Terminalia Fumes

Flowers are generally associated with a pleasant fragrance but not always. Some flowers give off a terrible smell and we have them all around the Nyala Breeding Camp in which we live.

These trees play an important role here providing their foliage as food for browsers. Thankfully they only flower for 2-3 months of the year. This morning I had a slow run through the reserve, past a Terminalia tree and for about 500m had smell or breath in the fumes!
The smell can be described as the smell of toe-jam or that stinky shoe smell in sports changing rooms after a game and before the showers!

The species of Terminalia that occur here is the Silver Terminalia or in Afrikaans it is referred to as the Vaalboom.

Silver Terminalia trees

Silver Terminalia trees

Heavily and unpleasantly scented flowers

Heavily and unpleasantly scented flowers

Slender branchlets, Terminalia sericea

Slender branchlets, Terminalia sericea

It grows into a small or a medium sized tree of up 4 to 6m, but can reach a height of 10m; occurring in open woodland, frequently in sandy soils and often at vlei margins. The Bark is a dark grey and deeply vertically fissured; the slender branchlets are dark brown or purplish, peeling and flaking rings and strips exposing light brown underbark. Leaves are clustered towards the tips of the branchlets. The leaves are pale green covered with silvery silky hairs. The Flowers are small and cream to pale yellow colour, in auxiliary spikes up to 7cm long. The Fruit is rose-red when mature, drying to a reddish-brown but can be parasitized and develop into deformed, tangled masses of twisted, rusty-hairy structures.

Among African Tribes this tree has a wide variety of uses. A decoction of the roots is taken for diarrhoea, relieving colic and can also be applied as an eye wash, while a hot infusion of the roots’ outer layers makes a fomentation for treating pneumonia. The silky, silvery leaf hairs are used by Tswana potters for glazing their wares.

The wood is yellow and hard; it provides a useful general purpose timber and is suitable for fencing posts.

Looking up at a Silver terminalia tree

Looking up at a Silver terminalia tree

Notice the difference?

Notice the difference?

Bark of the Vaalboom, Silver Terminalia

Bark of the Vaalboom, Silver Terminalia

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