Is The Shepard's Tree Magical?

The Shepherd's Tree, Boscia albitrunca, is the larval food plant for 14 different species of butterflies in the KNP and southern Africa.

©Herbert Otto, Graham Otto and Kurt Otto

The shepherd's tree has a white trunk, which the species name albitrunca alludes to; Albi = white and trunca = trunk. The tree has small elliptic leaves and prefers well drained rocky or sandy soils. It is a solitary growing tree in arid and savanna conditions.

The greenish-yellow flowers are borne in leaf-axils and seem petal-less with many protruding stamens.

The ripe fruit vary in colour from pale yellow- apricot to translucent-like pink, at about 1cm in diameter, appearing from December to March.

The tree is favoured and browsed by game and livestock and the leaves have a rich protein content. It is believed to have magical values. The roots are also used for a coffee substitute or ground to make porridge, while the buds of the blossoms are pickled. A fruit pulp may be used as a side dish. The leaves and roots have medicinal properties.

The butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of this popular tree. When the eggs emerge about a week later, their first meal is usually the egg shell. From here they feed on the leaves of the tree itself. The Pierid larvae have 5 instars, which means that they moulted or lost their skins 4 times, to grow into a larger larva.

The butterflies whose larvae feed on this tree, also feed on species of the Caperbushes, Worm-bushes and Maeruas. This is a case of adapting to nature and what is available.

  • The diverse white, Appias epaphia contracta
  • Brown-veined white, Belenois aurota aurota
  • African common white, Belenois creona severina
  • The red tip, Colotis antevippe gavisa
  • The common orange tip, Colotis evenina evenina
  • The speckled sulphur tip, Colotis agoye
  • The smoky orange tip, Colotis euippe omphale
  • The lemon traveller or lemon tip, Colotis subfasciatus subfasciatus
  • The queen purple tip, Colotis regina
  • Banded gold tip, Colotis eris eris
  • Zebra white, Pinacopteryx eriphia eriphia
  • Veined orange, Colotis vesta argillaceus
  • Bushveld purple tip, Colotis ione
  • The Lilac Tip, Colotis celimene amina

By Herbert Otto

Trees of Kruger Park

These are just some of the many types of trees found in Kruger Park. The baobab is southern Africa's most distinctive...more
Kruger National Park - South African Safari