Dichrostachys cinerea, the sickle-bush, is a shrub or small tree of north-eastern South Africa and throughout Africa (SA Tree List No. 190). Whether it grows in Australia and India naturally or through the unfortunate invasion by an exotic through human intervention is not known.
The vast diversity of habitats thus occupied by this tree has led to great diversity in the adaptations made by it. There are at least ten subspecies and 11 varieties of it recorded. The tree may grow to heights of 6 m, but such size is uncommon locally. Shrubs of 2 m to 3 m with spreading, untidy or sometimes rounded or flat crowns are common.
The fruit of the sickle-bush is a dense cluster of intricately contorted pods. They remind of the convoluted pods of Vachellia tortilis, but in that case single pods make up the clusters. Sickle-bush pods start off green, filled with sap as in the picture, gradually drying out to a brown colour. Pod dimensions, for those who need to be spared the challenge of straightening some for measurement, are 1 cm by 10 cm. They are indehiscent, eventually dropping off the trees and rotting on the ground, if not eaten by livestock or game (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).