The Big Five (No, not that Big Five) – #4: The Yellow Fever-Tree

It’s blistering hot out here in the height of summer. Whatever rains arrive are a welcome respite, but quickly followed by a humidity that can only be experienced firsthand to understand. 

It’s a good thing that our reserve is decorated by some of nature’s toughest trees, bringing us dappled shade, juicy nutrition and endless beauty all year round – but especially in summer! We continue our appreciation of Abelana’s Big Five Trees (Baobab, Yellow Fever-Tree, Knobthorn, Marula and Mopane), by celebrating two more of Africa’s finest…

Trees of Abelana
A display of summer green – Abelana’s trees at their finest

The Yellow Fever-Tree

Yellow fever-trees (Vachellia xanthophloea) are large trees that grow into beautiful, rounded-top, wide-spreading canopies – umbrellas of the wild!  They’re iconically African, and most easily recognised for their yellowish-green trunks, coated in fine dust. 

The yellow fever-tree loves riverbanks, flood plains and swamps, which is why they grow so well on Abelana Game Reserve, with our water-rich dam areas and the Selati River passing through the north of the reserve. 

  • The yellow fever-tree can reach as high as 25m, growing quite fast with a relatively short lifespan.
  • These graceful giants received their name when early European settlers believed that they caused high fevers and even death. It turns out that the settlers were actually contracting malaria from mosquitoes breeding in the water-rich regions that the trees notoriously grow in. 
  • The yellow fever-tree also supports a wide variety of animal life. Elephants enjoy the nutritious tree bark, while giraffe and vervet monkeys eat the pods and leaves. Pretty yellow flowers provide foraging for bees and butterflies and the trees make wonderful homes for birds and adorable bushbabies alike. 
  • Yellow fever-trees have become increasingly popular in urban areas and gardens, for their unique bark colouring and fast, resilient growth. 

There is something truly special that happens when the late afternoon sunshine hits a yellow fever tree, setting its trunk alight with a golden glow! 

Trees of Abelana
A collage of greenery and bushveld – Abelana’s rich tree life at sunset

Another Abelana Favourite: The Large-Leaved Rock Fig

The large-leaved rock fig (Ficus abutilifolia) provides another reminder of just how bizarre and creative mother nature can be! These petite fig trees grow bounteously throughout Abelana Game Reserve, the surrounding Lowveld, and large areas of low-altitude, hot southern African regions. 

  • Large-leaved rock figs can grow up to 15m tall, but for the most part, they remain fairly small. Don’t let their size fool you though – large-leaved rock figs love to grow into and around rocky outcrops, their exposed roots clinging to sheer cliff faces and often splitting entire rocks. Dynamite does come in small packages, after all! 
  • The large-leaved rock fig has a pretty yellow-ish white bark and, a bit like the yellow fever tree, is somewhat powdery to the touch. 
  • Adapting to their precarious habitats, these trees twist and contort as they grow, which is why many people cultivate them as ornamental bonsai trees. 
  • The large-leaved rock fig flowers in summer, with fruit ripening in February and March. The delicious figs are enjoyed by people, as well as birds, fruit bats, monkeys and baboons, bushbuck, bushpig, duikers, and many others.
  • Bark decoctions – concentrated liquors resulting from heating or boiling the bark – were once believed to bestow men with increased strength and stamina. 
Abelana trees
A young large-leaved rock fig clings to a boulder

From the rich soils of the riverbank to the bouldering, mountainous outcrops, Abelana Game Reserve plays host to such an incredible variety of plant and tree species which, of course, serve to attract a resplendent array of birdlife, insects and mammals from far and wide. 

To enjoy the Lowveld’s most glorious summer display of life and busyness for yourself, get in touch about a luxury safari to Abelana River Lodge. Our riverside pool is pristine, the gin is on ice, and air-conditioned suites are surrounded by the very trees that we all love so much! Contact us on 061 952 4302, or by email at