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Vachellia nilotica - (L.) P.Hurter & Mabb.

Common Name Gum Arabic Tree
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Woodlands of various sorts, wooded grasslands, scrub and thickets[269 ]. Often found along river banks which are subject to periodic inundation[303 ]. Found at elevations from sea level to 1,300 metres[303 ].
Range Drier areas of Africa, Arabian Peninsula, western Asia to northern India.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Vachellia nilotica Gum Arabic Tree

" Australian National Botanic Gardens"
Vachellia nilotica Gum Arabic Tree
" Australian National Botanic Gardens"


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Vachellia nilotica, commonly known as Gum Arabic Trees is native to Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent. It grows up to 20 m tall with a dense spheric crown. The leaves are bipinnate. Flowers, golden-yellow in color, are in globular heads. Gum Arabic Tree is used in traditional medicine as treatment for a wide range of conditions such as diarrhea, dysentery, leprosy, coughs, intestinal pains, cancers and tumors, colds, congestion, tuberculosis, durations of liver and spleen, fevers, gallbladder problems, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, leucorrhea, ophthalmia, sclerosis, smallpox, and impotence. Young leaves, young shoots, and young pods are consumed as vegetables. Seeds can also be sprouted and eaten as a vegetable. Further, it can also be fermented into an alcoholic beverage or roasted then made into flour. The flowers are made into fritters. The stem produces an edible gum. A wine known as 'sak' is made from the bark. Due to its extensive and deep root system, the tree is used in reforestation project. It is also used as a hedge plant and as fire breaks. The gum from the bark is used for printing and dyeing calico, as a sizing material for cotton and silks, and for paper manufacturing. It is also used in making candles, inks, matches, and paints. The pods also yield gum, which is used for dyes and inks, and tannins. Fiber from the bark of slender branches are used to make coarse ropes and paper, and for toothbrushes. The wood is strong, heavy, hard, durable, and highly resistant to shock. It is used for agricultural implements, sugar and oil presses, boat handles, brake clocks, planks, etc. It is also used for fuel and charcoal. Also recorded as Acacia nilotica (L.) Delile (gum arabic tree)

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Vachellia nilotica is an evergreen Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a fast 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: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acacia nilotica (L.) Delile. 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.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner bark  Leaves  Seed  Seedpod  Shoots
Edible Uses: Coffee  Condiment  Drink  Gum

The young pods, young leaves and shoots are used as vegetables[269 , 301 , 303 ]. The sprouted seeds are consumed as a vegetable[303 ]. The seeds can be mixed with dates and then fermented into an alcoholic beverage[301 ]. The flowers are made into fritters[301 ]. The well-roasted seeds are ground into a powder and used as an adulterant mixed with coffee[303 ]. The roasted seeds are used as a condiment[301 ]. The gum obtained from the stems is eaten mixed with sesame seeds, fried in ghee, or used in the preparation of sweetmeats and candied flowers[301 ]. A type of wine, known as 'sak', is made from the bark[301 ].

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.
Antidiarrhoeal  Antihaemorrhoidal  Antitumor  Antitussive  Astringent  Cancer  Dysentery  Febrifuge  
Leprosy  Ophthalmic  Poultice  Stimulant

The bark, gum, leaves and pods are used in various traditional medicines[303 ]. The bark, leaves and pods are rich in tannins and so are astringent[269 ]. Extracts of the plant have been shown to be inhibitory to at least four species of pathogenic fungi[269 ]. The bark is used to treat a wide variety of ailments in traditional medicine, both internally in the form of a decoction, and externally as a wash[269 ]. In particular, its astringency makes it an excellent treatment for diarrhoea and dysentery, whilst it is also used as a nerve stimulant and in treating conditions such as leprosy, coughs, and intestinal pains[269 ]. Both the gum and the bark have been used for treating cancers and/or tumours (of ear, eye, or testicles); chest problems including colds, congestion, coughs and tuberculosis; indurations of liver and spleen; fevers, gallbladder problems, haemorrhage, haemorrhoids, leucorrhoea, ophthalmia, sclerosis and smallpox[269 ]. The root has been used to treat tuberculosis and is also said to cure impotence[269 ]. The bruised leaves are used as a poultice on ulcers[269 ]. The wood has been used to treat smallpox[269 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Fibre  Fodder  Fuel  Gum  Hedge  Ink  Lighting  Paint  Paper  Pioneer  Resin  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization  String  Tannin  Teeth  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: A valuable species for the reclamation of waste lands, especially on alkaline soils and where the supply of wood for fuel is critical[303 ]. Acacia nilotica is a pioneer species. A deep and extensive root system is formed on dry sites, the taproot developing first and then the laterals, which become compact and massive with age. On flooded sites however, the root system is largely lateral[299 ]. The trees are used in reforestation projects, especially on inundated land[269 , 303 ]. The trees tolerate pruning well, which makes them useful as hedge plants. They are used to protect plantations against grazing animals[303 ]. They are also used as fire-breaks[303 ]. Other Uses A sticky red resin, known as Indian Gum Arabic, exudes from the bark[307 ]. It is sweet, but of poorer quality than the gum arabic obtained from Acacia senegal[303 ]. It is used for printing and dyeing calico, as a sizing material for cotton and silks, and also in the manufacture of paper[303 ]. The gum is still used in making candles, inks, matches, and paints[269 ]. It is also useful as an emulsifying and suspending agent[303 ]. To harvest the gum, the trees are wounded by removing a part of the bark and bruising the surrounding bark[303 ]. Good-quality gum is reddish in colour, almost completely soluble in water and tasteless[303 ]. Usually it is traded in ball form[303 ]. The gum obtained from the pods is used for dyes and inks in India[303 ]. The bark and the seedpods are rich in tannin[299 , 307 ]. The inner bark contains 18 - 23% tannin[269 ]. The tannin content of entire pods can vary from 12 - 19% and from 18 - 27% after removal of the seeds. In Sudan the de-seeded pods can reach tannin contents of up to 50%. Seeds are usually removed because of their high content of sugar-like components which tend to cause the tannin liquor to ferment[299 ]. The bark is used for tanning and dyeing material black or various shades of brown[303 ]. Dried mature pods are used in local tanneries in Sudan and rarely in India to produce a pinkish-white colour[303 ]. The tannins are used for dyeing clothes a yellow colour[46 ]. The tannins are used as a source of khaki-to-brown dyes if used without a mordant, or grey and black dyes for cotton if combined with a mordant of iron-rich mud[299 ]. For harvesting the bark for tanning, the trees are felled and the bark is separated from the logs by beating them with wooden mallets. The strips obtained are then sun-dried, chopped into small chips and sent to tanneries. The bark is often only a by-product; the trees are primarily felled for timber and fuel[303 ]. An extract of the root is a potential inhibitor of tobacco mosaic virus[303 ]. The aqueous extract of the fruit, rich in tannin (18 - 23%) has shown algicidal activity against Chroccoccus, Closteruim, Coelastrum, Cosmarium, Cyclotella, Euglena, Microcystis, Oscillatoria, Pediastrum, Rivularia, Spirogyra, and Spirulina[269 ]. A fibre obtained from the bark of slender branches is used to make coarse ropes and paper[46 , 269 , 299 ]. These slender branches and their fibres are also used for toothbrushes[299 , 303 ]. The twigs are esteemed for tooth brushes (chewsticks)[269 ]. The heartwood is pale red, red-brown to deep red, often darkening upon exposure; it is distinctly demarcated from the yellowish white sapwood. The wood is strong, heavy, hard, durable, close-grained and resistant to water and ants[46 ]. Very shock-resistant and harder than teak, it is used for making agricultural implements, sugar and oil presses, boat handles, brake blocks, cart-wheels, planks, tent pegs, etc[46 , 299, 303 ]. The wood shavings are used as raw material for pulping to make paper[303 ]. The wood is valuable as a fuel and also for the production of charcoal[303 ]. Carbon Farming - Industrial Crop: tannin. Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, alley crop, windbreak. Fodder: pod.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Hedge  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Fodder: Pod  Industrial Crop: Tannin  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

Gum arabic succeeds in subtropical to tropical lowland areas and at elevations up to 1,300 metres[303 ]. It thrives in areas with an annual rainfall in the range of 400 - 2,300mm[303 ]. It is reported to tolerate an annual mean temperature in the range of 19 - 28°c, though it can grow at extreme conditions of temperature[303 ]. It does not tolerate frost when young[303 ]. Requires a sunny position[303 ]. Succeeds in a range of soils, including heavy clay soils and saline conditions[303 ]. It tolerates a pH ranging from 5.0 - 8.0[303 ]. It will tolerate drought or flooded conditions for several months of the year and can be grown in marginal land[303 ]. The tree has escaped from cultivation and become established in the wild in many areas outside its native range. It is classed as 'Invasive' in several areas, including Australia and some Pacific Islands[305 ]. In a suitable environment, plants can spread very quickly by means of their seeds[303 ]. Regular monitoring of any stands is necessary to prevent the plant becoming a nuisance[303 ]. The plant is considered to be a serious weed in S. Africa[269 ]. Trees flower and produce seedpods abundantly by the time they are 5 - 7 years old[299 ]. In India, a plantation of about 600 plants per hectare produced around 12 tonnes of bark for tannins after 15 years of planting[303 ]. In Sudan, a tree yields about 18 kg of de-seeded pods per year, and the yield of gum can be up to 0.9 kg/year, though it is usually much less[303 ]. The yield of gum decreases as a tree gets older[303 ]. The tree has a deep and extensive root system[299 ]. 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 - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard.

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.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • Fodder: Pod  Fodder plants with pods.
  • 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: 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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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown when fresh and still moist. Seeds can be extracted from the pods, while seeds that are ejected by sheep during rumination or those from cattle and goat droppings may also be collected. These latter seeds germinate easily due to fermentation and moistening which soften the seedcoat[299 ]. If not sown when moist, the seed develops a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing to speed up germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. The germination rate of moist or treated seed generally varies from 50 - 90%, it usually starts 1 - 3 weeks after sowing and is mostly complete in one month[299 ]. Seeds can be sown directly in the field, or they can first be sown in nurseries and the seedlings transplanted to the field later. For direct sowing, ridge-sowing is recommended, with a sowing rate of 1 kg per ha[303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

acacia gomifera, acacia à gomme, arabic tree, arabische gummiakazie, arabischer gummibaum, australian wattle, baani, babalia, babbula, babhula, babla, bable, babul, babul (babool), babul acacia, babul tree, babula, babur, barbar, barbaramu, barwde, baval, bawalid, black babool, black babul, booni, burq'uq'e, burquqe, burquqis, chalabdo, chalado, changaviha, changuta, chebitet, chebiwa, chebiwo, chigundigundi, deshi babul, egyptian acacia, egyptian mimosa, egyptian thorn, ekapelimen, ekapilimen, ekkerruikpeul, gilorit, mirgi, gomme arabique, gommier rouge, guider, gum acacia, gum-arabic tree, ikilorit, ikiloriti, ilgiliti, indian gum, indian gum arabic tree, indian gum-arabic-tree, isanqawe, isithwethwe, kalikikar, kapka, karuvel, karuvelakam, karuvelam, kauria babul, keekar, kigundi, kikar, kiker, kiprutyot, kisemei, kopko, kudupod, langid, lekkerruikpeul, lekkeruikpeul, m'sio, marah, marai, mgundi, mgunga, miwa, mjungu, moga, mogohlo, mokga, mokhe, moku, mooka, motlhabakgosi, motsha, msemeri, mtetewe, mtsemeri, mucemeri, mugaa, mughilan, muhegakululu, mukoka, munga, mungnombie, musemeli, mwemba, nallatumma, nile acacia, nkoka, nombe, nxangwa, olkiloriti, omityuula, omutyuula, opokwo, orusu, pitaka, pitapushpa, prickly acacia, qara?, ramakali, ramkanti, red hear, red heart, ruikperul, ruikpeul, samagh-e-arabi, scented thorn, scented-pod acacia, scentedthorn, schwarzhhuelsenakazie, shighiri, sunt, svarnapushpa, swartsaaddoring, swartsaadpeul, sweet smell, thalaa, thorn-mimosa, thorny acacia, tomentose babool|awusi wel / kara vel / babbula, tumma, tuwer, umm-e-ghilan, umncawe, umnqawe, umtshanga, varvara, vel.

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.

The tree has escaped from cultivation and become established in the wild in many areas outside its native range. It is classed as 'Invasive' in several areas, including Australia and some Pacific Islands[305 ]. In a suitable environment, plants can spread very quickly by means of their seeds[303 ]. Regular monitoring of any stands is necessary to prevent the plant becoming a nuisance[303 ]. The plant is considered to be a serious weed in S. Africa[269 ]. T

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.


Expert comment


(L.) P.Hurter & Mabb.

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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