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This article is about . For ,see Acacia (disambiguation).

Acacia constricta, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Mimosoideae
Tribe: Acacieae
Genus: Acacia

About 1,300; see List of Acacia species

Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees of Gondwanian origin belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described from Africa by Linnaeus in 1773.

Acacias are also known as thorntrees or wattles, including the yellow-fever acacia and umbrella acacias.

There are roughly 1300 species of Acacia worldwide, about 950 of them native to Australia, with the remainder spread around the dry tropical to warm-temperate regions of both hemispheres, including Africa, southern Asia, and the Americas.

The genus Acacia however is apparently not monophyletic. This discovery has led to the breaking up of Acacia into five new genera as discussed in list of Acacia species.


General discussion

The northernmost species in the genus is Acacia greggi (Catclaw Acacia), reaching 37°10' N in southern Utah; the southernmost are Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle), Acacia longifolia (Coast Wattle or Sydney Golden pattle), Acacia mearnsii (Black Wattle), and Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood), reaching 43°30' S in Tasmania, Australia, while Acacia caven (Espinillo Negro) reaches nearly as far south in northeastern Chubut Province of Argentina. Australian species are usually called wattles, while African and American species tend to be known as acacias.

Acacia catechu

The leaves of acacias are compound pinnate in general. In some species, however, more especially in the Australian and Pacific islands species, the leaflets are suppressed, and the leaf-stalks (petioles) become vertically flattened, and serve the purpose of leaves; these are known as phyllodes. The vertical orientation of the phyllodes protects them from intense sunlight, as with their edges towards the sky and earth they do not intercept light so fully as horizontally placed leaves. A few species (such as Acacia glaucoptera) lack leaves or phyllodes altogether, but possess instead cladodes, modified leaf-like photosynthetic stems functioning as leaves.

The small flowers have five very small petals, almost hidden by the long stamens, and are arranged in dense globular or cylindrical clusters; they are yellow or cream-colored in most species, whitish in some, even purple (as in Acacia purpureapetala) or red (in the recently grown cultivar Acacia leprosa Scarlet Blaze).

The plants often bear spines, especially those species growing in arid regions. These sometimes represent branches which have become short, hard and pungent, or sometimes leaf-stipules. Acacia armata is the Kangaroo-thorn of Australia, Acacia giraffae, the Camelthorn of Africa. In the Central American Acacia sphaerocephala, Acacia spadicigera, Acacia cornigera, and Acacia collinsii (collectively known as the bullthorn acacias), the large thorn-like stipules are hollow and afford shelter for ants, which feed on a secretion of sap on the leaf-stalk and small, lipid-rich food-bodies at the tips of the leaflets called Beltian bodies; in return they usually protect the plant against herbivores. Some species of ants will also trim competing plants around the acacia, while other ant species will do nothing to benefit their host.

In common parlance the term "acacia" is occasionally misapplied to species of the genus Robinia, which also belongs in the pea family. Robinia pseudoacacia, an American species locally known as Black locust, is sometimes called "false acacia" in cultivation in the United Kingdom.

In Australia, Acacia species are sometimes used as food plants by the larvae of hepialid moths of the genus Aenetus including A. ligniveren. These burrow horizontally into the trunk then vertically down. Other Lepidoptera larvae which have been recorded feeding on Acacia include Brown-tail, Endoclita malabaricus and Turnip Moth. The leaf-mining larvae of some bucculatricid moths also feed on Acacia: Bucculatrix agilis feeds exclusively on Acacia horrida, Bucculatrix flexuosa feeds exclusively on Acacia nilotica.


Industrial and medicinal uses

Various species of acacia yield gum. True gum arabic is the product of Acacia senegal, abundant in dry tropical West Africa from Senegal to northern Nigeria.

Acacia arabica is the gum-arabic tree of India, but yields a gum inferior to the true gum-arabic. The bark of Acacia arabica, under the name of babul or babool, is used in Scinde for tanning. In Ayurvedic medicine, babul is considered a remedy that is helpful for treating premature ejaculation.

The bark of various Australian species, known as wattles, is very rich in tannin and forms an important article of export; important species include Acacia pycnantha (Golden Wattle), Acacia decurrens (Tan Wattle), Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle) and Acacia mearnsii (Black Wattle). Black Wattle is grown in plantations in South Africa. Most Australian acacia species introduced to South Africa, have become an enormous problem due to their naturally aggressive propagation. The pods of Acacia nilotica (under the name of neb-neb), and of other African species are also rich in tannin and used by tanners.

File:Australian Golden Wattle Blossums.jpg
Australian Golden Wattle flowers
An Acacia seyal at the border of Israel and Egypt in the Sinai Desert

Most acacia species are used for valuable timber; such are Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood) from Australia, which attains a great size; its wood is used for furniture, and takes a high polish; and Acacia homalophylla (Myall Wood, also Australian), which yields a fragrant timber, used for ornamental purposes. Acacia formosa supplies the valuable Cuban timber called sabicu. Acacia seyal is thought to be the shittah tree of the Bible, which supplied shittim-wood. This was used in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant. Acacia heterophylla from Réunion island, and Acacia koa from the Hawaiian Islands are excellent timber trees.

Acacia farnesiana is used in the perfume industry due to its strong fragrance.

In Indonesia (mainly in Sumatra) and in Malaysia (mainly in Sarawak) plantations of Acacia mangium are being established to supply pulpwood to the paper industry.

An astringent medicine, called catechu or cutch, is procured from several species, but more especially from Acacia catechu, by boiling down the wood and evaporating the solution so as to get an extract.

Ornamental uses

Earpod Wattle (Acacia auriculiformis)

A few species are widely grown as ornamentals in gardens; the most popular perhaps is Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle), with its attractive glaucous to silvery leaves and bright yellow flowers; it is erroneously known as "mimosa" in some areas where it is cultivated, through confusion with the related genus Mimosa.

Another ornamental acacia is Acacia xanthophloea (Fever Tree).

Culinary uses

Acacia seeds are often used for food and a variety of other products. The seeds of Acacia niopo, for instance, are roasted and used as snuff in South America.

In Burma, Laos and Thailand, the feathery shoots of Acacia pennata (common name cha-om, ชะอม) are used in soups, curries, omelettes, and stir-fries.

Honey made from the acacia flower is considered a delicacy, appreaciated for its mild flowery taste, soft running texture and glass like appearance. Acacia nectar can be a large enough com monofloroney.

Pharmacological uses

Many Acacia species contain some psychoactive alkaloids of which DMT and NMT are the most prominent and useful. The leaves, stems and/or roots can be made into a brew together with some MAOI-containing plant to obtain an effect when taken orally. Maybe in relation to this effect, Egyptian mythology has associated the acacia tree with characteristics of the tree of life (cf. article on the Legend of Osiris and Isis).

It is used as a symbol in freemasonry, to represent purity and endurance of the soul.

Acacias known to contain psychoactive alkaloids:

Acacia acuminata Up to 1.5% mainly consisting of tryptamine in leaf
Acacia adansonii DMT, in the leaf
Acacia albicans Psychoactive
Acacia albida DMT, in the leaf
Acacia alpina Active principles in leaf
Acacia aneura Psychoactive
Acacia angico Psychoactive
Acacia angustifolia Psychoactive
Acacia angustiloba Bufotenin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, NMT in leaves, bark and seeds
Acacia angustissima Psychoactive
Acacia arabica DMT, in the leaf
Acacia aroma Tryptamine alkaloids
Acacia auriculiformis 5-MeO-DMT in stem bark
Acacia baileyana 0.02% tryptamine and β-carbolines, in the leaf, Tetrahydroharman
Acacia beauverdiana Psychoactive
Acacia berlandieri DMT, amphetamines, mescaline, nicotine
Acacia campylacantha DMT and other tryptamines in leaf, bark
Acacia catechu DMT and other tryptamines in leaf, bark
Acacia catechuoides DMT and other tryptamines in leaf, bark
Acacia caven Psychoactive
Acacia cebil 1.5%-12% Bufotenin, tryptamine in seeds
Acacia chundra DMT and other tryptamines in leaf, bark
Acacia colei DMT
Acacia complanata β-carboline in leaf and twig, tryptamine, Tetrahydroharman, MAOI's
Acacia confusa DMT & NMT in leaf, stem & bark 0.04% NMT and 0.02% DMT in stem
Acacia coriacea Psychoactive
Acacia cornigera Psychoactive
Acacia cultriformis Tryptamine, in the leaf and stem
Acacia cuthbertsonii Psychoactive
Acacia decurrens Psychoactive
Acacia delibrata Psychoactive
Acacia falcata Psychoactive
Acacia farnesiana 5-MEO-DMT
Acacia filiciana Psychoactive
Acacia floribunda Tryptamines
Acacia georginae Psychoactive
Acacia greggii Psychoactive
Acacia horrida Psychoactive
Acacia jurema DMT, NMT
Acacia karroo Psychoactive
Acacia kempeana Psychoactive
Acacia laeta DMT, in the leaf
Acacia lebbeck Psychoactive
Acacia lingulata Psychoactive
Acacia longifolia 0.2% tryptamine in bark, leaves, 0.2% DMT
Acacia maidenii 0.6% NMT and DMT in about a 2:3 ratio in the stem bark, both present in leaves
Acacia manguim Psychoactive
Acacia melanoxylon DMT, in the bark and leaf
Acacia mellifera DMT, in the leaf
Acacia nerifolia Tryptamines
Acacia nilotica DMT, in the leaf
Acacia niopo Bufotenin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, NMT, in leaves, bark and seeds
Acacia nubica Less than 0.1% DMT in leaf, NMT
Acacia obtusifolia Tryptamine
Acacia paniculata Psychoactive
Acacia penninervis Psychoactive
Acacia peregrina Bufotenin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, NMT in leaves, bark and seeds
Acacia phlebophylla 0.3% DMT in leaf, NMT
Acacia platensis Psychoactive
Acacia podalyriaefolia Tryptamine in the leaf, 0.5% to 2% DMT in fresh bark
Acacia polyacantha ssp. campylacantha Less than 0.2% DMT in leaf, NMT
Acacia polyantha Psychoactive
Acacia pruinocarpa Psychoactive
Acacia pycantha Psychoactive
Acacia retinodes DMT, MMT
Acacia rigidula DMT and many others
Acacia salicina Psychoactive
Acacia sassa Psychoactive
Acacia senegal Less than 0.1% DMT in leaf, NMT, other tryptamines
Acacia seyal DMT, in the leaf
Acacia sieberiana DMT, in the leaf
Acacia simplicifolia DMT and NMT, in the leaf, stem and trunk bark, 0.81% DMT in bark, MMT<ref>Arbeitsstelle für praktische Biologie (APB)</ref>
Acacia sophorae DMT, NMT, bufotenine and other tryptamines
Acacia spadicigera Psychoactive
Acacia stenocarpa DMT, in the leaf
Acacia suma DMT and other tryptamines in leaf, bark
Acacia tenuiflora Psychoactive
Acacia tenuifolia var. producta Psychoactive
Acacia tortilis DMT, NMT, and other tryptamines
Acacia verek Less than 0.1% DMT in leaf, NMT, other tryptamines
Acacia vestita Tryptamine, in the leaf and stem
Acacia victoriae Tryptamines
Acacia visco Psychoactive
Acacia visite Psychoactive

Acacia is also a very good and healthy soluble fiber, often used by IBS sufferers .


There are over 1,300 species of Acacia. See List of Acacia species for a complete listing.




General References

  • Clement, B.A., Goff, C.M., Forbes, T.D.A. Toxic Amines and Alkaloids from Acacia rigidula, Phytochem. 1998, 49(5), 1377.
  • Rätsch, Christian. Enzyklopädie der psychoaktiven Pflanzen, Botanik, Ethnopharmakologie und Anwendungen, 7. Auflage. AT Verlag, 2004, 941 Seiten. ISBN 3855025703
  • Rätsch, Christian, Räucherstoffe - Der Atem des Drachens, 72 Pflanzenporträts - Ethnobotanik, Rituale und praktische Anwendungen. AT Verlag, 2006, 248 Seiten. ISBN 3-03800-302-6

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