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Acacia angustissima - (Mill.) Kuntze

Common Name Prairie acacia. Timbre. Fernleaf Acacia
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards Especially in times of drought, many Acacia species can concentrate high levels of the toxin Hydrogen cyanide in their foliage, making them dangerous for herbivores to eat.
Habitats It is a subtropical plant. Hillsides, rock slopes, summits and in grassland with other shrubs, often in deciduous or semi-deciduous forest[303 ]. Mostly on rather dry, often rocky, brushy slopes or in thin forest, frequent in pine-oak forest, sometimes in hedges, to 2,700 m[331 ].
Range C. America - Panama, north to Mexico and southern N. America.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Acacia angustissima Prairie acacia. Timbre. Fernleaf Acacia

Acacia angustissima Prairie acacia. Timbre. Fernleaf Acacia


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A. angustissima is native to North America (Mexico and southern United States), Central America and South America (Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina) (Rico Arce and Bachman, 2006). It is one of the acacias most widely distributed in the Neotropics (Cook et al., 2005). Outside its native range it is reported for the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and Oceania (see distribution table for details). Although it may not grow into a large tree, it can be extremely valuable for use as pioneer species for rejuvenating degraded lands, and as a nurse crop for more valuable tree species. Used as a nitrogen fixer. Acacia angustissima hirta (dwarf prairie acacia) is a smaller version growing to 1m (3ft) high and 2m (6ft) wide. Both Acacia angustissima and Acacia angustissima hirta have a clumping habit. May also known as Acaciella angustissima.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Acacia angustissima is an evergreen Tree growing to 5 m (16ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acaciella angustissima (Mill.) Britton & Rose is a synonym of Acacia angustissima (Mill.) Kuntze. Acacia angulosa Bertol.;Acacia elegans M. Martens & Galeoti;Acacia filicina Willd.;Acacia filicioides (Cav.) Trel.;Acacia glabrata Schldl.;Acacia insignis M. Martens & Galeoti;Acacia pittieriana Standley;Acaciella angulosa (Bertol.) Britton & Rose;Acaciella angistissima (Miller) Britton & Rose;Acaciella costariciensis Britton & Rose;Acaciella holtonii Britton & Killip;Acaciella martensis Britton & Killip;Acaciella rensonii Britton & Rose;Acaciella santanderensis Britton & Killip;Mimosa angustissima Miller;Mimosa filicioides Cav.;Mimosa ptericina Poiret;


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner bark  Seedpod
Edible Uses:

The seedpods have been used for food by local peoples[46 ]. The bitter astringent bark is used in Mexico for precipitating mucilaginous matter and inducing fermentation in the making of alcoholic drinks[303 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Acacia angustissima is an important medicinal species for the Tzotzil and Tzeltal Maya Indians in Mexico. They rank it the 4th most important species in the cure of bloody diarrhoea and 7th in the treatment of mucoid diarrhoea. It is also used as a cure for toothache, rheumatism and skin lesions, and is reported to inhibit growth in malignant tumours. Tests also show that it possesses a mild antimicrobial effect on Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus[303 ]. The medical activity will at least be partly due to the astringent tannins found in the plant[K ]. The bark of all Acacia species contains greater or lesser quantities of tannins and are astringent. Astringents are often used medicinally - taken internally, for example. they are used in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery, and can also be helpful in cases of internal bleeding. Applied externally, often as a wash, they are used to treat wounds and other skin problems, haemorrhoids, perspiring feet, some eye problems, as a mouth wash etc[601 , K ]. Many Acacia trees also yield greater or lesser quantities of a gum from the trunk and stems. This is sometimes taken internally in the treatment of diarrhoea and haemorrhoids[601 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Mulch  Pioneer  Soil reclamation  Tannin

Agroforestry Uses: Although it may not grow into a large tree, it can be extremely valuable for use as pioneer species for rejuvenating degraded lands, and as a nurse crop for more valuable tree species. Its potential as a mulch producer has come into question, because of the presence of secondary compounds that bind the nitrogen and result in low quality (slowly decomposing) prunings. This may mean that the mulch is a poor nitrogen source for the present crop, but it may have greater residual effects that could benefit the subsequent crop, or be a good nitrogen source to help build up organic matter in the soil. These long-term benefits could outweigh the initial low nutrient return to the soil over a number of years. Slowly decomposing prunings may have value for suppressing weed growth in associated crops[303 ]. Other Uses: Tannin is obtained from the bark[46 ]. Bark harvested for its tannins should only be taken from mature stems, and only when the sap is rising at the beginning of the growing season - which is when the tannin content is highest and the bark is most easily removed from the wood[601 ]. Carbon Farming - Industrial Crop: biomass. Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, alley crop.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

Acacia angustissima is a versatile plant that can grow from the warm temperate zone to the tropical zone. It succeeds at elevations from sea level to 2,600 metres, tolerating a mean annual temperature in the range of 5 - 30°c and a mean annual rainfall in the range 895 - 2,870mm[303 ]. It can tolerate quite cold climates with occasional temperatures falling below freezing[303 ]. Grows best in a sunny position. Grows well in free-draining, acidic, infertile soils[303 ]. It is adapted to a wide range of soils including vertisols of slightly alkaline pH[415 ]. A very drought-tolerant plant, possibly due to its substantial taproot. It can retain its green foliage in dry seasons that can be as long as 8 months[303 ]. Acacia angustissima is fast-growing, quick to mature and a prolific seed producer[303 ]. It flowers throughout the year in its natural range[303 ]. This ability to grow quickly and reproduce when young has resulted in the plant becoming weedy and forming thickets, especially along roadsides and in sandy soil in pastures in its native range[303 ]. This weed potential has created concern among some researchers about the advisability of its use in agroforestry or agricultural systems[303 ]. The plant responds well to regular cutting and to coppicing[303 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200 ]. When introducing A. Angustissima into a new area it may be necessary to inoculate with an appropriate Rhizobium before planting[303 ]. Carbon Farming - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard, coppice. For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is multistemmed with multiple stems from the crown [1-2].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Integrates annual crops with rows of perennials.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - germinates best when soaked for 12 hours in cold water prior to sowing[303 ]. The standard seed treatment for Acacia species (pre-soaking the seed in warm water for 12 hours) results in inferior germination. Scarifying the seed by scratching or nicking the round end of each seed with a file, knife or nail clipper (without damaging the cotyledon) before sowing has also been suggested[303 ]. Fernleaf acacia seems to fare better when grown from transplanted seedlings than from direct seeding. If it is to be directly seeded, then it is important not to sow too deeply. The seeds should be sown on the surface of cultivated soil and covered with a layer of soil equal to the width of the seed[303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Carboncillo, Timbe, Timbre, Whiteball acacia, Prairie acacia, White ball acacia, Ocpatl, Palo de Pulque

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Belize, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, East Africa, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, North America, Panama, South America, USA, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Acacia angustissima is fast-growing, quick to mature and a prolific seed producer[303 ]. This ability to grow quickly and reproduce when young has resulted in the plant becoming weedy and forming thickets, especially along roadsides and in sandy soil in pastures in its native range[303 ]. This weed potential has created concern among some researchers about the advisability of its use in agroforestry or agricultural systems[303 ]. The plant responds well to regular cutting and to coppicing[303 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(Mill.) Kuntze

Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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