Ziziphus mucronata is a small to medium sized tree that grows to about 10m in height with the maximum size recorded at around 20m tall. It has a spreading crown with drooping branches and often has branches low down. The young stems are reddish brown and zigzagged. The bark is pale, rough and cracked, often peeling in strips. The spines are in pairs, one hooked and one straight, and are very strong and sharp. The leaves are green, shiny and ovate with finely serrated edges, 30-90 x 13-50mm.
The Buffalo Thorn is found throughout the summer rainfall region of sub-Saharan Africa. It is usually found in areas that are dominated by thorny vegetation in both tropical and temperate regions. In the bush veld the tree is small and deciduous and in the coastal forests they are large and evergreen.
What we humans can use it for:
All these functions listed below can be accredited to the peptide alkaloids and anti-fungal properties that are found in the leaves, bark and roots.
The young twigs of Ziziphus mucronata are zigzagged which is believed to indicate that life is not always straight forward. The spines on the Buffalo Thorn are paired, one facing forward and one facing backwards which represents where you come from (backward facing spine) and where you are going (forward facing thorn).
A twig or branch from this tree is believed to attract, catch and carry spirits of the deceased and is still used today as a means of bringing a deceased family member back from the place of death to its final resting place. The family member that was sent to fetch the spirit has to treat the branch of this tree as a human being. He/she has to buy a ticket for the spirits public transport as well as to talk to the branch telling it about the trip back.
Importance in nature: