Nyala tree: Branched Giant

The Nyala tree, in Botswana also known as Mashatu tree, is a large evergreen with drooping branchlets and a dense spreading canopy. In our blog you can learn more about this plant.


The Nyala tree (Xanthocercis zambesiaca) is a member of the Fabaceae family of legumes. It occurs in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It grows mainly along rivers, near termite mounds where it has access to soil moisture and nutrients. Along the Limpopo in the far east of Botswana, in the so-called Tuli Block, the Nyala tree is very common. In this region, the large plant is also called Mashatu tree. Since it does not have a large water storage capacity and is dependent on high soil moisture, its presence often indicates the presence of groundwater. Under ideal living conditions, the Nyala tree can reach heights of up to 30 metres.

A characteristic feature of the tree is its strong branching, which gives the impression that it has several trunks. In fact, however, there is only one tribe that is already beginning to divide in the ground. The alternately feathered leaves of the Nyala spring directly from the branches and the trunk. Their distribution often appears chaotic, which is a typical feature of the Nyala.

Another special feature is its pronounced symbiosis with root bacteria, which are able to fix vital nitrogen from the atmosphere. In return, the tree supplies bacteria with nutrients.
The berry-like fruits are popular amongst many animals. Especially antelopes pick them up from the ground. The berries are also processed into mush and eaten by humans.

You would like to experience Southern Africa's unique vegetation up close and learn more about it? When taking part in one of our volunteer projects in Africa or field courses in Africa or when enjoying a safari trip to Botswana, Zambia or South Africa you get the chance to observe the Nyala tree in detail, gain valuable background knowledge about the impressive plant and try different products containing the Nyala fruits. Reach out to the Natucate team and learn more about the different options to travel Southern Africa and to get to know its extraordinary flora.

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