This must be one of my favourite trees owing to the spiritual beliefs around it.
In Afrikaans it is called the Blink-blaar-wag-‘n-bietjie , which translated means shiny-leaf-wait-a-bit.
The thorns occur in pairs – one pointing straight forward and below the branch one hooked backwards. So if you get caught in it it will take you awhile to get out.
The Zulus see this as you must look to your future (straight thorn) but never forget your past (hooked thorn). The zigzag nature of the branches indicates that life is never straightforward.
When somebody dies and is buried away from their home a branch from the tree is placed on top of the grave. It is believed that the spirit enters branch. The branch is then transported to the person’s home. The branch gets it’s own seat on a bus or taxi.
In Botswana it is believed that you will be safe from lightning if you stand under the buffalo thorn during a storm.
The seeds, if roasted, can be used as a substitute for coffee. The roots have peptide alkaloids and antifungal properties and hence used as painkillers, for dysentery, respiratory ailments and sepsis on the skin.