Acacia farnesiana (huisache)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Wood Products
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Acacia farnesiana (L.) Willd.
Preferred Common Name
- Acacia farnesiana var. farnesiana
- Acacia farnesiana var. guanacastensis Clarke, Seigler & Ebinger
Other Scientific Names
- Acacia minuta (M.E. Jones) Beauchamp
- Acacia smallii Isely
- Mimosa farnesiana L.
- Pithecellobium minutum M.E. Jones
- Vachellia densiflora Alexander ex Small
- Vachellia farnesiana (L.) Wight & Arn.
International Common Names
- English: Cassie flower; Fragrant acacia; sweet acacia
- Spanish: aroma; Aromo creole; Aromo macho; Cachito; Carbonero; cashia; espinial; huisache; rayo
- French: Acacie odorante; Cassier
- Portuguese: esponjeira
Local Common Names
- Australia: mimosa bush; needle bush
- Bangladesh: Guva-babul
- Brazil: espinilha; espinilho; esponjeira
- Cuba: aroma amarilla
- El Salvador: espino blanco; espino ruco
- Fiji: ban baburi; Ellington's curse; vaivai vakavotona
- Germany: Aber falsche Bezeichnung; Antillen Akazie; Echte Akazie; Mimose gebraeuchliche; Schwammbaum
- India: Dei-babul; Gabur; gand-babul; gukikar; jali; kankar; Kankri; passi-babul; vilaiti-babul; vilayati-kikar
- India/Assam: Tarua-kadam
- India/Tamil Nadu: Kadivel; vedda vala
- Italy: acacia farnese
- Mexico: huisache
- USA: opoponax
- USA/Hawaii: klu; popinac
- ACAFA (Acacia farnesiana)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
A. farnesiana is an aggressive colonizer and is regarded as an invasive weed both in parts of its native range and where introduced, notably in Australia, the USA, and some Pacific and Caribbean islands. A. farnesiana is mostly a weed of pastures and able to form dense thorny thickets, which may cause injury to livestock and may shade out native fodder species.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Mimosoideae
- Genus: Acacia
- Species: Acacia farnesiana
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
A. farnesiana is one of few New World species of the genus, thought to have originated in Central America, and similar in morphology and habitat preferences to the South American A. caven. Suggested revisions of the genus by Pedley which would transfer all Australian species to the new genus Racosperma and some African species to Senegalia, would leave these New World species and their Africa and Asia relatives unchanged in taxonomical terms. It has a large number of common names, known widely in North America by its common Spanish name of 'huisache', more often in Europe by names describing the sweet fragrance of its flowers.
DescriptionTop of page
A. farnesiana is a spinescent shrub, or rarely a small tree, 2-7 m tall with several slender stems and long thin branches growing from ground level. University of Hawaii Botany Department (1998) describe A. farnesiana as thorny, deciduous, growing to 4 m in height. The following description is adapted from Gilman and Watson (1993) and Watson and Dallwitz (1999). A tall, semi-evergreen shrub or small tree with feathery, fine divided leaflets of a soft, medium, green colour. The slightly rough stems are a rich chocolate brown or grey, possessing long, sharp, multiple thorns. Branches glabrous or nearly, purplish to grey, with very small glands; stipules spinescent, usually short, up to 1.8 cm long, rarely longer, never inflated; leaves twice pinnate, with a small gland on petiole and sometimes one on the rachis near top of pinnae; pinnae 2-8 pairs, leaflets 10-12 pairs, minute, 2-7 mm long, 0.75-1.75 mm wide. The small, yellow, puff-like flowers are very fragrant and appear in clusters in late winter then sporadically after each new flush of growth providing nearly year-round bloom. Flowers glabrous, leathery; in axillary pedunculate heads, calyx and corolla glabrous, scented. Pod indehiscent, straight or curved, 4-7.5 cm long, about 1.5 cm wide, subterete and turgid, dark brown to blackish, glabrous, finely longitudinally striate, pointed at both ends; seeds chestnut-brown, in two rows, embedded in a dry spongy tissue, 7-8 mm long, ca 5.5 mm broad, smooth, elliptic, thick, only slightly compressed; areole 6.5-7 mm long, 4 mm wide. The persistent fruits have a glossy coat and contain seeds which are cherished by birds and other wildlife.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
A. farnesiana is considered as a native of North America by Gilman and Watson (1993) though its exact status there is debated (Wagner et al., 1990; Luken and Thieret, 1996; USDA-NRCS, 2002). New (1984) describes its origin as 'problematical' because it has been so widely introduced beyond its native range and because this introduction process has occurred over a much longer time period than for many other Acacia spp., postulating that the native range of A. farnesiana was the 'New World'. ILDIS (2002) note that A. farnesiana is probably native to tropical America, from Brazil and Peru to Mexico and the southern USA, and has been widely planted across the world, becoming naturalized in many countries. The exact status in the Caribbean is still unclear, however, with it being noted as both native and exotic in neighbouring islands.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|-Canary Islands||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1940's|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Planted|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present||Native|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||Native|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Planted|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present||Introduced||Planted|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
A. farnesiana is the most widely distributed species of the genus, now naturalized in many regions of the tropics and subtropics from its origins in tropical America. A contributing factor is its wide adaptability and tolerance of drought, frost, fire, saline soils and other growth-limiting conditions. Holm et al. (1991) report A. farnesiana as a serious weed in Iraq, a principal weed in Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Mexico and Paraguay, a common weed in Hawaii and the Philippines and present as a weed in numerous other countries. University of Hawaii Botany Department (1998) report that it is present on all the Hawaiian islands, with dense infestations on the islands of Lualualei, O'ahu, Lihau and Maui. In Puerto Rico, it is common and spreads rapidly, occupying more than 1000 hectares in dry coastal areas and offshore islands (Francis and Liogier, 1991), classed it as a category 3 problem plant especially in grasslands.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
A. farnesiana is found in a variety of habitats in both its native and introduced ranges. It is common in arid and semi-arid grasslands and wastelands. Sierra Madre Alliance (2003) report its occurrence in North America on slopes and in canyons, valleys, plains and dry valleys where it may be associated with Sonoran desert scrub, tropical deciduous forest and grassland, and is particularly common in disturbed areas, for example along roads or in agricultural and heavily grazed sites.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Cold lands / tundra||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Phenology and Physiology
New (1984) reports that the biology of this species has been neglected, particularly in relation to its biology in different countries, or the existence of different races. More research is needed on genetic variation in this species. Gilman and Watson (1993) regarded this species as very slow growing in its native range, a factor which has reduced its popularity in cultivation, with a lifespan of up to 50 years.
The fruit is a dry elongated pod which remains on the tree but attracts a variety of wildlife in its native range including birds, squirrels and other mammals (Gilman and Watson, 1993).
A. farnesiana is a tropical and sub-tropical species, though it shows some tolerance to frost in Mediterranean climates. It is a highly adaptable species, tolerant of drought, frost, fire, saline soils and other growth-limiting conditions. On Hawaii, this species grows in dry habitats between sea level and 1000 m (University of Hawaii Botany Department, 1998). It is able to grow in acid, alkaline or clay soil and can tolerate drought becoming deciduous if the soil dries (Gilman and Watson, 1993). It prefers full sun over shade (Gilman and Watson, 1993).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-5|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||15||28|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||32||42|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||4||14|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||0||12||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||150||4000||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
A. farnesiana is primarily dispersed by animals, notably livestock. Ungulates which feed on the pods can disperse A. farnesiana seeds (University of Hawaii Botany Department, 1998). In its native North America the seeds attract a variety of wildlife in its native range including birds, squirrels and other mammals (Gilman and Watson, 1993).
Regarding long-distance dispersal, A. farnesiana has been widely introduced over a very long period, being one of the earliest Acacia species to have been introduced outside its native range. It has become naturalized in many countries, and so intentional introduction is likely to be the cause of future instances of invasion.
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
Economic ImpactTop of page
As a weed of grasslands, A. farnesiana has an economic impact on the livestock industries where invasive, by reducing available forage and restricting access to watering points and hampering mustering. However, no quantitative figures are reported.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
The habit of forming dense thickets is likely to shade out native vegetation and result in changes in nutrient cycling.
Impact on Biodiversity
No direct references were encountered but A. farnesiana is likely to shade out native flora. The fruits are eaten by many birds and mammals in the native range and are likely to be eaten and potentially dispersed by birds and mammals in the exotic range.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Sesbania tomentosa||National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition - monopolizing resources||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010b)|
|Wilkesia hobdyi (dwarf iliau)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition (unspecified)||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2010a)|
Social ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition (unspecified)
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
A. farnesiana is a true multipurpose species, with all parts of the plants being used as a resource. Floral essential oils of A. farnesiana are used in perfumes; the gum is used as a substitute for gum arabic; bark and pods are used for dyeing and tanning; the pods and leaves are forage for livestock; and extracts from the bark, leaves, flowers and green pods are used in traditional medicine in many areas. The wood makes an excellent fuel and can be used for posts, tool handles, turnery and to make furniture. It is also used as an ornamental species, for example in India. Unripe (green) pods, when broken, yield a sticky substance which is used as a glue. It is, however, principally noted as a dryland forage species, with the foliage and the pods being palatable and nutritious. It is a nitrogen-fixing species and has also been used for erosion control.
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Invertebrate food for lac/wax insects
- Boundary, barrier or support
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Shade and shelter
- Soil improvement
Human food and beverage
- Honey/honey flora
- Spices and culinary herbs
- Carved material
- Essential oils
- Miscellaneous materials
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Wood ProductsTop of page
- Industrial and domestic woodware
- Tool handles
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
A. farnesiana may occasionally be confused with other Acacia species with similar, round, yellow and fragrant inflorescences, such as A. dealbata. The cylindrical pods, smaller leaflets and long thin thorns of A. farnesiana are, however, generally distinctive features. It is also occasionally confused with another similar American native, A. caven from Chile.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Le Houérou (2002) report the use of fire in Fiji where the fire is constructed at ground level about the stems, with a high heat being maintained for several hours. However, if the aboveground parts of A. farnesiana are killed by fire, the plant has the ability to resprout from basal shoots (University of Hawaii Botany Department, 1998).
Roots and seedlings are removed manually in Fiji (Le Houérou, 2002). Mechanical methods are employed to remove A. farnesiana and other woody weeds in Australia and the USA, and Swarbrick (1997) notes that it is destroyed by cultivation and grubbing.
Swarbrick (1997) notes that A. farnesiana is probably susceptible to picloram, metsulfuron-methyl, glyphosate, triclopyr, 2,4-D, tebuthiuron and hexazinone. Extensive work on the use of herbicides has been conducted in the USA and Australia. 2,4,5-T ester, which has previously been used to treat A. farnesiana, is now banned.
University of Hawaii Botany Department (1998) report that no tests for potential biological control have been carried out in Hawaii.
ReferencesTop of page
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Anon., 2003. Environmental Weeds. List of the 200 most invasive environmental weeds in South East Queensland. Government of Queensland, Department of Natural Resources and Mines. www.nrm.qld.gov.au/pests/environmental_weeds.
Cribb AB, Cribb JW, 1976. Wild food in Australia. Brisbane: Fonda.
El-Gamassy AM, Rofaeel IS, 1975. The effect of some procedural aspects in the extraction of cassis essential oil on their yield, contents and properties. Egyptian Journal of Horticulture, 2:53-65.
El-Gamassy AM, Rofaeel IS, 1975. The effect of tree age and time of day for collecting the flowers on the flower yield, content and composition of cassis (Acacia farnesiana) essential oils. Egyptian Journal of Horticulture, 2:39-52.
Gilman F, Watson DG, 1993. Acacia farnesiana Sweet Acacia. USDA Forest Service Department of Agriculture Fact Sheet ST-5, November 1993. hort.ifas.ufl.edu/trees/acafara.pdf.
ILDIS, 2002. International Legume Database and Information Service. University of Southampton, UK. http://www.ildis.org/database/.
Kleinschmidt HE, Johnson RW, 1977. Weeds of Queensland. Brisbane, Australia: Department of Primary Industries.
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Le Houérou HN, 2002. Species description. Acacia farnesiana (L.) Willd. http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPC/doc/Gbase/DATA/Pf000113.HTM.
Nielsen IC, Fortune Hopkins HC, 1992. Flora Malesiana. Series I, Spermatophyta: flowering plants. Volume 11, part. 1: Mimosaceae (Leguminosae-Mimosoideae). Leiden, Netherlands: Rijksherbarium, 226 pp.
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Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.
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Sierra Madre Alliance, 2003. Acacia farnesiana. Plant description, habitat associations, medicinal properties and community knowledge in the Sierra Tarahumara. http://www.sierramadrealliance.org/sierra-ethno-biology/plant-descriptions.shtml.
Swarbrick JT, 1997. Weeds of the Pacific Islands. Technical paper No. 209. Noumea, New Caledonia: South Pacific Commission.
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