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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Low spreading, flat-topped shrub, usually less than 4 m tall. Hooked prickles in threes at the nodes; lateral prickles pointing down, the middle one pointing upwards. Leaves c. 5 × 3 cm with 4-6 pairs of pinnae, bearing pale green leaflets. Flowers in axillary spikes, white. Pod short and broad, up to c. 7 × 3 cm with a conspicuous tip at the apex, flat, papery, straw-coloured, dehiscent.
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Derivation of specific name

senegal: of Senegal, where the type was collected; rostrata: beaked, referring to the apical tip in the fruit.
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Description

Slender tree with long erect, straggly branches. Hooked prickles in threes at the nodes; lateral prickles pointing down, the middle one pointing upwards. Leaves up 6 × 6 cm with 3-5 pairs of pinnae, bearing grey-green leaflets. Flowers in axillary spikes, white, appearing before the leaves. Pod linear-oblong, up to 9 × 2 cm, mostly straight, flat, papery to somewhat leathery, rounded or pointed at the apex but not distinctly beaked, pale brown, dehiscent. See A. senegal var. rostrata for comparison.
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Derivation of specific name

senegal: of Senegal, where the type was collected; leiorhachis: with a smooth rhachis, probably referring to the axis of the inflorescence.
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Distribution

Worldwide distribution

Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and S Africa as far as KwaZulu-Natal.
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Worldwide distribution

Ethiopia to Botswana and northern S Africa.
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Distribution: W. Pakistan (Sind, Baluchistan); India (Rajasthan, South-East Punjab, Delhi) ; Arabia; widely distributed in Tropical Africa.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

A small tree, 3-6 m. tall, young shoots pubescent, old branches glaucous-grey, on older stems the bark peels off in thin flakes of a darker colour. Prickles in threes at the base of the petiole, two lateral ones nearly straight or slightly curved upwards, the third recurved c. 5 mm long. Rachis c. 2.5-5 cm long, with glands between the lowest and upper most pair of pinnae. Pinnae 3-5 pairs, opposite, sometimes alternate, c.1.2-2.5 cm long. Leaflets 8-15 pairs, c. 2-5 mm long, c. 1-1.5 mm broad, linear, obtuse, subsessile. Inflorescence a pedunculate spike, peduncle c. 8-18 mm long, spike 5-10 cm long. Flowers sessile. Calyx c. 1.5-2.5 mm long, broadly campanulate, glabrous. Corolla c. 4 mm long. Stamens indefinite, filaments c. 6-7 mm long. Pod 5-7.5 cm long, c.1.7-2.5 cm broad, thin, flat, almost straight, shortly stipitate, tip with a slightly curved beak. Seeds 5-6, disc like, almost circular, ovate to linear-ovate, 6-9 mm long, c. 5-8 mm broad, with a U shaped depression on either side, smooth, dark brown to greyish green in colour.
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flower/Fruit

Fl.Per. August-December.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Acacia senegal

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Acacia senegal

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 7
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses and Economic Significance

Acacia senegal is a highly valued tree originally from the Sudan region of Africa (Encyclopedia Britanica Online Academic Edition 2012).  A. senegal is native to the Sahel regions of Africa and the Middle East and is the chief source of income for semi-nomadic people in the region, who harvest it from wild plants, but trees are also grown commercially in plantations and in state forests (Anderson 1995).

Its most recognizable product is gum arabic. Gum arabic is a significant global commodity because of its many industrial and culinary uses (Bennett 2007). Gum is obtained by cutting the bark of the tree near the start of the dry season so that it will undergo gummosis, a process that is usually naturally triggered after the bark has been damaged by a bacterial or insecticidal attack (Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition 2012). The harvesting period is throughout the dry season because gum formation requires intense heat and dehydration stress (Anderson 1995). If the conditions are met, the tree yields translucent light yellow lumps of exudate at the site of damage, these lumps are the gum arabic (Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition 2012). The exudate takes about 3 weeks to collect after the initial slit is made and can be collected several times throughout the season form the same tree (Anderson 1995). The adhesive properties and viscosity of gum arabic make it a key ingredient in many pharmaceuticals and industrial products, as well as a common food additive (Anderson 1995). Its most common uses are emulsification, binding, and coating.

The gum arabic derived from A. senegal is the only source of gum arabic that is safe to use as a food additive. It is used as a flavor fixative and emulsifier to prevent sugar crystallization in sweets, and as a stabilizer in frozen dairy products and beer foam (Cossalter 1991). A. senegal's gum arabic is highly water soluble and has a relatively low viscosity, making it an ideal baking ingredient  because of its ability to act as a thickening and binding agent (Anderson 1995). As such, it is used to as a flavor fixative and caulifier in confections, and to “encapsulate dried flavors and fragrances (Booth and Wickens 1988; Anderson 1995).” It is also a key ingredient in medicated lozenges, cough syrup, and cough drops and is commonly used as an emulsifier, or as a binding coat on medicine tablets (Anderson 1995; Cossalter 1991). In cosmetics, it is added to provide adhesion in facial masks and powders, and to give smoothness to lotions (Cossalter 1991).

In traditional medicine in various parts of the world it has been to treat inflammation, nodular leprosy and dysentery, and in some parts of India, ground gum arabic mixed with wheat flour and sugar is fed to women after child birth. However small pieces of dried gum fried in fat are also used to make ordinary snacks and the gum can also be eaten with ghee or chewed by children (Booth and Wickens 1988).

Other industrial applications of gum arabic include use as a protective colloid in inks, a conservat in carbon free paper, and a protective coating on metals to guard against corrosion (Anderson 1995; Cossalter 1991). It is further employed in the production of certain fabrics, matches and ceramic pottery, and as a sensitizer in lithograph plates (Cossalter 1991). Beyond just the gum, the bark of A. senegal is tannin rich and is used in tanning, and as an ingredient in dyes, inks, and pharmaceuticals (Encyclopedia Britannica Online Academic Edition 2012). Seeds are sometimes grown as a vegetable for human consumption, lateral roots used as twine, and the wood used to make high quality charcoal (Booth and Wickens 1988).

Ecologically, A. senegal plays an important role in limiting desertification by acting as a sand dune stabilizer and wind breaker. It is a key feature of the Senegalese Sahelian savanna because herbaceous plants, whose litter is responsible for returning large portions of nitrogen to the soil, grow under A. senegal trees in dense concentration, whereas in the open savanna they are rare (Gerakis and Tsangarkis 1970). The tree itself is a nitrogen fixer and improves soil fertility but the leaf litter of associated herbaceous plants provides even more significant nitrogen return (Booth and Wickens 1988; Gerakis and Tsangarkis 1970).

  • References:
  • Cossalter, Christian. April 1991. "Acacia senegal--Gum tree with Promise for Agroforestry." Forest, Farm and Community Tree Network FACT Sheets.
  • Anderson, DM.W. 1995. NFT gums: Ancient and modern commercial products.
  • "gum." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 01 Aug. 2012. .
  • "acacia." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 01 Aug. 2012. .
  • Gerakis, PA and CZ Tsangarakis. 1970. "The influence of Acacia senegal on the fertility of a sand sheet ('goz') soil in the central Sudan." Plant and Soil vol 33 No1-3, 81-86
  • Booth, F.E.M. and Wickens, G.E. 1988. "Non-timber uses of selected arid zone trees and shrubs in Africa." FAO Conservation Guide 19, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
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Wikipedia

Senegalia senegal

This Gum Acacia tree was photographed at Taljai hill, Pune

Senegalia senegal (formerly Acacia senegal) is a small thorny deciduous tree from the genus Senegalia, known by the common names Gum Acacia, Gum Arabic Tree, or Gum Senegal Tree. It is native to semi-desert regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Oman, Pakistan, west coastal India. It grows to a height of 5-12m, with a trunk up to 30 cm in diameter.[2] S. senegal is the source of the world's highest quality gum arabic, known locally as hashab gum in contrast to the related, but inferior, gum arabic from Red acacia or talh gum.[3]

Uses[edit]

Gum arabic[edit]

The tree is of great economic importance for the gum arabic it produces to be is used as a food additive, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. The gum is drained from cuts in the bark, and an individual tree will yield 200 to 300 grams. Seventy percent of the world's gum arabic is produced in Sudan.[citation needed]

Forage[edit]

New foliage is very useful as forage.[4]

Food[edit]

Dried seeds are used as food by humans.[4]

Agriculture[edit]

Like other legume species, S. senegal fixes nitrogen within Rhizobia or nitrogen-fixing bacteria living in root nodules.[3] This nitrogen fixation enriches the poor soils where it is grown, allowing for the rotation of other crops in naturally nutrient-poor regions.

Traditional uses[edit]

It is reportedly used as for its astringent properties, to treat bleeding, bronchitis, diarrhea, gonorrhea, leprosy, typhoid fever and upper respiratory tract infections.[4][unreliable medical source?]

Rope[edit]

Roots near the surface of the ground are quite useful in making all kinds of very strong ropes and cords. The tree bark is also used to make rope.[4]

Wood[edit]

Handles for tools, parts for weaving looms.[4]

Chemistry[edit]

A. senegal contains hentriacontane, a solid, long-chain alkane hydrocarbon. The leave also contain the psychoactive alkaloid dimethyltryptamine.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ ILDIS
  2. ^ World Agroforestry Centre
  3. ^ a b Suliman, Mohamed Osman (2011). The Darfur Conflict : Geography or Institutions. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-88598-0. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Purdue University
  5. ^ Khalil, S.K.W. & Elkheir, Y.M. 1975. “Dimethyltryptamine from the leaves of certain Acacia species of Northern Sudan.” Lloydia 38(3):176-177.

General references[edit]

Van Wyk, Ben-Erik (2005). Food Plants of the World. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc. ISBN 0-88192-743-0

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Notes

Comments

It yields true gum arabic of commerce. The gum is used in medicine and most forms of confectionaries. The wood takes beautiful polish and is used for weaver's shuttles, fuelwood and charcoal.
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