Burkea africana is a flat-topped, deciduous, medium sized tree of up to 10 m (SA Tree List No. 197). The bark is grey, rough and flaking. The branch ends have stubby red growing tips.
These trees are difficult to grow from seed, while their appearance make them attractive to the nursery trade. The wood is attractive and durable. The bark and pods are used in tanning, the roots for a red dye. The bark also features in several traditional medicines.
There is a moth, the pallid emperor moth or Cirina forda that lays its eggs on this tree where its larvae later feed on the leaves. The moth, also called the shea defoliator, occurs from West Africa to South Africa.
Some indigenous communities inspect the trees for the caterpillars grown large on the leaves. These in turn are then relished as a seasonal food by humans. Not bad, as the bark of this tree is so toxic that it serves to paralyse fish!
Several other insects also feed on this tree, yet it is not considered threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Wikipedia; www.redlist.sanbi.org).