Vachellia sieberiana var. Woodii (Paperbark Acacia)
Plant image

The Paperbark Thorn has dense, widely spreading foliage, a flattened crown and flaking bark that sometimes comes off in large chunks. The flowers are round, fluffy, scented blooms and are conspicuous against the deep green, feathery foliage.

Name & classification

Botanical name:
Vachellia sieberiana var. Woodii

Common names:
Paperbark Acacia, Paperbark Thorn (English)
Papierbasdoring (Afrikaans)
Mphoka (Sesotho sa Leboa)
umKhamba (IsiZulu)
Mokha, Morumosetlha (Setswana)
Nkowankowa (Xitsonga)
Musaunga (Tshivenda)
umNganduzi (siSwati)

Acacia sieberiana var. Woodii

Plant family:
- Pod-bearing family, legumes, peas & beans

Plant categories:

SA tree no:
Zimbabwe tree no:

Name derivation & history:
'Sieberiana' refers to Franz Wilhelm Sieber, a collector and traveller and 'woodii' refers to John Medley Wood, a botanist from KwaZulu-Natal.



Leaf habit:
Semi-deciduous to deciduous (depending on conditions)

18 metres

Has thorns

Plant shape:
Large, spreading, flat crown

Leaf description:
Bipinnately compound, up to 150mm long with 6 to 23 pairs of pinnae each bearing 14 to 45 pairs of leaflets, rachis ends in a small and short spine visible on the undersurface. Young leaves are covered in thick yellow hairs.

Spine or thorn description:
25 to 100mm long stipules are spinescent, paired, white.

Flower description:
The 10 to 12mm diameter, cream-coloured, scented balls are fluffy and borne singly or clustered in the axils of the leaves.

Flower colour:

Flowering months:
September to November

Flower scent:
Lightly scented

Fruit description:
Indehiscent pods are 100 to 250mm long, 25 to 35mm wide and 10 to 13mm thick.They are creamy-brown, mostly straight, thickened and woody, but scented when young.

Wood description:
Soft and light, yellowish sapwood (sometimes but seldom showing a thin dark-brown heartwood).

Bark or stem description:
The light brown to yellowish bark is corky and peels off in large flat sections. Young branches are densely covered with long yellowish hairs.


Natural distribution:
From Ethiopia and Sudan in the north to KwaZulu-Natal in the South.

Grassland, wooded grassland and woodland areas along drainage lines and on flood plains. Prefers loamy soil, but also grows on sandy soil.

Water requirements:
Waterwise (little water required)

Frost tolerance:

Light conditions:
Sun; semi-shade

Other Characteristics

Drought resistant
Wind resistant
Disease resistant
Low maintenance

Edibility & Toxicity

We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is edible
We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is toxic, however we urge caution as this information may be incorrect.


Interaction with physical surroundings:
Stock and game relish the pods. The green pods and wilted leaves contain high concentrations of prussic acid which can be poisonous to animals.

Leaves are eaten by giraffe.

Attracts birds
Attracts insects
Attracts mammals

Other information

Uses & Cultural aspects:
The soft wood is easily destroyed by borers unless it is seasoned in water for at least 24 to 30 weeks first. It can then be cut into planks and used as general farm timber.

An excellent shade tree for open grassland areas.

The tree yields good quality gum arabic that is edible.

An infusion made from the roots is used as a antiseptic.

A decoction made from the bark is used as a painkiller.

Inner bark yields a twine that is traditionally used for threading beads.

Best results can be achieved by soaking the seeds overnight in hot water to permeate the waterproof testa of the seed. Sow seeds in seed trays filled with washed river sand. Cover lightly with sand and keep moist in a warm spot. Seeds should germinate in 10 to 25 days with a 70-90% success rate.

Fast growing but young plants should be protected from cold, wind and frost. They transplant very well and are fairly drought-resistant.

Similar species:
Acacia rehmanniana which is a smaller and less shapely tree with orange-red older twigs and leaves usually have more than 20 pinna pairs. Acacia abyssinica is more distinctly flat-topped and tends to be multi-stemmed, with more than 20 pairs of pinnae and leathery pods.

Your notes & lists

You need to be a registered user in order to create plant lists and notes. If you have already registered, then please log in now, otherwise, register here. It will only take a moment and we won't pass your information on to anyone else.

You can then use this section to create lists of your own plants in your garden, or a list of favourite plants or simply a wish list