Images of the Sahara and other deserts of Africa often show barren land and seemingly endless dunes, but not examples of the diverse plant life that can be found there. Because of the harsh conditions, many plants have to be hardy and well-adapted to the heat, sun and lack of water.
The camel thorn tree is among the most common trees found in Africa's desert region. It is a member of the Acacia family, which includes some of the most recognizable trees in Africa.
The camel thorn can reach heights of up to 15 meters; because of its height, many species of animals use the tree for shade as well as for food. The tree bears edible seed pods that have a distinctive smell. Eating these pods is also a form of protection for the animals that ingest them, as it makes them smell rancid and inedible to predators. The bark and roots of the tree are used in traditional medicines, and the seeds are also eaten by the native population.
The karoo thorn, or sweet thorn tree, is another member of the acacia family that is widespread across the deserts of Africa. This tree has since migrated to other continents, particularly Australia, where it is considered an aggressive, invasive species.
Like many desert plants, the karoo tree has a shallow, dense root system that's designed to make the most of the little water that comes from the ground. It has fern-like leaves, dark yellow balls of tiny flowers, seed pods and long, sharp thorns. These thorns dissuade many animals from grazing on the tree, and they can seriously injure. Birds, however, feed on the seed pods after they fall.
The quiver tree also goes by the name giant aloe. Like many desert plants, the quiver tree has adapted wel to infertile soil, and can take root in either rocky or sandy ground.
For many desert animals, the quiver tree is an important food source. In the winter months, the tree produces yellow flowers that are the source of sweet nectar--a valuable commodity in the harsh desert landscape. The quiver tree is a valuable resource for people too; its name derives from the native population's use of its soft branches to make quivers.