A well-rounded safari focuses on each element of the wilderness not only on trying to “tick-off” certain species of big animals from a list. All safari guides are expected to have a certain knowledge not only of the fauna in the area in which they operate, but also on the flora.
Trees have been part of the folklore and medicinal repertoire of generations of local tribes in Africa and around the world. Not all trees were created the same, and not all trees will treat the same ailments. Some illnesses require for roots to be boiled, others require a concoction of the leaves and the bark, others require the leaves to be chewed. The mixture of ingredients and correct preparation using botanical knowledge is known to treat a wide range of illnesses such as malaria, snake bites, black water fever, stomach ulcers, etc.
Medicinal use of trees, and let’s not forget knowing which trees have medicinal and not murderous properties, is also a vital part of the knowledge that guides tend to impart on their guests.
The toilet paper bush, properly known as the Weeping Wattle (Peltophorum africanum) is a semi deciduous tree (fancy language for “semi loses its leaves in dry months”) with a beautiful collection of yellow flowers that often attracts a myriad of insects. The human use of “toilet paper” refers to the feather-like and soft to the touch leaves that the tree possesses known to pass a substitute for what appears to be in current times, one of the most precious possessions.
The Weeping Wattle leaves, if collected in large numbers, have also been known to serve as bedding. Medicinally the plant has been used to treat a variety of stomach disorders such as parasites, diarrhea and eye sores. Modern research has also shown the presence of several medically active compounds in the tree that corroborate the traditional beliefs. Talk about an all-rounder tree, right?
Next time you are on safari, make sure you stop and appreciate this tree, and feel the softness of its leaves, but be warned. Not all that glitters is gold and as such not all that has yellow flower can be used on a bum! Acacia tree species are also known for beautiful leaves and yellow flowers so if you ever find yourself in need, perhaps check your chosen tree for tiny little thorns before you commit to using it!