The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Umbrella Thorn Tree

Afrikaans name: Haak-en-steek

Umbrella Thorn

Umbrella Thorn

Photo © Steven Herbert

Acacia tortilis

I learnt about the "Haak-en-steek" tree from a young age! This is a very apt Afrikaans name for this tree which is inclined to hook and prick you if you don’t watch out. The thorns occur in pairs and one of them is hooked and the other straight and they are designed to make your life painful!

The Umbrella Thorn is a species of Acacia and is found over most of eastern and northern Africa. It is found in bushveld, savanna and woodland. It has a distinctive spreading canopy which gives it its English common name.

The temperature where it grows has a big impact on the size that the tree attains. In the hottest regions it can reach a height of 20 metres, but it normally attains a height of 5 to 15 metres. The leaves are small, and it gets bunches of small off-white flowers which are ball-shaped.

The wood of the Umbrella Thorn is used for a variety of purposes including the manufacture of furniture and fence posts. Its wood makes good firewood. The bark, gum, leaves and roots are all used for different purposes. Farmers feed the pods, which are highly nutritious to their livestock while many species of wild game feed on them as well.

References and further reading

Piet van Wyks Field Guide to the Trees of the Kruger National Park - 1st edition - Author: Piet van Wyk - Published: 1988 - Page: 76

Kruger - Portrait of a National Park - Author: David Paynter with Wilf Nussey - Published: 1986 - Page: 25

Game Ranger in your Backpack - Author: Megan Emmett and Sean Pattrick - Published: 2013 - Page: 256

Field Guide to the Acacias of South Africa - Author: Nico Smit - Published: 2008 - Page: 78

For more info: SANBI


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