The monkey thorn (Acacia galpinii Burtt Davy) is a large deciduous tree of Southern and Eastern Africa. A fast growing, long-lived tree, with a maximum height of 30 m, Acacia galpinii is the largest South African acacia. The trunk is 2 m in diameter. The bark is whitish-yellow in young trees and darkens with maturity. The wide spreading branches form a rounded canopy (UVP, 2014; Lemmens, 2006; Schmidt et al., 2002). The branchlets bear pairs of hooked and blackish prickles up to 1 cm long just below the nodes (Lemmens, 2006). The leaves are alternate, bipinnately compound, bearing 7-14 pairs of pinnae, each with 12-35 pairs of small hairless leaflets (4-10 mm long x 1-3 mm wide). The inflorescences are borne in clustered spikes from October to January (UVP, 2014). The flowers are creamy white, with a reddish calyx. The fruits, which ripen between February and March, are 8-15 seeded dehiscent pods, straight, large, papery to woody, 8-20 cm long x 25 mm broad, reddish to purple in colour. The seeds are flattened and ovoid, 12-15 mm x 10-12 mm (UVP, 2014; Lemmens, 2006; Schmidt et al., 2002).
The monkey thorn provides valuable timber for construction and fences. It is grown as an ornamental tree in large gardens, parks and avenues. The sweet-scented flowers attract bees and other insects. The pods are eaten by animals but not as readily as those of other Acacia species (Lemmens, 2006).