Acacia nilotica (gum arabic tree)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Wood Products
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Acacia nilotica (L.) Delile
Preferred Common Name
- gum arabic tree
Other Scientific Names
- Acacia adansonii Guill. & Perr.
- Acacia adstringens (Schumach.) Berhaut
- Acacia arabica (Lam.) Willd.
- Acacia benthamii Rochebr., nom. illeg.
- Acacia nebneb Adans.
- Acacia neboued Baill.
- Acacia scorpioides (L.) W. Wight
- Acacia subalata Vatke
- Acacia taitensis Vatke
- Mimosa adstringens Schumach.
- Mimosa arabica Lam.
- Mimosa nilotica L.
- Mimosa scorpioides L.
- Vachellia nilotica (L.) P.J.H. Hurter & Mabb.
- Vachellia nilotica (L.) P.J.H. Hurter & Mabb.
International Common Names
- English: Arabic gumtree; babul acacia; blackthorn; Egyptian mimosa; Egyptian thorn; prickly acacia; prickly mimosa; scented thorn; scented-pod acacia
- Spanish: acacia gomifera
- French: acacia a gomme; acacia d'Arabie; acacia de Cayenne; gommier rouge
- Arabic: garad; sunt
Local Common Names
- Angola: ongue
- Bangladesh: babla
- Botswana: lekwele
- Cameroon: bagani-iri; bani; barana; boina; daibe; gabde; gabdere; gabdi
- Cape Verde: espinheiro preto; espinho preto
- Ethiopia: fulissa
- Germany: Arabische Akazie; Gummi- Akazie
- Guinea-Bissau: bano; gaude
- India: babla; baboul; babul; dauria; godi; godi babul; kabuli kikar; kaora; kaulia; kauria; kavadi; kikar; kikkar; ram babul; ramkanta; ramkati babul; teli babul; telia; telia babul; vedi
- Italy: Acacia d'Egitto
- Kenya: akurukuku; burguge; burkukeh; burquqe; chalabdu; chebitet; chebiwa; chigundigundi; ekapelimen; kisemei; kopkwo; mgundi; mgunga; mjungu; msemeri; mtetewe; munga; musemei; ngobgwa; okopkwo; ol-kiloriti; twerr; ugunza; yakapelimen
- Libya: garrad
- Malawi: chiwiriri; kawilili; namalenga; namalinga; ngalankanga
- Mali: bagana; tehedjeit
- Mozambique: changua; chicia; chissive; m'sio; munhe; tchissio
- Namibia: eno
- Nigeria: baggarua
- Pakistan: ramkanthi
- Senegal: gonakie; neb neb
- Somalia: guider; marah; tugaar
- South Africa: tshungapanda; umgawe
- Sudan: asit; garad; sund
- Tanzania: bariomot; barjomod; dubilo; elarai; isejele; kichacha; kiloriti; kinjacha; kizami; la'ako; manange; mgunga; mwiya kimbu; ndubiro; ngeregere; olgiloriti; olgorete; umsasau
- Uganda: kapuka
- Yemen: osdi
- Zambia: munganunchi
- Zimbabwe: isaNqawe; muOnga; muunga
- ACANA (Acacia nilotica subsp. adstringens)
- ACANL (Acacia nilotica)
- ACANS (Acacia nilotica subsp. subalata)
- ACANT (Acacia nilotica subsp. tomentosa)
- Acacia nilotica subsp. adstringens
- Acacia nilotica subsp. cupressiformis
- Acacia nilotica subsp. hemispherica
- Acacia nilotica subsp. indica
- Acacia nilotica subsp. kraussiana
- Acacia nilotica subsp. leiocarpa
- Acacia nilotica subsp. nilotica
- Acacia nilotica subsp. subalata
- Acacia nilotica subsp. tomentosa
- Acacia nilotica subsp. adansonii
- Acacia arabica var. indica
- Acacia arabica var. kraussiana
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Mimosoideae
- Genus: Acacia
- Species: Acacia nilotica
Plant TypeTop of page Broadleaved
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.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|India||Present||Native||Invasive||Holm and et al. , 1979; Cronk and Fuller , 1995; ILDIS, 2002|
|-Andhra Pradesh||Present||Native||Planted, Natural|
|-Dadra and Nagar Haveli||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|-Jammu and Kashmir||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|-Madhya Pradesh||Present||Native||Planted, Natural|
|Indonesia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Cronk and Fuller , 1995; Anon, 2002|
|Iran||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Pakistan||Present||Native||Invasive||Holm and et al. , 1979; Cronk and Fuller , 1995; ILDIS, 2002|
|Saudi Arabia||Present||Native||Planted, Natural|
|United Arab Emirates||Present||Native||Planted, Natural|
|Yemen||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Botswana||Present||Native||Buss , 2002; ILDIS, 2002|
|Cape Verde||Present||Native||Planted, Natural|
|Egypt||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Kenya||Present||Native||Invasive||Holm and et al. , 1979; ILDIS, 2002|
|Mauritius||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|Mozambique||Present||Native||Invasive||Holm and et al. , 1979; ILDIS, 2002|
|Nigeria||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|South Africa||Present||Native||Invasive||Holm and et al. , 1979; ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|Sudan||Present||Native||Invasive||Holm and et al. , 1979; ILDIS, 2002|
|Swaziland||Present||Native||Natural||Holm and et al. , 1979|
|Tanzania||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Zambia||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Zimbabwe||Present||Native||Goldsmith and Carter, 1981; ILDIS, 2002|
Central America and Caribbean
|Anguilla||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Cronk and Fuller , 1995|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Cronk and Fuller , 1995; ILDIS, 2002|
|Puerto Rico||Restricted distribution||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; USDA-NRCS, 2004|
|Saint Lucia||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002|
|Sint Maarten||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002|
|United States Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||USDA-NRCS, 2004|
|Ecuador||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Cronk and Fuller , 1995|
|-Galapagos Islands||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|Australia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Holm and et al. , 1979; Cronk and Fuller , 1995; ILDIS, 2002|
|-Australian Northern Territory||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Cronk and Fuller , 1995|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|-Queensland||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Cronk and Fuller , 1995|
|New Caledonia||Present||Introduced||PIER, 2002|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page A. nilotica has been widely introduced and cultivated, including parts of the Indian subcontinent and Pakistan where it is not native, in the West Indies (Jamaica), Australia, Cyprus, Israel, Tanzania (Zanzibar), Cape Verde, Iraq, Indonesia (Java, Lesser Sunda Islands), Vietnam, Nepal and Iran. It is also planted within its native range, such as in Sudan, Egypt, Tanzania and Nigeria, principally for timber and fuelwood, tanning, fodder, and shade, and in the Indian subcontinent for fuelwood and timber, agroforestry, land rehabilitation and many other uses, though there is a possibility that non-native subspecies have sometimes been introduced.
The pioneer characteristics of A. nilotica, often on overgrazed lands, result in an invasive propensity and the formation of thorny thickets (Wells et al., 1986), and it has become a major weed in Australia and Java, Indonesia (Carter, 1994). According to Weber (2003), it is subspecies indica that has caused problems in Australia. It was introduced to Australia around 1900 and was declared a noxious weed in 1957 (Carter, 1998), now a notifiable weed with varying degrees of restriction and control in the states of New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory (Anon., 1998). The worst infestations are in Queensland, but are also known from the Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia (Carter, 1998). Planting patterns (along water drainage channels) and stock management have contributed to the spread of A. nilotica in Queensland (Carter, 1998) since trees adjacent to water have higher rates of reproductive success and livestock are able to disperse the seeds via their dung to uninfested areas. According to Radford et al. (2001) the pattern of spread is uneven across the landscape with higher levels of seedling recruitment and hence thicket formation predicted next to watering points and other locations that attract cattle, the prime dispersers of seed in Australia.
Binggeli (1999) classified A. nilotica as a highly invasive species. According to Holm et al. (1979), A. nilotica is a serious weed in Mozambique, a common weed in Kenya, a weed of unspecified importance in Australia, and present in the flora of Swaziland. The same source lists the species synonym A. arabica as a serious weed in South Africa and a weed of unspecified importance in India, Pakistan and Sudan. A. nilotica has naturalized in Puerto Rico, but according to Francis and Liogier (1991), occupied less than 100 hectares of dry coast in the vicinity of ornamental plantings.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page A. nilotica should not be introduced into humid and subhumid areas, or into dry areas where there are adequate supplies of grazing and fuelwood. The risk of invasion appears high where there are both good water supplies to promote high seed production and the presence of domestic livestock, particularly cattle, to disperse seeds. The widescale existing distribution of the species means that there are countries where the risk will be associated with existing introduced populations, which should be monitored for signs of invasive behaviour.
HabitatTop of page A. nilotica is a pioneer species that is relatively fast growing on arid sites. It is an important riverine tree in India, Sudan and Senegal, where it is planted for timber. Le Houerou (1988) describes native range habitat types for several subspecies, tomentosa, adstringens and nilotica. These are all described in the context of flood plain or water course habitats with varying degrees of flooding. According to Weber (2003), A. nilotica invades grass and savanna habitats. In Queensland, Australia it has invaded plains of Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.), occurring on soils with a high clay content and sandy loams providing there is sufficient moisture, waterways and seasonally flooded plains including saline areas (Carter, 1998).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page Genetics
A. nilotica shows a great deal of morphological variation, nine subspecies being recognized (Brenan, 1983), indicative of high levels of genetic variation. The species is insect pollinated and outcrossing, and the taxa form a polyploid complex: most are tetraploids (2n=52); but higher numbers have been found in A. nilotica subsp. nilotica (2n =104) and A. nilotica subsp. tomentosa (2n=208) (Nongonierma, 1976). The mating system of Acacia nilotica subsp. leiocarpa was investigated by scoring three enzyme systems in starch-gel electrophoresis, isozyme banding patterns within families suggesting that the species is autotetraploid, displaying tetrasomic inheritance. The best level of outcrossing was tm=0.384, highly significantly less than one. These suggested that the species is self compatible, and approximately 60% of seeds are set through self pollination (Mandal et al., 1994). Controlled pollinations are needed to estimate the degree of compatibility, and assessing the factors controlling the extent of outcrossing in this species, otherwise heritability will be overestimated from open pollinated progeny trials.
A number of early trials were based on relatively few collections. Plant material was collected and planted in a FAO/IBPGR project for arid zone species (Armitage et al., 1980), but again sampling was from relatively few sites. More recently, range wide collections in Africa were undertaken by the Oxford Forestry Institute (now the Department of Plant Sciences), UK and members of the African Acacia trials network (comprising OFI, UK, CIRAD-Forêt, France and the Danida Forest Seed Centre, DFSC, Denmark), co-ordinated by the FAO, and seed is available for trials (Fagg et al., 1997). There have been a number of international provenance trials planted but these have yet to be evaluated. In India, large provenance trials of A. nilotica subsp. indica have been planted, and data on germination, seedling growth and nitrogen fixation is given in Krishan and Toky (1996) and Toky et al. (1995).
Physiology and Phenology
A. nilotica flowers at a relatively young age, around three to four years old in ideal conditions, on current-season growth during the rainy season. Flowering is prolific, and can occur several times a year depending on the availability of soil moisture. In southern Africa (all countries south of Tanzania), peak flowering appears to occur from October to December and peak fruiting around April/June. In eastern Africa the trend is complicated by bimodal rainfall, with flowering occurring most months of the year for subsp. subalata with no marked fruiting period, although flowering of subsp. leiocarpa tends to peak in September (Fagg and Barnes, 1995). In West Africa, subsp. adstringens flowering occurs over most of the year with a peak in October, subsp. nilotica flowering peaks in September/October and subsp. tomentosa a little later, in November. Fruiting peaks in January for subsp. adstringens and subsp. tomentosa, and in April for subsp. nilotica. In India, subsp. indica flowers from June to September and sometimes in December/January, and the pods reach full size (for fodder) by February/March and ripen from April to June (Gupta, 1993).
A. nilotica flowers at a relatively young age, around three to four years old in ideal conditions, on current-season growth during the rainy season. Flowering is prolific, and can occur a number of times during the year, depending on the availability of soil moisture. A mature tree can produce 2000-3000 pods in a good fruiting season, each with usually between 8 and 16 seeds, yielding 5000 to 16,000 seed/kg depending on the subspecies. The species will produce pods in abundance after age 5 to 7 years. There is considerable variation in the degree of seed production and germination in relation to water supply, with high reproductive success recorded in very wet years or in favourable locations, e.g. next to water channels (Carter, 1998). Trees adjacent to water are able to reproduce in most years (Anon., 2001) but trees in dry areas produce few seeds in the absence of winter rain (Carter, 1998). Seeds are dispersed by mammalian herbivores, particularly domestic livestock, and a high proportion of the seeds that pass through stock are viable (Carter, 1998) and seeds may remain viable for seven years or more (Anon., 2001).
A. nilotica prefers dry conditions, with an annual rainfall of 250-1500 mm, although under irrigation some varieties will grow in areas with less than 100 mm. In India, the optimum lower limit is around 600 mm without irrigation (Troup and Joshi, 1983) and there are records of upper limits of 2300 mm in South-East Asia (Lemmens and Wulijarni-Soetjipto, 1991). Some of these are plantings out of its natural range, and caution is recommended before making introductions into humid areas. It is found principally in the drier lowland tropical and subtropical regions, in both unimodal and bimodal rainfall regions and in regular and irregular regimes (Nicholson et al., 1988). Average annual temperatures commonly vary from 15 to 28°C, although it can withstand daily maximum temperatures of 50°C, and is frost tender when young. Depending on the subspecies, it will tolerate both drought and flooded conditions for several months. A modified description of climatic requirements (see climatic data table of this data sheet) was prepared by CSIRO (Booth and Jovanovic, 2000).
A. nilotica in Africa exhibits two very distinct ecological preferences: subsp. subalata, leiocarpa and adstringens occur in wooded grassland, savanna and dry scrub forests on deep sandy loamy soils, and also on lateritic and calcareous sites, whereas subsp. kraussiana also prefers dry grasslands and savannas, especially on compacted sandy loam, shallow granite or clay soils along drainage lines and rivers, but away from flooding. On the other hand, subsp. nilotica and tomentosa are restricted to riverine habitats and seasonally flooded areas on clay alluvial soils (Fagg, 1992). In the Indian subcontinent, subsp. indica forms low altitude dry forests usually on alluvium soils subject to flooding or black cotton soils. It has now been widely planted on farms throughout the plains, and will grow on saline, alkaline soils, and on those with calcareous pans, but requires sufficient moisture in the soil or subsoil (Troup and Joshi, 1983; Luna, 1996). It will grow but remain stunted on shallow soils with an underlying bedrock or beds of nodular kankar and also on poor argillaceous soils. A. nilotica subsp. hemispherica is restricted to sandy stream beds near Karachi, Pakistan, and subsp. cupressiformis has similar preferences to subsp. indica, though it is less resilient to weed competition. In the Indian subcontinent A. nilotica is usually found below 450 m altitude, although some subspecies in Africa occur as high as 2000 m.
A. nilotica is a nitrogen-fixing tree that nodulates frequently over its natural range and forms mycorrhizal associations (Nijiti and Galiana, 1996; Ingleby et al., 1997).
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)||-1|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||15||28|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||25||42|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||6||23|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||5||10||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||250||1500||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Bimodal
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page A wide range of herbivores and pathogens attack living trees, but none limit its cultivation. There are reviews in Browne (1968), Roberts (1969), Mohyuddin (1981), Sheikh (1989), and Brunck (1994) who also gives an estimate of importance of each pest and disease from Africa and India. The most important insect is the stem borer Cerostema scabrator which affects young plantations, causing dieback in India. The most important leaf defoliators are Euproctis lunata and E. subnotata, which occasionally defoliate patches of forest in the Sukkur and Hyderabad circles, India. The most important fungi are Fusarium oxysporum, which causes damping off in seedlings, and Fomes pappianus, a stem rot that attacks unhealthy trees. The most important insects which affect the seeds are two bruchid beetle species in Africa, Bruchidius uberatus and Callosobruchus maculatus which can destroy up to 70% of the seed crop (Ernst et al., 1990; Miller, 1996). Powder post beetles (Sibixylon anale and Lyctus africanus) attack the sapwood of felled timber.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Natural dispersal (non-biotic)
Water and wind disperse some of the seeds (Carter, 1998). Flood water can contribute to long distance abiotic seed dispersal (Carter, 1998). Presence of A. nilotica along water courses and spread following flooding events confirms that water may be a significant means of seed dispersal both in its native range and where introduced.
Vector transmission (biotic)
Mammals disperse the seeds (Weber, 2003) and this is the primary dispersal mode in Australia where A. nilotica is invasive (Anon., 2001). The nutritious, indehiscent seed pods have evolved for animal dispersal. Vectors include cattle, sheep, goats, camels, impala, Thompson's gazelle, dorcas gazelle, dikdik, elephant, giraffe, kudu and mountain goat (Carter, 1998). If livestock that have eaten seeds are transported by road vehicles the potential distance over which seeds are dispersed is very large (Carter, 1998). In cattle, the dispersal mechanism is through the gut, after the seeds have been swallowed, whereas in sheep and goats the mechanism is via the regurgitation of seeds (Anon., 2001). Seeds may also be transported in mud stuck to animal hooves (Anon., 2001).
Planting patterns (along water drainage channels) and stock management have contributed to the spread of A. nilotica in Queensland, Australia (Carter, 1998), since trees adjacent to water have higher rates of reproductive success and livestock are able to disperse the seeds in their dung to uninfested areas. Carter (1998) associates the most severe infestations with cattle (as opposed to sheep) ranching.
Seeds may be accidentally dispersed to uninfested areas when they are transported in the gut of cattle that have fed on pods and so a period of quarantine, to allow stock to evacuate seeds, is recommended prior to livestock release in new grazing land (Anon., 2001).
A. nilotica has been widely introduced to countries across Asia, Australasia, Central and South America and the Pacific for the many acknowledged uses that this species is accepted as having.
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page The invasion of grass pasture such as in the Astrebla grassland system of Australia, interferes with cattle and sheep enterprises (Carter, 1998). In Queensland, the spread of the tree has reduced the amount of available pasture. Carter (1998) estimates 50% pasture reduction at 25-30% tree canopy cover. However, it should be noted that the spread of the tree in Australia was initially promoted by livestock managers because its use as a browse tree provided a protein supplement (Carter, 1998). Carter (1998) attributes land degradation of savanna grazing systems to be a direct consequence of combining the use of A. nilotica as a browse species with inappropriate stocking levels. When dense thickets of the tree arise, stock herding is made more difficult and animals may have reduced access to water (Anon., 2001). Drainage systems also become more expensive to operate because the trees use some of the water (Anon., 2001).
Environmental ImpactTop of page A. nilotica infestations accelerate erosion processes (Anon., 2001). According to Weber (2003), subsp. indica has transformed large areas of Australian grassland into scrub. This tree out-competes native grasses (Anon., 2001). In Indonesia, the spread of A. nilotica in the Baluran National Park has limited animal movements and reduced the amount of grazing available for herbivores (Anon., 2002). The nitrogen fixing character of this species is also likely to lead to changed patterns of nutrient cycling.
Social ImpactTop of page The long thorns can be a nuisance for farmers unused to their presence.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- 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
- Highly mobile locally
- 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
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page A. nilotica is popular as an agroforestry tree, either sown in lines 5 m apart in agricultural fields, or on field crop boundaries. As a fodder tree, it is utilized in many different silvopastoral systems, and its sweet-smelling pods are particularly sought out by animals. It is extensively used in land rehabilitation, being planted on saline and alkaline soils. It will also grow when irrigated with tannery effluent, or saline water, and effectively colonizes waste heaps from coal mines. The tree is popular as a shelterbelt, and there is interest in A. nilotica subsp. cupressiformis as a windbreak surrounding fields because its narrow crown form produces less shade than other taxa. It is also a popular ornamental tree, and is frequently planted in India as an avenue tree.
Since the time of the Pharoahs, large timber trees have been exploited from the riverine forests of the Nile in Sudan and Egypt. At present, forests in the Sudan are managed on a 20-30 year rotation, producing termite resistant timber especially suitable for railway sleepers. In India and Pakistan, the riverine plantations are managed on 15-20 year rotations for fuelwood and timber such as mine props. The strong and durable wood is nearly twice as hard as teak, and is very shock resistant. It is used for a wide range of construction uses, and in tool handles and carts. Wood properties are reviewed in Rao and Purkayastha (1972), Goldsmith and Carter (1981), Tewari and Rajput (1987) and Troup and Joshi (1983), and its rayon pulp and paper pulp properties in FAO (1980) and Guha et al. (1974). The dark brown hardwood has a high calorific value of 4950 kcal/kg, making excellent fuelwood and high quality charcoal (NAS, 1980).
The pods and leaves have high levels of crude (12.4%) and digestible protein (8%) and energy (7.2 MJ), and are rich in minerals (Le Houerou, 1980). Pods are used as a supplement to poultry rations in India. Dried pods are relished and particularly sought out by animals grazing on rangelands as the pods mature towards the end of the dry season. In India, branches are commonly lopped for fodder. Pods are best fed as a supplement.
A by-product from felling is the bark, which has high levels of tannin (12-20%) used for tanning leathers in India, and the pods of A. nilotica subsp. nilotica have been used for over 6000 years in Egypt for tanning. A. nilotica subsp. adstringens is used both for tanning and as a dye in Nigeria.
The gum was originally called gum arabic and has been collected from the Nile forests since the time of the Pharoahs, for use in paints and medicines. It has some properties similar to those of true gum arabic (from Acacia senegal) and is frequently used in calico printing, dyeing, sizing material for silk and cotton and in paper manufacture in India. In Mumbai, India, it is marketed as Amravati gum.
The tannin content contributes to the many medicinal uses of A. nilotica, acting as a powerful astringent. It also has been found to be a powerful molluscicide and algicide, and the fruits, when added to ponds in Sudan, killed snail species which carry schistosomiasis without affecting fish (Ayoub, 1982). The tree is a good host plant for growing lac (shellac) in Sind, Pakistan. An extract of the root is a potential inhibitor of Tobacco mosaic virus. In eastern Java, sprouted seeds are eaten as vegetables, and well-roasted seeds are mixed with coffee (Lemmens and Wulijarni-Soetjipto, 1991). There are many other reported uses (Fagg and Greaves, 1990).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Invertebrate food for lac/wax insects
- Boundary, barrier or support
- Shade and shelter
- Carved material
- Miscellaneous materials
- Poisonous to mammals
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Wood ProductsTop of page
- Building poles
- Pit props
Sawn or hewn building timbers
- Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
- Engineering structures
- Exterior fittings
- For heavy construction
- For light construction
- Industrial and domestic woodware
- Tool handles
- Wood carvings
Prevention and ControlTop of page Cultural Control
A. nilotica is resistant to grazing (Weber, 2003). However, spread is slower in sheep only livestock enterprises and intense sheep grazing may counteract A. nilotica in the seedling stages (Carter, 1998). Carter (1998) considered that investigation of appropriate livestock combinations for use in grassland- A. nilotica farming systems would be worthwhile. Appropriate management of livestock densities should enhance the ability of perennial grasses to outcompete acacia seedlings while overstocking promotes invasion (Anon., 2001). Preventing sheep and cattle grazing in the vicinity of mature pods restricts potential dispersal through the livestock gut and allows insects to predate the seeds (Anon., 2001). Fences may be erected to achieve this, or the time at which animals roam the grazing area may be restricted to avoid periods when ripe seed pods are available (Anon., 2001). Cattle and sheep should be quarrantined if they are moved between infested and uninfested areas to allow seeds to pass through the gut (up to six days) (Carter, 2001). Anon., 2001 recommends the replacement of bore drain irrigation with piped water to restrict tree access to favourable reproductive sites. Kriticos et al., (1999b) cites the use of fire to control acacia seedlings but since this requires early removal of stock, the relative economic benefits of controlling the invasive trees must be weighed against the temporary loss of livestock grazing.
According to Weber (2003) mechanical methods are used after the application of chemicals. A. nilotica has the capacity to resprout after damage (Weber, 2003) and though it does not produce root suckers regularly, there are some records of suckering in addition to coppicing ability (Sheikh, 1989). Anon. (2001) provides detailed information on mechanical practices in Australia. These include the use of tractors to grub up medium density infestations of trees with diameter up to 15 cm, prior to pod ripening; pushing the trees down during a drought or outside the period of ripe seed availablility; stickraking during a drought or outside the period of ripe seed availablility and double chain pulling for high densities during prolonged drought.
According to Weber (2003) the herbicides 2,4-D and triclopyr are applied by various methods including basal bark application, pasting onto cut stumps, direct injection into the stems and spraying onto foliage. Anon. (2001) provides comprehensive information on the use of chemicals to counteract A. nilotica in Australia. The range of approaches described includes basal bark spraying during periods of good soil moisture and active plant growth, pasting on cut stumps (at any time of year), application to the soil prior to rainfall (with herbicides being taken up through the plant roots), foliar spraying of plants less than 2 m tall, spraying by helicopter and treatment of empty drainage channels. The latter method cannot be used when the water supplies domestic systems or where there are desired trees.
Although seed predators from native range countries constitute potential biological control agents, Carter (1998) reports that benefits are liable to be limited by stock management practices, since seeds may be eaten and redistributed by grazing animals before insects such as the bruchid beetles Caryedon serratus and Bruchidus sahlbergi gain access. Anon. (2001) reports that many of the insect species that feed on native Australian acacias are able to feed on A. nilotica, weakening plants and contributing to enhanced mortality rates. B. sahlbergi was introduced to Australia from Pakistan in 1979 and seed predation rates are noted to vary in association with ripe seed pod availability (Anon., 2001). Further releases to Australia from Kenya have included the beetle Homicloda barkeri and the geometrid caterpillars Chiasmia inconspicua and Chiasmia assimilis and there are ongoing investigations for an effective agent (Anon., 2001).
Anon. (2001) advocates a strategic approach to the control of A. nilotica spread, which takes account of the distribution of the species in relation to water courses and grazing paddocks, recommending priority areas for control, in particular those trees with good water supply and thus highest potential reproduction. There have been recent attempts to model spread in relation to biological and population characteristics, environmental and management factors and climate change, as a management tool (Kriticos et al., 1999a, b). Kriticos et al. (1999b) cites the long time lag between recruitment and measurable production impact as the main factor preventing the development of a management regime that responds to a critical economic impact threshold. It is interesting to note that, although the plant was first designated a noxious weed in Australia in 1957, land managers were initially reluctant to control it, and continued to actively plant it because of its use as a shade and fodder tree (Carter, 1998).
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