Botanical Name : Acacia cornigera
Species: A. cornigera
Habitat : Acacia cornigera is native to Mexico and Central America.
The common name of “bullhorn” refers to the enlarged, hollowed-out, swollen thorns (technically called stipular spines) that occur in pairs at the base of leaves, and resemble the horns of a steer. In Yucatán (one region where the bullhorn acacia thrives) it is called “subín”, in Panamá the locals call them “cachito” (little horn). The tree grows to a height of 10 metres (33 ft).
Bullhorn Acacia is best known for its symbiotic relationship with a species of Pseudomyrmex ant (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) that lives in its hollowed-out thorns. Unlike other acacias, Bullhorn acacias are deficient in the bitter alkaloids usually located in the leaves that defend against ravaging insects and animals. Bullhorn acacia ants fulfill that role.
The ants act as a defense mechanism for the tree, protecting it against harmful insects, animals or humans that may come into contact with it. The ants live in the hollowed-out thorns for which the tree is named. In return, the tree supplies the ants with protein-lipid nodules called Beltian bodies from its leaflet tips and carbohydrate-rich nectar from glands on its leaf stalk. These Beltian bodies have no known function other than to provide food for the symbiotic ants. The aggressive ants release an alarm pheromone and rush out of their thorn “barracks” in great numbers.
According to Daniel Janzen, livestock can apparently smell the pheromone and avoid these acacias day and night. Getting stung in the mouth and tongue is an effective deterrent to browsing on the tender foliage. In addition to protecting A. conigera from leaf-cutting ants and other unwanted herbivores, the ants also clear away invasive seedlings around the base of the tree that might overgrow it and block out vital sunlight.
Root and bark are used in snakebite remedy. Bushmasters instruct that the snakebite victim should cut a piece of the bark equal to his forearm and chew this, swallowing the juices, and applying the leftover fibers as a poultice to the bite; the victim can then start walking home while chewing on the root and swallowing the juice. The poultice is said to delay reaction time to the toxin, adding 6-8 hours of time to allow victim to get help. It has been used as traditional medicine for relief of mucous congestion for infants. Babies are given water containing the ants (once they’ve been squeezed and strained). Acne and other skin conditions can be bathed with water in which the thorns have been boiled. For male impotency, boil a 2.5 x 15 cm strip of bark in 3 cups water for 10 minutes and take 1 cup before meals for 7 days. If results are slow, double the strength of the tea for 3 more days. For infantile catarrh, catch 9 of the small black ants that inhabit the thorns (they protect the tree from attack from harmful insects); squeeze these into ½ cup boiled water, strain and give to infant by teaspoon until consumed. For onset of asthma attacks, cough, and lung congestion, boil 9 thorns (including their ants) in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Said to be useful also for treatment of poisoning and headaches.
The thorns of A. cornigera, are often strung into unusual necklaces and belts. In El Salvador the horn-shaped thorns provide the legs for small ballerina seed dolls which are worn as decorative pins.
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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