Herbs & Plants

Acacia tortilis

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Botanical Name : Acacia tortilis
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Acacia
Species: A. tortilis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Common Names: Umbrella Thorn Acacia, Umbrella Thorn, Israeli Babool

*(Afrikaans) : Haak-en-steek
*(Arabic) : Samar, sammar, samor, samra, sayyal, seyal, seyyal
*(English) : Karamoja, umbrella thorn
*(Hebrew) : Shitat ha’sochech
*(Hindi) : Israeli babool
*(Ndebele) : Isanqawe, umsasane, umshishene, umtshatshatsha
*(Nyanja) : Mzunga, nsangu, nsangunsangu, nyoswa
*(Somali) : Abak, kura
*(Swahili) : Mgunga, mugumba, munga
*(Tigrigna) : Akba, akiba, alla, aqba
*(Tongan) : Mukoka, muzungu, ngoka
*(Tswana) : Mosu, mosunyana
*(Zulu) : UmSasane

Habitat : Acacia tortilis is native primarily to the savanna and Sahel of Africa (especially Sudan), but also occurring in the Middle East.

Acacia tortilis is a medium to large canopied tree.In extremely arid conditions, it may occur as a small, wiry bush. It grows up to 21 m (69 ft) in height. The tree carries leaves that grow to approx. 2.5 cm (1 in) in length with between 4 and 10 pair of pinnae each with up to 15 pairs of leaflets. Flowers are small and white,ball shaped , highly aromatic, and occur in tight clusters. Seeds are produced in pods which are flat and coiled into a springlike structure.

You may click to see the pictures of Acacia tortilis

The plant is known to tolerate high alkalinity, drought, high temperatures, sandy & stony soils, strongly sloped rooting surfaces, and sand blasting. Also, plants older than 2 years have been observed to be somewhat frost resistant.

A. tortilis is a pioneer species easily regenerated from seed. Pods are best collected by shaking them from the canopy. In East Africa, a mature tree can produce over 6000 pods in a good year, each with 8-16 seeds (10,000 – 50,000/kg depending on the subspecies).

Seeds are often extracted by pounding pods in a mortar followed by winnowing and cleaning. The hard-coated seeds remain viable for several years under cool, dry conditions. They require pretreatment for good germination.    Mechanical scarification works best for small seed lots. Soaking seeds either in sulfuric acid for 20-30 minutes, or in poured, boiled water allowed to cool, are both effective treatments (Fagg and Greaves 1990).

Seed are planted in the ground in 1 cm deep holes or in the nursery in 30 cm long tubes. Rapid tap root growth requires frequent root pruning. Seedlings are ready to be planted out after 3-8 months. On marginal sites, initial seedling growth is often slow but quickens once roots have reached a water source. For best growth, plants should be weeded and protected from browsing animals for the first three years. At Jodhpur, India (320 mm annual rainfall) average height of 20 selected 2.5-yr-old plants was 3.8 m.

Limited seed supplies are available from natural populations in a number of countries, primarily in Sahelian Africa, and from landraces in India. A broader range of germplasm is available From the Oxford Forestry Institute (South Parks Road, Oxford OXI 3RB, LTK) for establishment of field trials. Small quantities of seed from Kenyan provenances are also available from NFTA

Medicinal Uses:
Leaves, bark, seeds, and a red gum are used in many local medicines. Two pharmacologically active compounds for treating asthma have been isolated from the bark. The stem of the tree is also used to treat diarrhea.  The gum is used like that of gum arabics in folk remedies. The dried, powdered bark is used as a disinfectant in healing wounds; in Senegal it serves as an anthelmintic. In Somalia the stem is used to treat asthma. Seeds are taken to treat diarrhea. In French Guinea, the bark is used as a vermifuge and dusted onto skin ailments.

Other Uses: In semi-arid areas, Acacia tortilis provides a staple browse especially for camels and goats.This tree provides shade for animals. Some of the most palatable grass species grow beneath its canopy (Walker 1979). In Turkana, Kenya, soil nutrients and herbaceous plant productivity and diversity were significantly greater under than away from the tree canopy (Weltzin and Coughenour 1990).

Wood use :The dense, red wood of A. tortilis makes very good charcoal and fuelwood (4360 Cal/kg) (BOSTID). It burns slowly and produces little smoke when dry. Poles are commonly used in hut construction and for tools. The wood of
ssp. heteracantha is durable if water-seasoned. The tree resprouts vigorously when coppiced and is managed for fuelwood in natural woodlands in Sudan. In plantations in India, trees are planted at 3 x 3 m spacing and coppiced for fuelwood. After 10-12 years over 50 tons/ha wood can be harvested. In other areas the trees are not cut, to avoid reducing pod yields.

In traditional pastoral societies every part of Acacia tortilis is used. The high value held by local people for the tree is reflected in the detailed nomenclature given to its cycles of development. In Oman, for example, local people call A. tortilis by more than a dozen different names in Dhofari arabic.

Flowers provide a major source of good quality honey in some regions. Fruits are eaten in Kenya, the Turkana make porridge from pods after extracting the seed, and the Masai eat the immature seeds. The bark yields tannin and the inner bark cordage. Thorny branches are used for enclosures and livestock pens; roots are used for construction of nomad huts (Somali and Fulani). Leaves, bark, seeds, and a red gum are used in many local medicines. Two pharmacologically active compounds for treating asthma have been isolated from the bark (Hagos et al. 1987).

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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