Acacia nilotica (L.) Del.
Syn.: Mimosa nilotica L.
"Motse", Egyptian Mimosa, or Thorn
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Some feel that the thorn bush of Exodus 3 was Acacia nilotica, the fire,
the parasite Loranthus acaciae. Inner bark contains 1823% tannin, used
for tanning and dyeing leather black. Young pods produce a very pale tint in
leather, notably goat hides (Kano leather). Pods were used by the ancient
Egyptians. Young bark used as fiber, twigs esteemed for tooth brushes
(chewsticks). Trees tapped for gum arabic. The gum arabic is still used in
making candles, inks, matches, and paints (NAS, 1980). Tender pods and shoots
used as vegetable, and used as forage for camels, sheep and goats, especially
in Sudan, where it is said to improve milk from these animals. Seeds are a
valuable cattle food. Roasted seed kernels, sometimes used for flavoring and
when crushed provide the dye for black strings worn by Nankani women. Trees
used in Sudan for afforestation of inundated areas. Sapwood is
yellowish-white, heartwood reddish-brown, hard, heavy, durable, difficult to
work, though taking a high polish. Because of its resins, it resists insects
and water, and trees are harvested for the timber for boat-making, posts,
buildings, water-pipes, well-planking, plows, cabinet-work, wheels, mallets and
other implements. Wood yields excellent firewood and charcoal (Duke, 1981a).
The aqueous extract of the fruit, rich in tannin (1823%) has shown algicidal
activity against Chroccoccus, Closteruim, Coelastrum, Cosmarium, Cyclotella,
Euglena, Microcystis, Oscillatoria, Pediastrum, Rivularia, Spirogyra, and
Spirulina (Ayoub, 1983).
Zulu take bark for cough, Chipi use root for tuberculosis. Masai are
intoxicated by the bark and root decoction, said to impart courage, even
aphrodisia, and the root is said to cure impotence. Astringent bark used for
diarrhea, dysentery, and leprosy. Bruised leaves poulticed onto ulcers.
According to Hartwell, the gum or bark is used for cancers and/or tumors (of
ear, eye, or testicles) and indurations of liver and spleen, condylomas, and
excess flesh. Said also to be used for cancer, colds, congestion, coughs,
diarrhea, dysentery, fever, gallbladder, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, leucorrhea,
ophthalmia, sclerosis, smallpox, and tuberculosis. Bark, gum, leaves, and pods
used medicinally in West Africa. Sap or bark, leaves, and young pods are
strongly astringent due to tannin, and are chewed In Senegal as antiscorbutic;
in Ethiopia as lactogogue. Bark decoction drunk for intestinal pains and
diarrhea. Other preparations used for coughs, gargle, toothache, ophthalmia,
and syphilitic ulcers. In Tonga, the root is used to treat tuberculosis. In
Lebanon, the resin is mixed with orange-flower infusion for typhoid
convalescence. Masai use the bark decoction as a nerve stimulant. In Italian
Africa, the wood is used to treat smallpox. Egyptian Nubians believe that
diabetics may eat unlimited carbohydrates as long as they also consume powdered
pods (Duke, 1983a). Extracts are inhibitory to at least four species of
pathogenic fungi (Umalkar et al, 1976).
Babul has been reported to contain l-arabinose, catechol, galactan,
galactoaraban, galactose, N-acetyldjenkolic acid, N-acetyldjenkolic acid,
sulphoxides pentosan, saponin, tannin. Seeds contain crude protein 18.6%,
ether extract 4.4%, fiber 10.1%, nitrogen-free extract 61.2%, ash 5.7%, and
silica 0.44%. Phosphorus 0.29% and calcium 0.90% of DM. When bullocks were
given the seeds and bran (2:1) with dry pasture grass daily DM intakes were
1.82, 0.91, and 5.35 kg respectively. Total DM intake/100 kg bodyweight was
1.40 kg. The animals retained 20.8 g N and 7.4 g Ca daily but the P balance
was slightly negative (Pande et al, 1981). Walker (1980) puts the CP content
of the browse at 12.9%, the crude fiber at 15.2%
Small tree, 2.514 m tall, quite variable in many aspects; bark of twigs not
flaking off, gray to brown; branches spreading, with flat or rounded crown;
bark thin, rough, fissured, deep red-brown; branchlets purple-brown, shortly or
densely gray-pubescent, with lenticels; spines gray-pubescent, slightly
recurved, up to 3 cm long; leaves often with 12 petiolar glands and other
glands between all or only the uppermost pinnae; plnnae 211 (-17) pairs;
leaflets 725 (-30) pairs, 1.57 mm long, 0.51.5 mm wide, glabrous or
pubescent, apex obtuse; peduncles clustered at nodes of leafy and leafless
branchlets; flowers bright yellow, in axillary heads 615 mm in diam.;
involucel from near the base to about half-way up the peduncle, rarely somewhat
higher; calyx 12 mm long, subglabrous to pubescent; corolla 2.53.5 mm long,
glabrous or pubescent outside; pods especially variable, linear, indehiscent,
817 (-24) cm long, 1.32.2 cm broad, straight or curved, glabrous or
gray-velvety, turgid, blackish, about 12-seeded; seeds deep blackish-brown,
smooth, subcircular, compressed, areole 67 mm long, 4.55 mm wide. Fl.
Oct.Dec.; fr. Mar.June (Duke, 1981a).
Acacia nilotica var. kraussiana (Benth.) Brenan is the most
common form in east tropical Africa. Young branches more or less densely
pubescent; pods not necklace-like, 11.8 cm wide, oblong, more or less
pubescent all over at first with raised parts over seeds becoming glabrescent,
shining and black when dry, margins shallowly crenate. Exhibits wide range of
altitudinal and habitat requirements. Found in Botswana, Zambia, Rhodesia,
Malawi, Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique, Transvaal, and Natal. A.
nilotica var. tomentosa A. F. Hill (A. arabica var.
tomentosa Benth.), has pods straight, constricted between seeds and
densely tomentose; found in Senegal and northern Nigeria, to Sudan, Arabia and
India. A. nilotica var. adansonii (Guill. et Perr.) Kuntze is a
tree up to 17 m with dark reddish-brown bark deeply fissured, tomentose,
reddish-brown twigs and gray fruits; commonest variety in West Africa, from
Senegal to Nigeria and widespread in northern parts of Tropical Africa.
Assigned to the African Center of Diversity, babul or cvs thereof is reported
to exhibit tolerance to clay, drought, heat, heavy soil, high pH, poor soils,
salt, savanna, and waterlogging.
Native from Egypt south to Mozambique and Natal; apparently introduced to
Zanzibar, Pemba, and India; Arabia. Considered a serious weed in South Africa.
Woodlands of various sorts, wooded grasslands, scrub and thickets. Thrives in
dry areas, but endures floods. Grows 101,340 m altitude, in a wide range of
conditions. Grows on a wide variety of soils, seemingly thriving on alluvial
soils, black cotton soils, heavy clay soils, as well as even poorer soils (NAS,
1980). Ranging from Subtropical Desert to Subtropical Dry through Tropical
Desert to Tropical Dry Forest Life Zones, babul is reported to tolerate annual
precipitation of 3.822.8 dm (mean of 12 cases = 12.0 dm), annual mean
temperature of 18.727.8°C (mean of 12 cases = 24.1°C), and pH of 5.08.0
(mean of 10 cases = 6.9) (Duke, 1981a).
Trees propagated in forest by seeds. Direct seeding is the common practice.
Stored seed may require scarification. Young seedlings are said to "require
full sun and frequent weeding" (NAS, 1980a).
Although there are other sources of gum arabic, trees are still tapped for the
gum by removing a bit of bark 57.5 cm wide and bruising the surrounding bark
with mallet or hammer. The resulting reddish gum, almost completely soluble
and tasteless, is formed into balls. Though used in commerce to some extent,
it is inferior to other forms of gum arabic, with which it is sometimes mixed.
Various products of the tree are used locally in tropical Africa, but none
enter international markets. Trees usually add 23 cm in diameter each year
Extensively used, e.g. in India, for firewood and charcoal, this species has
been used in locomotives and steamships as well as industry balers. It is
cultivated for industrial fuel in the Sudan. The calorific value of the
sapwood is 4,800 kcal/kg of the heartwood 4,950. The species does nodulate and
Wood borers may afflict the stems and bruchids may afflict the seeds.
Following fungi have been reported on this plant: Ctyospora acaciae,
Diatryphe acaciae, Diplodia acaciae, Fomes badius, F. endotheius, F. fastuosus,
F. rimosus, Fusicoccum indicum, Phyllactinia acaciae, Ravenelia
acaciae-arabicae, Septogloeum acaciae, Septoria mortolensis,
Sphaerostilbe acaciae. Trees are also parasitized by Dendrophthoe
falcata and Loranthus globiferus var. verrucosus (Duke,
1981). In a survey for phytophagous insects on Acacia nilotica, 43
species were recorded in Pakistan, of these, 16 appeared stenophagous. The
more promising for biological control of the tree were: Anarsia sp. cf.
acaciae, Pseudosterrha paulula, Azanus ubaldus, and
Ceutholopha isidis feeding on flowers; Bruchidius
sahlbergi and Sulcobruchus sp. damaging seeds; Ascalenia
callynella, Gisilia stereodoxa and an unidentified gracillariid boring
shoots; and Cydia sp. making stem galls (Mohyuddin, 1981).
Various products of the tree are used locally in tropical Africa, blit none
enter international markets. Trees usually add 23 cm in diameter each year
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Ayoub, S.M.H. 1983. Algicidal properties of Acacia nilotica. Fitoterapia
- Duke, 1981.
- Duke, J.A. 1981a. Handbook of legumes of world economic importance. Plenum
- Duke, J.A. 1983a. Medicinal plants of the Bible. Trado-Medic Books, Owerri, NY.
- Mohyuddin, A.I. 1981. Phytophages associated with Acacia nilotica in
Pakistan and possibilities of their introduction into Australia. p. 161166.
Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds.
Australia Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
- N.A.S. 1980a. Firewood crops. Shrub and tree species for energy production.
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.
- Pande, M.B., Talpada, P.M., Patel, J.S., and Shukla, P.C. 1981. Note on the
nutritive value of babul (Acacia nilotica L.) seeds (extracted). In:
Indian J. Anim. Sci. 51(1):107108.
- Umalkar, C.V., Begum, S., Nehemiah, K.M.A. 1976. Inhibitory effect of Acacia
nilotica extracts on pectolytic enzyme production by some pathogenic fungi.
Indian Phytopath.: publ. 1977, 29(4):469470.
- Walker, B.H. 1980. A review of browse and its role in livestock production in
southern Africa. p. 724. In: LeHouerou, H.N. (ed.), Browse in Africa.
International Livestock Centre for Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Last update December 16, 1997