HEAVEN ON A BARBED STICK
One drought-beating tree with an aura of affluence can wear its crown of thorns as a halo.
LATERAL THOUGHTS IN SEARCH OF EVER MORE INTERESTING STORIES FROM BIOLOGY. Robin and the Honey Badger’s mission is to recharge biology with originality for you, the non-specialist reader. In this e-essay: one drought-beating tree with an aura of affluence can wear its crown of thorns as a halo. Umbrella thorn typically frames our view of the Serengeti, the perfect backdrop for the big game of Africa. But its value is more than aesthetic, for it is a prime example of mutualism between plants and mammals. The combination of pioneering vigour and a fine profile of noble bearing sets this altruist apart from other acacias. In the spiny saplings, we see the grizzled stubble of a working class in service to large herbivores as this species pragmatically revegetates the barrenness of overgrazing, trampling, and even ploughing. But in maturity, umbrella thorn rises above the hardscrabble of its seedling years – and spreads with the poise of a true ‘crown’.