Dichrostachys cinerea

Botanical name

Dichrostachys cinerea

Other names

Sickle bush; sekelbos (Afrikaans); Dichrostachys glomerata subsp. nyassana




Usually an untidy looking shrub, very thorny, sometimes a small tree of 4 to 5 m that may form thickets in overgrazed veld

Description of stem

The bark is brown to grey and rough; the multiple branches are haphazardly entwined; numerous small spur branches are partly spines, but often still bear leaves and flowers

Description of leaves

The leaves resemble some acacia species, are bipinnate with many pinnae and leaflets that are darker above than below; small glands occur on the rachis

Description of flowers

Attractive bicolour yellow (at the apex) and pink (at the base) fluffy flower spikes are distinctive identification features; the flower clusters are often pendulous; only the yellow flower components are fertile; the pink part has some colour variations

Description of seed/fruit

Clusters of convoluted, indehiscent seed pods, somewhat similar to those of Acacia tortilis, are borne on long stalks

Description of roots



Its wide distribution across Africa, Asia and Australia is associated with a considerable degree of variation and recorded subspecies (more than 10, but fewer may survive future revisions)

Propagation and cultivation



Hardy in summer rainfall regions; maybe limited in capacity to withstand cold


Leaves serve in traditional medicine for treating diarrhoea, toothache, earache, snakebite, tuberculosis, epilepsy and open wounds; the roots have been used in treating nose bleed, colic and pneumonia; cattle and game browse the pods; the wood is hard and durable and used for making tool handles and fence posts, but seldom yield very large pieces

Ecological rarity

Common, sometimes invades

Pests and diseases





Wooded grassland, may invade degraded and overgrazed areas

Distribution (SA provinces)

Northern Cape; Free State; Kwazulu-Natal; Mpumalanga; Limpopo; Gauteng; North West


South Africa; Mozambique; Swaziland; Zimbabwe; Zambia; Botswana; Namibia; Angola and further northward in Africa; Australia; India