Camel Thorn

Scientific Name
Vachellia erioloba (E.Mey.) P.J.H.Hurter
Higher Classification
Acacia erioloba E.Mey., Acacia giraffae in sense of many other authors, not A. giraffae Willd. (misapplied name), Acacia giraffae Willd. var. espinosa Kuntze, Vachellia erioloba (E.Mey.) Seigler & Ebinger (illegitimate name)
Common Names
Black-barked Camel Thorn (e), Camel Thorn (e), Giraffe Thorn (e), Giraffe Tree (e), Grootdoring (a), Kameel Blom (a), Kameeldoring (a), Kameeldoringboom (a), Mimosa (e), Mogohlo (ns), Mogotho (tw), Mogôtlhô (tw), Mokala (tw), Mopatsaka (ss), Mosu (ns), Motlhabakgosi (tw), Musivhitha (v), Rooihoutdoring (a), Swartkameel (a), Swartkameeldoring (a), Transvaal Camelthorn (e), Umfola (nd), Vaalkameel (a)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
L. von Staden & D. Raimondo
Concerns have been raised over the large volumes of Camel Thorn wood being removed for commercial sale of firewood. Many trees are also killed as a result of bush encroachment control through pesticides. A study conducted in the northern Cape indicated that at present only dead trees are being harvested for firewood and only a very small percentage of the study area (<2%) was affected by clearing of Camel Thorn. This species is widespread and common, and although it may be declining in some places, it is not in danger of extinction.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West
Widespread in the arid northern provinces of South Africa, also Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Angola and south-western Zambia.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Bushmanland Arid Grassland, Lower Gariep Alluvial Vegetation, Limpopo Sweet Bushveld, Roodeberg Bushveld, Waterberg Mountain Bushveld, Western Sandy Bushveld, Springbokvlakte Thornveld, Loskop Thornveld, Loskop Mountain Bushveld, Central Sandy Bushveld, Dwaalboom Thornveld, Lekkersing Succulent Shrubland, Northern Upper Karoo, Polokwane Plateau Bushveld, Bushmanland Sandy Grassland, Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld, Blouputs Karroid Thornveld, Lower Gariep Broken Veld, Western Highveld Sandy Grassland, Klerksdorp Thornveld, Vaal-Vet Sandy Grassland, Eastern Gariep Plains Desert, Richtersveld Sheet Wash Desert, Southern Kalahari Mekgacha, Namaqualand Riviere, Subtropical Alluvial Vegetation, Highveld Alluvial Vegetation, Upper Gariep Alluvial Vegetation, Kalahari Karroid Shrubland, Koranna-Langeberg Mountain Bushveld, Musina Mopane Bushveld, Nossob Bushveld, Auob Duneveld, Gordonia Kameeldoring Bushveld, Gordonia Duneveld, Kuruman Thornveld, Kuruman Vaalbosveld, Ghaap Plateau Vaalbosveld, Schmidtsdrif Thornveld, Vaalbos Rocky Shrubland, Kimberley Thornveld, Schweizer-Reneke Bushveld, Makhado Sweet Bushveld, Gordonia Plains Shrubland, Limpopo Ridge Bushveld, Postmasburg Thornveld, Olifantshoek Plains Thornveld, Kathu Bushveld, Molopo Bushveld, Kuruman Mountain Bushveld, Mafikeng Bushveld, Gold Reef Mountain Bushveld, Moot Plains Bushveld, Marikana Thornveld, Dwarsberg-Swartruggens Mountain Bushveld, Zeerust Thornveld, Sekhukhune Plains Bushveld, Stella Bushveld
Savanna, semi-desert and desert areas with deep, sandy soils and along drainage lines in very arid areas, sometimes in rocky outcrops.
Concerns have recently been raised over large volumes of Camel Thorn that are being sold commercially for firewood from farms in the Northern Cape (Liversidge 2001, Anderson and Anderson 2001). A study by J. Powell, conducted in 2001, covering 100 farms and an area of ± 6 000 km² found that on only 16 farms were Camel Thorn is commercially harvested, which comprises about 10% of the study area. While most farms (87 in total) did report harvesting, all of this material came from dead trees, no harvesting of live trees were reported. Due to poor land management many areas are degraded due to bush encroachment by Black Thorn (Senegalia mellifera). Farmers use broad spectrum pesticides to clear bush encroached areas and this often results in the death of Camel Thorn trees. No farmers reported intentionally killing trees for commercial harvesting purposes, but about 11 210 ha on seven farms were cleared of Black Thorn and Camel Thorn. The main reason farmers gave for this clearing was to improve grazing. 11 210 ha is equal to less than 2% of the study area. More concerning however are anecdotal reports in the literature that large numbers of Camel Thorn have been cleared "within a radius of several hundred kilometres of Kimberley" for fuel as well as construction materials in railways and the Kimberley diamond mine in the late 1800s to early 1900s (Ross 1975). A radius of 200 km around Kimberley is roughly equal to 19% of the distribution range of this species within South Africa. Nonetheless the population appears to have recovered from this decline as the species is still considered very common in these areas.
Population trend
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Vachellia erioloba (E.Mey.) P.J.H.HurterLeast Concern 2015.1
Acacia erioloba E.Mey.Declining Raimondo et al. (2009)

Anderson, M.D. and Anderson, T.A. 2001. Too much, too quickly? Doubts about the sustainability of the camelthorn wood harvest. African Wildlife 55(3):21-23.

Carr, J.D. 1976. The South African Acacias. Conservation Press, Johannesburg.

Kyalangalilwa, B., Boatwright, J.S., Daru, B.H., Maurin, O. and van der Bank, M. 2013. Phylogenetic position and revised classification of Acacia s.l. (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) in Africa, including new combinations in Vachellia and Senegalia. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 172(4):500-523.

Liversidge, R. 2001. A unique habitat threatened. African Wildlife 55(3):24-26.

Powell, J. 2001. Utilization of the camelthorn tree in the Kalahari region. University of Stellenbosch, Department of Conservation Ecology, Stellenbosch. Unpublished report to BIOTA.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Ross, J.H. 1975. Fabaceae subfamily 1. Mimosoideae. In: B. De Winter, D.J.B. Killick, O.A. Leistner and J.H. Ross (eds). Flora of Southern Africa 16 Part 1:1-159. Botanical Research Institute, Pretoria.

Seymour, C. and Milton, S. 2003. A collation and overview of research information on Acacia erioloba (Camelthorn) and identification of relevant research gaps to inform protection of the species. Unpublished report to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

Smit, N. 1999. Guide to the Acacias of South Africa. Briza, Pretoria.

Van Wyk, B. and Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to the trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town.

von Staden, L. & Raimondo, D. 2015. Vachellia erioloba (E.Mey.) P.J.H.Hurter. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2020.1. Accessed on 2022/05/19

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Distribution map

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