Botanical Name: Faidherbia albida
Species: F. albida
*Acacia albida Delile
*Acacia mossambicensis Bolle
*Faidherbia albida var. glabra Nongon.
*Faidherbia albida var. pseudoglabra Nongon
Common Names: White Acacia. White-thorn. Apple ring acacia, Winter thorn. and South African name is Ana tree
Habitat: Faidherbia albida is native to Africa, from South Africa north through eastern Africa to Sudan, Eritrea and on to Israel. It grows in the banks of seasonal and perennial rivers and streams on sandy alluvial soils or on flat land where Vertisols predominate.
Faidherbia albida is a deciduous thorny tree growing up 6–30 m (20–98 ft) tall and 2 m (6.6 ft) in trunk diameter.It has branching stems and an erect to roundish crown. Greenish grey to whitish grey colour and smoothness is evident on the young stems, but grey and smooth to rough on older branches and stems.The straight, whitish thorns, which are in pairs, are up to 40 mm long. Pale grey-green leaves which are twice-compound, have a conspicuous gland at the base of each pair of pinnae (leaflets). Scented, pale cream-coloured flowers form an elongated spike up to 35-160 x 20 mm. Its deep-penetrating tap root makes it highly resistant to drought. The bark is grey, and fissured when old. There are 11,000 seeds/kg deciduous tree, growing to 25 m (82ft) by 35 m (114ft) at a fast rate.
The flowers are pollinated by Butterflies, Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
White acacia succeeds from the tropical to warm temperate zones, thriving in climates that are characterized by long summers, or a dry season with long days[303 ]. It grows best in an altitude range of about 270 – 2,700 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 18 – 30°c. It is intolerant of frost. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 400 – 1,000mm, but tolerates 250 – 1,200mm. It has succeeded in areas with 1,800mm and, provided there is access to underground water, it can grow independent of rainfall, such as in the Namib Desert. Requires a sunny position, growing best in a coarse-textured, well-drained alluvial soil. It tolerates seasonal waterlogging and saline conditions, but cannot withstand heavy clayey soils. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 – 7, tolerating 5 – 7.5. The tree has roots that can penetrate 40 metres into the soil to find groundwater and thus help it to withstand drought, even for periods of several years. Observed production of seed by isolated trees is an indication that there is no strict self-incompatibility. The plant has an ‘inverted phenology’ – it is deciduous during the wet season and produces its leaves in the dry season. Initial top growth can be rather slow as the plant focuses on developing the tap root. One year old plants can be up to 80cm tall and up to 450cm tall by the time they are 5 years old. On very good sites this can be increased, with trees up to 10.5 metres tall at the age of 7 years. Plants commence flowering in about their seventh year and subsequent flowerings occur 1 – 2 months after the start of the dry season, lasting for up to 5 months. The tree responds well to coppicing and regrowth is usually quite vigorous. For bees, the tree has the advantage of producing its flowers at the end of the rains while most of the Sahelian species flower just before or during the rains. It therefore becomes their main source of pollen and nectar at this time. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
Edible Uses: The seeds are eaten by local people during the dry season. They are eaten in times of shortage.
The use of the bark and roots by local peoples is widespread. They are astringent and febrifuge. They are used, either externally or internally, as a treatment for respiratory infections, digestive disorders, haemorrhages, malaria and other fevers etc. The bark is used to clean the teeth, as it is believed to contain fluorine. An extract is used to treat toothache.
Agroforestry Uses: White acacia is a very good soil improver and stabilizer. Its spreading root system offers excellent protection to the soil along the banks of watercourses. Bacteria on its roots fix atmospheric nitrogen, whilst it also sheds its leaves in the rainy season; therefore boosting the nutrient status of the soil for the new season?s crops. The fact that the tree is leafless during the rainy season minimizes competition for sunlight with crops and protects them from birds until harvest time. It is commonly intercropped with annual crops, especially pearl millet and groundnuts[299 ]. Yields of millet are much higher under a canopy of this tree; increases of 50 – 150% having been recorded. Results for sorghum, cotton, groundnut and maize are variable and either positive or negative, depending on the study. The effect may depend on soil fertility – when this is high, the tree competes with the crops. The tree is maintained and protected on farms in order to shade coffee and to provide shade during the dry season. The plant has been recommended for integration with maize as an alternative to Leucaena leucocephala. Other Uses A gum arabic, called ‘Gomme de Senegal’, is obtained from the stems. The bark is used to clean the teeth, as it is believed to contain fluorine. The bark contains 20 – 28%f tannins. The wood is burnt and used as a source of potash when making soap. The heartwood is pale and creamy; the brown sapwood slightly paler than the heartwood. The wood is hard, of medium weight. It is susceptible to staining fungi and pinhole borer when green; therefore, it is left to soak for several months to remove sap and minimize attack by fungi, borers and termites. Even after the most careful seasoning, the boards tend to spring and twist one or two hours after they are sawn. The wood works fairly easily by hand, but a smooth finish is difficult to obtain. Care must be taken when nailing, bolting and joining. It is used to make utensils, handicrafts, canoes, furniture, boxes, drums and oil presses. The wood is an excellent fuel. The calorific value is estimated at 19.741 kJ/kg of dry wood. It is used to make a high quality charcoal. Charcoal yields are as low as 17%.
Faiderbia albida is known in the Bambara language as balanzan and is the official tree of the city of Segou on the Niger River in central Mali. According to legend, Segou is home to 4,444 balanzan trees, plus one mysterious “missing tree” the location of which cannot be identified.
In Serer and some of the Cangin languages, it is called Saas. Saas figures prominently in the creation myth of the Serer people. According to their creation myth, it is the tree of life and fertility
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