Botanical Name :Acacia senegal
Species: A. senegal
Commo Names:Swet khadira, khair swet, Catechu tree, Goradiobabul, Rfaudraksha, Gum Acacia, Gum Arabic Tree, or Gum Senegal Tree. Svetakhadira.
Habitat : It is native to semi-desert regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Oman, Pakistan, and northwestern India. It grows to a height of 5-12m, with a trunk up to 30 ft in diameter.
Bush or small tree, usually 2 -6 m high, occasionally reaching 10 m under optimal conditions, frequently forming thickets. It has a short stem, is usually low branched with many upright twigs, the crown eventually flattened, umbrella-shaped. Bark pale brown to pale grey, smooth in young individuals, brown scaly on the older parts, slash mottled red and white, prickles up to 0.5 cm long, the centre one sharply curved, the other two more or less straight and directed forward. Leaves bipinnate, small, greenish-grey, with 3-6 pairs of pinnulae having 10-20 pairs of leaflets each. Leaflets grey-green, 3-8 x 1-2 mm. Flowers very fragrant, creamy white (red in bud), usually appearing before the leaves in pedunculate spikes 3-10 cm long either solitary or two to three together. Pods 7-10 cm long x 2 cm wide, flat and thin, papery, attenuated at both ends, containing 3-6 flat, round, light-brown to brown-greenish seeds. Both tap roots and lateral roots are very developed ; the latter may spread many metres from the tree, particularly in sandy terrain. The tree is deciduous, drooping its leaves in November in the Sudan.
The senegal gum acacia is a small to average sized thorn tree of the African grassland savanna. It can grow up to 20 meters tall. It has many branches that spread out into a flat and rounded top. These branches have many thorns that come in pairs. The leaves are a grey-green color. The flowers are yellow or cream colored and grow on spikes just above the thorns. These flowers turn into seed pods about 8 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. They look like giant dried up pea pods, and are yellowish to brown in color, and flat.
The acacia can live through long periods of drought. They tend to grow in sandy places where there is only between 12 to 15 inches of rain a year. Periods without rain can last from 5 to 11 months a year.
A. senegal is sensitive to frost but is very heat tolerant.
Water: Occurring between the 100 and 800 mm of MAR, mainly between 200 and 600 mm. It is extremely drought resistant as it occurs close to the very border of the Sahara and West Asian Deserts.
Soil : A. senegal is sensitive to water logging. In the drier parts of its area of distribution it tends to be restricted to sandy habitats and dry river beds, but to fine textured soils under the higher rainfalls of the South Sahelian and North Sudanian ecozones., it may also occur on shallow soils and duripan lithosols. The tolerance to pH is quite broad : 5-8 .
Propagation is made either from direct seeding of treated seeds (8,000-18,000 per kg) or via nursery-grown seedlings in various kinds of containers ; naturally the former is much cheaper and used to be a part of the traditional management of the Acacia bush-fallow production system of Kordofan (Seif el Din; 1965 ; Seif el Din & Mubarak, 1971).
Food Uses:It is also used as flavoring in certain soda (pop).
It produces gum arabic, which is used as a food additive, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. The gum is drained from cuts in the bark, and an individual tree will yield 200 to 300 grams. Seventy percent of the world’s gum arabic is produced in Sudan.
Gum Arabic is used in making medicine. It is used to make a cream for skin inflammations and ailments of the respiratory and urinary tracts. Its also used for coughs, sore throats, eyewash, diarrhea, and dysentery. It is also used as flavoring in certain soda (pop).
The gum is used for soothing mucous membranes of the intestine . It is also reportedly used as for its astringent properties, to treat bleeding, bronchitis, diarrhea, gonorrhea, leprosy, typhoid fever and upper respiratory tract infections.
Rope :Roots near the surface of the ground are quite useful in making all kinds of very strong ropes and cords. The tree bark is also used to make rope.
Wood : Handles for tools, parts for weaving looms.
The acacia provides shade and shelter for the animals of the savanna. Giraffes, antelopes and elephants eat its leaves, and birds make their nests in its branches and use them as perches to look out over the flat grasslands.
Acacia was considered sacred by the ancient Hebrew. It is said that Moses used acacia wood to build the Ark of the Covenant and the sacred Tabernacle (Exodus, chapters 25-40). Legend also has it that the thorns of the acacia were used for Christ’s crown of thorns.