desertification, avoid soil erosion, and reduce the land destruction caused by cattle. The living trees themselves provide shade from the burning sun, shelter from the hot winds, and relief from the never-ending starkness of the desert all around. All in all, it helps stabilize both human life and the natural environment in these severely challenged regions.


The tree may be tricky to plant, slow to mature, and susceptible to grazing, but once established it is nearly indestructible. The trunk soaks in water like a sponge, making it resistant to the grassfires afflicting the savannas each summer. Once past its juvenile susceptibilities, a baobab provides its multiple environmental benefits to successive generations.

Butterfruit (safou, bush mango)

In agroforestry and landcare, this versatile species also has promise. It is often seen scattered in riverbeds, across hillsides, and along the boulevards. Possibly it has potential in plantation forestry. The timber, although small in diameter and short in length, can substitute for mahogany. Its woodworking qualities and interesting appearance suit it to veneers and fine cabinetry.


Various types of this bush are used for property boundaries, screens, ground covers, landscaping accents, barriers against intruders (two legged and four legged), or container plants. Carissa is also espaliered against a sunny wall or pruned into small trees to beautify a backyard. Few plants are more decorative, tough, or adaptable. The clean and shiny look of the stiff, bottle green leaves makes the shrubs handsome year-round, and the fragrant flowers and crimson fruits lend added beauty.

Horned Melon

In this species, we see no particular value for long-term protection of Africa’s soil and environment, though we could be proved wrong. Interestingly, the vines wither at the end of the rains, but the fruits continue to ripen and persist long into the dry season, often serving as a water source.

Kei Apple

This tough shrub does well in almost any soil, including limestone. It is extremely drought resistant and tolerates salinity and even ocean spray. For this reason, for example, it is used as a windbreak or ornamental in coastal California. Its long sharp thorns deter both people and animals. It is commonly seen in hedges and it has been formed into rough rural corrals in southern and eastern Africa. In some climates the untrained plant takes on a

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