Herbs & Plants

Vachellia tortilis

Botanical Name: Vachellia tortilis
Family: Fabaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales
Clade: Mimosoideae
Genus: Vachellia
Species: V. tortilis

*Acacia heteracantha Burch.
*Acacia raddiana Savi.

  • Acacia spirocarpa Hochst.
  • Acacia tortili

Common Names: Umbrella thorn and Israeli babool

Habitat: Vachellia tortilis is native to Africa – semi-arid areas from S. Africa to the Sahel and also to Israel and Arabia. It grows widespread in the Sahel, in woodlands and in the savannah. It generally forms open, dry forests in pure stands or mixed with other species.

Vachellia tortilis a medium to large evergreen tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 15 m to 21m in height at a fast rate. It has a large, spreading, umbrella-shaped canopy. The leaves are pinnate, with each leaf composed of about 15 pairs of leaflets. Flowers are small, white, fragrant, and occur in tight clusters.They are polinated by bees. Seeds are in flat pods. V. tortilis is tolerant to drought, high alkalinity, high temperatures, sandy and stony soils, strongly sloped rooting surfaces, and sand blasting.


Vachellia tortilis is a plant for semi-arid tropical and subtropical areas, succeeding at elevations from sea level to 2,000 metres. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature is in the range 23.4 – 31.3c, with a mean annual rainfall of 100 – 1,000mm. It tolerates a maximum temperature of 50c and a minimum temperature close to 0c, though trees less than 2 years old are very susceptible to frost damage. The tree favours alkaline soils and grows in sand dunes, sandy loam, rocky soils and other soils that drain well. It also does well on light brown, sandy soil with little or no calcium carbonate, and pH ranges of between 7.95-8.30. Tolerates pH in the range 6.5 – 8.5. A drought resistant plant, it can tolerate strong salinity and seasonal waterlogging. The long taproot and numerous lateral roots enable it to utilize the limited soil moisture available in the arid areas. Plants can grow fairly well in shallow soil, less than 0.25 m deep, though they develop long lateral roots that can become a nuisance in nearby fields, paths, and roadways. A fast-growing tree, it develops a long lateral root system and creates problems in marshy fields, paths and roadways. It grows fairly well even on shallow soils less than 25cm deep. However, the plant assumes shrubby growth and must be widely spaced for the lateral root growth. It responds vigorously to felling by producing numerous coppice shoots, provided there is no interference from browsing animals. Lopping of entire branches does not seem to affect the vitality of the tree. 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. Carbon Farming- Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard, coppice.

Edible Uses:
A porridge is made from the pods after extracting the seed. The immature seeds are eaten. An edible gum is obtained from the stems. Of moderate quality.

Medicinal Uses:
The dried, powdered bark is used as a disinfectant in healing wounds. In Senegal the powdered bark is used as an anthelmintic and is dusted on to skin ailments. The stem is used to treat asthma. Seeds are taken to treat diarrhoea.

Other Uses:
Agroforestry Uses: Due to its drought hardiness and fast growth, this is a promising species for afforesting shifting sand dunes, refractory sites, hill slopes, ravines and lateritic soils. It is the tree most recommended for reclaiming dunes in India and Africa. It has been grown successfully with Azadirachta indica in shelterbelts. Other Uses The pods have been used as beads in necklaces. The source of a resin called Gomme Rouge. The bark is reported to be a rich source of tannin. A strong fibre is obtained from the bark. A powerful molluscicide and algicide, the fruits are placed in fish ponds to kill the snail species that carry schistosomiasis, without affecting the fish. The thorny branches are suitable material for erecting barriers. The sapwood and heartwood are white and lustrous, with the heartwood aging to reddish-brown. Growth rings are distinct and separated by brown lines. The wood is moderately soft, not very strong, and is readily attacked by decay-causing fungi and insects. It should be promptly converted after felling and subjected to rapid drying conditions. The timber is not durable in the open but moderately so under cover. It is used for planking, boxes, poles, moisture-proof plywood, gun and rifle parts, furniture, house construction and farm implements. It is believed that Noah of the Old Testament made his ark from the wood of this tree. The root of this tree is traditionally used to make quivers for arrows. A piece of wood about 40 – 60cm long is placed in the spent ashes of a warm fire and left overnight. The next morning, a short section of the bark of the root is removed at one end; a circular groove is carved into the exposed core wood; a piece of wire is wound around the groove at one end whist the other end is attached to a tree; the bark (having already been loosened from the wood by the drying action of the warm ashes) is then simply pulled whole off the root. The core of wood remaining is then often used as a pestle. The plant starts producing fuel wood at the age of 8 -18 years, at the rate of 50 kg/tree. Its fast growth and good coppicing behaviour, coupled with the high calorific value for its wood (4400 kcal/kg), make it suitable for firewood and charcoal. Carbon farming – Industrial Crop: biomass, tannin. Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, windbreak, crop shade. Fodder: pod, bank. Other Systems: parkland.

Known Hazards: There are unconfirmed allegations that the foliage can be toxic to livestock.

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


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