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Page history last edited by Barbara Allen 15 years, 8 months ago

Useful Plants of the Kalahari Desert

Name Description Use Source Picture

Poison Grub Tree

Sand Corkwood

Hairy Corkwood

Marula Tree

  A preferred source was the parasite larva of a beetle that feeds on the aptly named Poison grub tree. Coating one arrowhead required 8-10 grubs. There was no known antidote to this poison and it would kill a large animal within 20 hours. To protect the poison tips and presumably the hunter, the top of the quiver was plugged with bolls of so-called "wild cotton".    

Brandy Bush

Grewia Flava

  The metre-long bow had been made from the flexible bough of a Brandy bush and strung with the back leg sinews of an eland. This bush, our first stop along the path, apparently also provided fibres for binding shelters and an excellent toothbrush could be fashioned from the chewed ends of its smaller branches.    

Sickle Bush

Dichrostachys cinerea

  Those suffering toothache could get relief by chewing the leaves of the ubiquitous Sickle bush. Sometimes called the Kalahari Christmas tree because of its pink and yellow upside-down candle flowers, this was a Bushman dispensary. They chewed its leaves to relieve headaches and to create a poultice to kill the pain of scorpion stings. Chest pains were treated by inhaling the smoke from burning dried leaves.


Raphionacme burkei

  Shavings of the bulb's fibrous white flesh, when rolled and squeezed, produced a slightly milky water. The liquid content, not as high as that of the well-known Tsama melon (a prime source of water for Bushmen inhabiting the drier parts of the Kalahari), was nevertheless a lifesaver.    
Tsama melon    food    


Rhus sp.

 small, shady bush      

purple Pod terminalia tree

Terminalia prunioides

  sources of an edible gum    

common Commiphora bush

Commiphora pyracanthoides

  sources of an edible gum    

Shepherd's tree

Boscia albitrunca

 stocky, stiffly branched little "tree of life" provides sustenance to both people and animals    
Lavender croton   When dried and powdered, its leaves made a pleasantly aromatic perfume.    

raisin bush


  Its springy branches were used, together with a twined grass noose, in demonstrating the setting of a trap for small birds.    

 Bushman grass

Stipagrostis sp

  Covering hut    

Sandpaper raisin

Grewia flavescens


 Mongongo Nuts

Schinziophyton rautanenii

Baobab   food    
Vegetable Ivory palm   food    
Marula nut   food    
Wild orange   food    

Morethlwa and Mokomphata


Wild mango   food    
Sour plum   food    
!tan root   food    
!xwa water root   food    
sha root   food    
Tsin bean   food    

dcha melon, bitter melon

Acanthosicyos naudinianus




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