The Buffalo thorn is a small to medium size tree, reaching a height of about 10m (33ft). It can survive in a variety of soil types, occurring in many habitats, mostly open woodlands, often on soils deposited by rivers, and grows frequently on termite mounds.
Buffalo thorn has distinctive zigzag branchlets, and hooked and straight thorns. The bark is a red-brown (on young stems) or roughly mottled grey, cracked in small rectangular blocks revealing a stringy red underbark. The fruit are roughly the size of a grape, and ripen into a deep brown-red.
The leaves are edible and can be cooked into spinach. During the Second Boer War, the stones were roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee. The fruit are not very tasty, though a type of beer can be made from the fruit. The Ovambo people use it to distill ombike, a traditional liquor.
- The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species, retrieved 30 January 2016
- Shaanika, Helvy (26 October 2012). "Ombike – a potent traditional brew". New Era.
- Ziziphus mucronata in U. Brunken, M. Schmidt, S. Dressler, T. Janssen, A. Thiombiano & G. Zizka: West African plants - A Photo Guide. - Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg, Frankfurt/Main, 2008.
- World Agroforestry Centre
- Bode, J. (2012), Pirate & Joker Sap Sucking, video of various insects sucking the tree's sap, YouTube
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