a Camel Thorn tree.  We’ve been lucky enough to see it decorated by birds of every description, raptors with snakes, enormous communal socialable weavers nests, and even a leopard …

A comfortable bed for a leopard

and a beautiful Caracul having a comfortable snooze!

Where else should a caracul sleep?

The most famous Camel Thorn trees in Namibia have to be the ones found at Dead Vlei, the dry white pan surrounded by magnificent red dunes in the Sossusvlei area.  These dead trees, purported to be hundreds of years old, are a photographers delight and are featured in just about every book on Namibia.

Dead Vlei - Sossusvlei area

In Namibia most campsites are situated under Camel Thorns trees and as an added bonus, their wood is excellent for braais (barbeques).  No wonder I love them so much.  Oh, and by the way, please don’t let on about my secret fetish!

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