|This is what the shepherd’s tree is often called, told us Dumisan, a rancher in the Karoo. I saw it for the first time and immediately found it very exciting and beautiful at the same time. It has an attractive dense, round to spreading crown like sitting on a white trunk. I couldn’t stop taking pictures.|
Its Latin name is Boscia albitrunca, “albitrunca” refers to the white trunk, usually found in the drier parts of southern Africa, like in the amazing Karoo. Its long roots are remarkable, one specimen found in the central Kalahari had roots extending to 68m deep.
The Tree of Life offers sustenance to both humans and animals and is a source of food for various mammals, birds and butterflies, giraffes, gemsboks and kudus browse the tree.
Traditionally, the shepherd tree was used by Dutch settlers, “boers”, to create a variant of coffee that is derived from the roots of the tree. The root is even pounded to make porridge, it is also used to make a beer and to treat haemorrhoids. The leaves are nutritious and are often browsed by cattle, although the milk is then said to be tainted. An infusion of the leaves is used to treat eye infections in cattle. The fruits are used in traditional dishes and the flower buds as caper substitutes in pickles. It is said that if the fruits wither before the millet crop is ripe, the harvest will be a failure. Household utensils are made from the wood. If the wood is burnt, it is believed that cows will produce only bull calves.
I will come back to see and to eat the fruits of this precious Tree of Life, a tree which deserves its name. And it pulls me back to the Karoo…. over and over again
More on that later….