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Tree Symbolism: 9 African Trees and Their Spiritual Meanings (Part 2)

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

It’s one thing knowing the species name of a tree, what climate or soil conditions it needs to thrive, and even what its cultural significance means. But, using tree symbolism as part of your personal and spiritual development is an empowering tool many of us don’t even consider.

By tapping into the vibrational energies of these magnificent plants, you’re absorbing the tree’s innate knowledge.

Engaging with the essence of any tree beyond what you see with your physical senses allows you to connect with plants on an intuitive and creative level. Trees are magnificent vessels of ancient wisdom and healing properties. Using tree symbolism allows you to tap into magical and mystical resources that empower you to see your world with a whole new perspective.

In my personal experience, I’ve used trees to energetically remind me of my growth and spiritual journey. I use the essence and wisdom of trees to guide me when I’m lost and need reassurance or to increase my vibrational energies when I’m feeling tired and weary of life. Trees are the cornerstone of my inner growth and hence, the name of my business, The Journey Tree.

Using Tree Symbolism to Support You on Your Inner Journey

To get the most out of using trees to support you on your journey of inner growth and spirituality, it helps to incorporate the following aspects:

  • Cultural significance: Different cultures have their meanings associated with trees. Traditional folk have myths or superstitions and create stories and uses for specific trees since ancient times. Tapping into the cultural significance of trees gives you another perspective when looking for guidance and wisdom.

  • Biological features: How a tree grows, what it needs to survive, and how it protects itself allows you to link its biological features with your needs and existence as a human being.

  • Environmental relationships: Understanding how a tree connects with the elements of nature helps you to tap into the same wisdom for your inner growth. Recognizing what a tree does for other natural beings such as birds, insects, and plants empowers you to explore your connection with other people and nature.

  • Energetic vibrations: Tapping into the energies of a tree raises your energetic vibrations and lets you explore the power of your intuition and psychic abilities. Connecting deeply with a tree on an inner level can bring you to a state of enlightenment.

Exploring all these aspects of a tree enables you to understand the message of a specific plant about your personal growth and development journey. Keep reading as I share the spiritual meanings of my favorite African trees.

9 African Trees and Their Spiritual Meanings

1. Wild Fig Tree (Ficus ingens)

I start with the Wild Fig Tree because it was the first Journey Tree gifted to me by my partner, Paul who introduced me to the magic of tree symbolism. I’m in awe of its ability to grow on boulders with its magnificent “rock-hugging” roots which are strong enough to break them!

Because of its aggressive root system and commonly known as the “rock-splitter,” it's recommended to NOT grow them near pavements, pipes, sewage systems, or swimming pools! They make wonderful container plants (which mine is) or bonsais.

The leaves turn a stunning copper-red in spring before creating lush, green foliage for the summer months. The Wild Fig produces white, pea-sized fruits before turning purple and is eaten by mammals and birds.

The tree is pollinated by the fig wasp and can be found growing in most habitats while preferring rocky outcrops. The Wild Fig tree tolerates moderate frost and can be easily grown from cuttings.

The Symbolism of the Wild Fig

  • The Tree of Life

  • Transformation – death and rebirth, renewal, regeneration

  • Longevity, immortality, and protection

  • Divinity, enlightenment, and inner spiritual strength

  • Wisdom

  • Perseverance

  • Anchoring and grounding

2. Yellowwood (Afrocarpus falcatus)

My first role as an environmental education officer in 1986 was to take school learners to the magnificent “Big Tree” in the Tsitsikamma forests. Estimated to be around 600 to 800 years old, this beautiful, gigantic Outeniqua Yellowwood is 36.6 meters high with a 9-meter circumference.

The children would form a circle around it, holding hands as they leaned into the energy of the ancient tree.

This tree makes a wonderful addition to any garden and will happily grow in containers as well. The large, yellow fruits take a year to ripen and are eaten by bats, bushpigs, and birds. The birds also favor the tree’s crown as a roosting and nesting site. The yellowwood sap can be used to treat chest ailments.

The Symbolism of the Yellowwood

  • Fertility and birth

  • Abundance and good fortune

  • Purification and cleansing

  • Good health, protection, and strength

  • Spiritual warrior

  • Inner purpose

3. Wild Plum (Harpephyllum caffrum)

I fell in love with this tree growing on my folks’ farm along the Magaliesburg mountains. It stood grand and tall at the entrance of the farmhouse and you could always find the Southern Bou-Bou singing from among the foliage. It’s a wonderful tree for attracting birds and butterflies to the garden.

The Wild Plum normally grows in riverine forests and has tasty plum-like fruit that is enjoyed by birds, insects, mammals, and people. The bark is used as a traditional medicine to treat acne and eczema. Powdered burnt bark is used to treat bone fractures and sprains.

The Symbolism of the Wild Plum

  • Growth, balance, and strength

  • Truth, wisdom, and knowledge

  • Long life

  • Connection between Heaven and Earth

4. Horsewood (Clausena anisata)

I first became aware of this tree when Paul grew one in our garden – he alerted me to the strong “horse urine” smell of the leaves when they were crushed! However, its dainty, star-shaped, yellowish-white, sweet-smelling flowers make up for it in the spring and summer months. The Horsewood’s fruit ripens from red to black and is eaten by birds and small mammals.

It’s host to several swallowtail butterflies and can be grown in gardens quite successfully. It has many medicinal properties and can be used to treat:

  • Infections and fevers

  • Mouth sores

  • Gastro-intestinal disorders

  • Pneumonia

  • Sore throats and sinusitis

  • Venereal diseases

However, this list isn’t conclusive – you’ll discover that the Horsewood can be used for a wide range of treatments including as a snake-bite antidote! The twigs and leaves are used in rituals and are burned to chase away evil spirits.

The Symbolism of the Horsewood

  • Tree of Love

  • Nurturing, support, and protection

  • Healing, rejuvenation, and purification

  • Patience, understanding, and wisdom

  • Spiritual connection

  • Harmony

5. Buffalo Thorn (Ziziphus mucronata)

This scruffy and thorny tree caught my attention when I was doing a wild game count during my nature conservation years as a student. We were moving through a thicket when I found myself tangled with a Buffalo Thorn. No matter how much I tried to free myself of its thorns – one facing backward and the other facing forward – I got hooked again!

The Buffalo Thorn has zigzag twigs which symbolize life as we know it! The thorns symbolize where we come from and where we’re going. The tree is versatile and found in a wide range of habitats from rocky outcrops to sandy soils and along streams. The saying goes that where you see a Buffalo Thorn, you’ll find underground water.

Zulus and Swazis use Buffalo Thorn twigs and branches at burial rites while many Africans plant it in villages to ward off evil spirits. Some cultures use it to take home the spirit of a passed one who has died away from home. In Botswana, it’s believed you’re protected from lightning strikes if you stand under a Buffalo Thorn.

The Symbolism of the Buffalo Thorn

  • Purification

  • Protection

  • Transformation

  • Magic

  • Sacred marriage

  • Male and female unity

  • Good luck

  • Fertility

6. Coral Tree (Erythrina lyistemon)

You can’t miss this tree when it’s flowering – it has magnificent, scarlet “spikey” flowers that bloom in profusion on bare branches in spring. It’s a sight to behold both in the bushveld and on pavements in the city of Johannesburg (where you least expect to see them!)

When the slender black pods split, you’ll find black and orange seeds inside. As a kid growing up, we would call them “lucky beans!”

Found in wooded gorges and kloofs, koppies, dry woodlands, coastal dunes, and high rainfall areas, this tree provides shelter and food for many animals, insects, and birds. Regarded as a Royal Tree, the Coral Tree is planted on the graves of Zulu chiefs. It’s popular for both its medicinal and magical properties among traditional people.

The Symbolism of the Coral Tree

  • Love and prosperity

  • Protection and healing

  • Inner wisdom

  • Personal harmony

  • Connection with the past, present, and future

  • Inner strength and mastery

7. Weeping Boer-Bean (Schotia brachypetala)

If you’re looking for a beautiful African tree to bonsai, the Weeping Boer-Bean is an excellent choice. It’s a well-shaped, “Out of Africa” tree with a wide-spreading crown of glossy, dark-green foliage. The leaves turn a stunning coppery-red color in springtime, making them stand out in the dry bushveld before the rains come.

The deep-red flowers are produced in dense masses on the branches between August and November. They’re rich in nectar which seeps out of the flowers (hence the name of the tree), attracting both birds and insects. The pods are large, flat, and glossy brown which split from late summer. I’ve used the seeds to make my own set of runes!

The Weeping Boer-Bean is used by traditional people to strengthen the body and purify the blood. The seeds are roasted in the pods to make a tasty snack that’s high in carbohydrates. The dark walnut coloring of the tree’s heartwood is often used to make furniture and in days gone by, wagon wheels.

The Symbolism of the Weeping Boer-Bean

  • Fertility

  • Transformation – death and rebirth

  • Intuition

  • Prosperity and ambition

  • Abundance and generosity

  • Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and serenity

  • Inner illumination and spiritual enlightenment

8. Tree Fuchsia (Halleria lucida)

I once lived on a little farm and one day decided to convert an empty pond into a miniature wetland. I was thrilled to find the dainty Tree Fuchsia with its delicate, orange-red tubular flowers growing on the stem in our local nursery and planted a few next to my wetland. I was equally delighted as it attracted sunbirds and other nectar-loving birds to my garden.

Traditional Zulus use the Tree Fuchsia to treat skin and ear infections by soaking dry leaves in water and squeezing the infusion into the ears. The tree is used as a charm to protect against bad spirits while twigs are burned as offerings to ancestors. The Tree Fuchsia is also burned to ash which is mixed with crocodile fat and smeared onto Rhamnus prinoides

used to protect against wizardry.

The Symbolism of the Tree Fuchsia

  • Death and transformation

  • Rebirth and renewal

  • Creativity

  • Healing

  • Clairvoyance

  • Protection

  • Abundance

  • Transition, evolution, and continuation

9. Wild Pomegranate (Burchellia bubalina)

The Wild Pomegranate is one of those trees that resonate with me on a deep, inner level whenever I come into contact with one. I have a small tree growing in our garden and it always surprises me with its burst of bright orange-red tubular flowers in springtime. Full of nectar, the flowers attract birds and insects alike.

Bearing a close resemblance to the true pomegranate, this ornamental tree is neat and attractive while easy to grow from seeds or cuttings. The roots of the Wild Pomegranate are used in conjunction with other plant parts to make a love charm.

The Symbolism of the Wild Pomegranate

  • Fertility

  • Intuition

  • Death and rebirth

  • Prosperity and ambition

  • Love

  • Inner wisdom and knowledge

  • Serenity

Final Thoughts

If you want to grow your own African Journey Tree find one that resonates with you on an energetic level. Touch the bark, stroke the leaves, and hug a tree before deciding if it’s the right plant for your spiritual growth and connection. You’ll feel an increase in body vibrations when you stand close to a tree that’s symbolic for you.

Identify aspects of your inner self that you wish to grow such as wisdom, spiritual connection, transformation, or serenity and pick the most relevant tree from my list. This way you can use tree symbolism to help you on your journey of personal growth and development.

Otherwise, contact me for a spiritual reading to find out which tree should be your Journey Tree.

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