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Senegalia senegal - Britton

Common Name Gum Arabic
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Hot, dry regions[238 ]. Dry scrub and wooded grassland at elevations of 500 - 1,650 metres[396 ].
Range Drier regions of Africa - Senegal to Ethiopia and Somalia, south to Natal; Arabian Peninsula; Indian subcontinent.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Senegalia senegal Gum Arabic

Senegalia senegal Gum Arabic
Saifoulaye KANON - Tela Botanica


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Senegalia senegal or Gum Arabic is a small, spiny, deciduous tree native to semidesert regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, Oman, Pakistan, and west coastal India. It is also known in other common names such as Gum acacia, Gum arabic tree, Senegal gum, and Sudan gum arabic. It grows about 5-12 m tall and 30 cm in trunk diameter, with a rounded canopy, short trunk, and low branches. Being a legume, it has the capability to fix atmospheric nitrogen and improve soil conditions. This species is of high valued for its production of gum arabic which is used as an additive to food, in cosmetics, and in crafts. Dried seeds can be consumed as food. Medicinally, gum arabic is used to treat sore throats, coughs, catarrh, dysentery, diarrhea, burns, leprosy, ophthalmia, hemorrhage, gonorrhea, and nodular leprosy. The seed yields oil, which is used in soap-making, and dyes. The wood is used for posts, poles, tool handles, etc. It also makes a good fuel and charcoal. Tree bark and roots are used in making ropes.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Senegalia senegal is a deciduous Shrub growing to 6 m (19ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
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


Acacia senegal (L.) Willd. Acacia verek Guill. & Perr.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Seed  Stem
Edible Uses: Gum  Oil  Stabilizer

The gum obtained from the trunk is important in the food industry, where it is used as an emulsifier, stabilizer and flavour fixative[238 ]. It is also used as an additive (E414) that retards the crystallization of sugar[238 ]. It is found especially in products such as chewing gum and confectionery[238 ]. The gum is harvested after the rainy season by scraping it off the trunk and branches from which it oozes[238 ]. Unhealthy trees tend to give higher yields and incisions are sometimes made into the bark in order to increase yields[238 ]. Seed[396 ]. The dried seed is cooked as a protein source[325 ]. The dried seed is the main component of panchkut, a delicacy in Jodhpur, India, also containing fruits of Capparis decidua, Cucumis sativa and Prosopis cinerearia[303 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Antitussive  Astringent  Dysentery  Leprosy  Ophthalmic  Skin

The gum obtained from the trunk has soothing properties and forms a protective coating over inflamed tissue, reducing irritation and encouraging healing[238 ]. It is taken internally, often in the form of pastilles, to treat sore throats, coughs and catarrh[238 ]. It is also often added to proprietary mixtures used in the treatment of dysentery and diarrhoea[238 ]. Externally, it is used in the treatment of sores, burns and leprosy[238 ]. The bark, leaves and gum contain tannins and are used as an astringent to treat colds, ophthalmia, diarrhoea and haemorrhages[299 ]. The roots are used to treat dysentery, gonorrhea and nodular leprosy[303 ]. The seeds contain fat (khakhan), which is used in medicine[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Fencing  Fibre  Fodder  Fuel  Gum  Oil  Pioneer  Soap making  Soil conditioner  Soil stabilization  String  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The plant is sometimes used in soil improvement and dune stabilization schemes[396 ]. It is used as a pioneer species to re-establish woodland in dry areas[325 ]. Intercrops well with plants such as sorghum and millet[396 ]. It is highly suitable for use in agroforestry systems in combination with watermelon, millet, forage grasses etc[325 ]. In Sudan it is grown in 'gum gardens' for gum production as well as to restore soil fertility[325 ]. Other Uses: The gum obtained from the trunk has a variety of uses, including adding lustre to crape and silk, thickening colours, calico printing, manufacturing ink and as a mucilage[46 ]. Careful 'wounding' of the trunk is required for sustainable gum production[396 ]. The cut should be only just deep enough for the gum to exude[396 ]. Cordage is made from the roots, either directly or after beating to extract the fibres; its strength makes it suitable for well ropes and fishing nets[299 , 303 ]. An oil obtained from the seed is used for making soap[299 , 303 ]. A dye is obtained from the seeds[396 ]. The heartwood is almost black and takes polish well[303 ]. The wood is used for posts, poles, tool handles, sugar cane crushers etc[303 , 396 ]. The dense wood is an excellent fuel and is also made into charcoal[396 ]. The calorific value is estimated at 3,000 kcal/kg[303 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Pod  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Industrial Crop: Gum  Industrial Crop: Tannin  Management: Coppice  Regional Crop

A plant for the drier tropical areas, where it can be found at elevations from 100 - 1,700 metres[325 ]. Tolerates a minimum temperature of about 15°c[238 ]. Plants can tolerate high daily temperatures, but are sensitive to frost[325 , 396 ]. Prefers areas where the mean annual rainfall is 300 - 400mm, but can survive with as little as 100mm and a dry period of 8 - 11 months[325 ]. Grows best in a moist, well-drained, neutral to acid soil[238 , 396 ]. Gum production is best when the plant grows in a poor soil[396 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 8[774 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[325 , 396 ]. Plants can be coppiced and pollarded[396 ]. Wood yields of 120 - 190 cubic metres per hectare, with annual increments of 0.5 - 1.0 cubic metres per hectare have been recorded[303 ]. The gum exudes from ducts in the inner bark; it is tapped in the hot season when the trees are stressed. Tapping begins when trees are 4 - 5 years old, commencing after leaf fall and ceasing during the colder months of the dry season. Gum nodules form in 3 - 8 weeks, exuding from the former broken abscission scars[303 ]. Care should be taken to keep the gum clean[303 ]. Annual yields stand at 188 - 2,856g for young trees and 379 - 6,754g for older trees (7-15 years). Gum production is excellent on poor soils and higher in stressed trees[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 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Fodder: Pod  Fodder plants with pods.
  • 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
  • Industrial Crop: Gum  Used as thickeners and gelling agents. Non-destructively harvested gums come from tapped trees and seed.
  • Industrial Crop: Tannin  Occur generally in the roots, wood, bark, leaves, and fruit of many plants. Used in tanning leather, dyeing fabric, making ink, and medical applications.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • 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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Plant Propagation

Seed - unlike other acacias, the seed coat is not impermeable to water even after storage, and scarification is normally not necessary[325 ]. Germination is improved, however, if the seed is pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water prior to sowing[238 , 325 ]. The seed can be sown in individual pots, preferably deep pots to allow the taproot to develop[325 ]. It usually germinates quickly and freely, sprouting best at a temperature around 21°c[238 ]. Plants make a deep taproot and resent root disturbance, they should be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible[238 ]. Semi-ripe cuttings of lateral shoots[238 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

a-kona, acacia, acacia arabica, acacia del senegal, acacia du senegal, acacia senegal, acacia verek, acacia à gomme, acacia á gomme, acaciae gummi, acaia del senegal, acaie gomme arabique, adaad, adad, adad geri, adad jerni, adad medu, adaet, aiti, akarouba, akoria, akovia, akuara, alloba, arvarvar, ashaat, asharat, askab, auaruar, avarvar, awarwar, baabido, banikoro, bankoro, bulbi, bulbi danewi, bulbi danèy, bura-diima, burega, burra diima, cadaad, cadaad-geri. calincahtu, chaleven, chamanayan, chemanga, chemangayan, chemangayau, chemanka, chemankayan, chicaia, chingai, cilluki baleci, dakké, dakwara, dakworo, dang'ite, danngha, danya, danyukit, debehi, delbi, deligna, derecess, dibci, dibeehi, dibehi, dibé, dishe, dokori, donkori, donkoro, dreidornakazie, driedoringakasia, driehaakdoring, dus, duuo ka weyn, dèlbi, débé, déligna, edaad, edad, edad-geri, efwarwar, ekodokodoi, ekodokodwoi, ekonoit, ekunoit, enderkesi, enghono, entangoringoroi, erwar, erwarwar, falli, far yer, ferix, garbey, geelhaak, ghezirah gum, golole, goma arabica, gomdoring, gomme arabique, gomme blanche, gomme blonde, gommier, gommier blanc, gommier vrai, goniminiga, gorad, goraduja baval, gorgee, gosega, guerasa, gum acacia, gum arabic, gum arabic tree, gum hashab, gum senegal tree, gum tree, gum-acacia, gum-arabic, gum-arabic tree, gum-arabic-tree, gummi arabicum, gummi arabicum pulveratum, gummi-akazie, gummiakacia, gummiarabikumbaum, guése bine, gésé, haddado, hadhaadh, harheyr, hashab, hedado, hidado, hluktu, humath, humbat, idado, iddaad'o, iddado, iderikesi, iderkesi, interkes, iruwar, irvar, irwar, iuaruar, ka'kul, kagar, kakakantunda, kamékabedjiré, kango, kassagnia, kassane, katatula, ketr el abyad, kher, khor, kikole, kikwata, kikwata mgunga, kiluor, king'ole, king'olola, kirman, kitr el abyad, kitré, kitré al abiod, kittir, kol kol, kolhol, kolil, kolkol, kolol, konait, konchinga, konkombu, kordofan gum, kouait, kuassima, kukuhima, kumat, kumath, kumatiyo, kumbat, kumbhatia, kumta, kumtia, kundo, l'arvar, lyadulele, malue, manchiu, manok, mesar jibis, mgunga, mgwata, mirgi-abah, mkoto, mongolli, mugagauko, mung'ale, mung'ole, mung'othi, munkhondo, n'aonde, ndanar o vas, ngobop, ngobop uki, ngolpelwo, nu.b, oiti-orok, okaliangava, ol-munishui, olbida, olderkesi, olkiloreti, olmunishui, omuryangava, otiep, pato dé, patouki, patourni, patterlahi, patterlahi danèwi, pattuki, patude kéwudé, patugu, patuki, patuki danéhi, patukill, powdered acacia, pricked turkey gum, prickly gum, puhituani, ruchena, sabansa, sadeema, sadé, sahéfin, samgh 'arobi, sapans diima, satiguibanflabo, senegal gum, senegal-akazie, senegal-gum, shagar, shagar samgh arabi, shana, somali gum, spray-dried acacia, subahi, subahi umghebala, sudan gum, sudan gum arabic, sudan gum-arabic, takora, tambooli, tanust, tazei, tazzeyt, tekermay, temmar, thorny acacia, three-hook acacia, three-hook thorn, three-thorn acacia, three-thorned acacia, tu.n, tuguehi, tulh, tulundu koni, tur, uki, um gebala, umhlahlalinye, upe, verak, verede, verek, verek-akazie, vérèk, wait a bit, white gum-acacia., white gum-arabic, white senaar, èrvar.

Solomon Islands

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.

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Senegalia catechuBlack CatechuTree20.0 10-12 FLMNDM234

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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