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Vachellia seyal - (Delile) P.Hurter

Common Name Shittim Wood
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats One of the most common trees in the savannah of Sudan, often occurring as a pure forest over quite large areas of country[303 ]. Frequently, it grows in groups or patches, sometimes of considerable size, in areas inhabited by Senegalia senegal[303 ].
Range Semi-arid areas of tropical Africa - Senegal to Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia, south to Zambia.
Edibility Rating    (2 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
Vachellia seyal Shittim Wood

Vachellia seyal Shittim Wood
Marco Schmidt wikimedia.org


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Vachellia seyal or Shittim Wood is an evergreen spiny tree about 17 m in height and 60 cm in trunk diameter. It is also known as Red Acacia. It has an open and rounded canopy and a pale greenish or reddish bark. Medical conditions such as colds, diarrhea, hemorrhage, jaundice, headaches, burns, leprosy, dysentery, and rheumatic pains can be treated using various plant parts of V. seyal in different forms. The bark yields an edible gum that can be eaten fresh or mixed with pulp from the fruit of Balanites aegyptiaca to make a syrup. The plant has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria that form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. It is grown from seeds or semi-ripe cuttings of lateral shoots. My be recorded as Acacia seyal.

Physical Characteristics

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Vachellia seyal 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.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acacia hockii De Wild. Acacia seyal Delile Acacia stenocarpa Hochst. ex A.Rich.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner bark
Edible Uses: Gum  Sweetener

An edible gum is obtained from the bark[307 ]. Eaten when fresh, although it has slightly acid taste[303 ]. It is also mixed with pulp from the fruit of Balanites aegyptiaca to make a syrup[303 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Antirheumatic  Diuretic  Dysentery  Leprosy  Parasiticide  Purgative

The bark, leaves and gums are used for colds, diarrhoea, haemorrhage, jaundice, headache and burns[303 ]. A bark decoction is used against leprosy and dysentery, is a stimulant and acts as a purgative for humans and animals[303 ]. Exposure to smoke is believed to relieve rheumatic pains[303 ]. A root decoction mixed with leaves of Combretum glutinosum and curdled milk causes strong diuresis[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Cosmetic  Dye  Fencing  Fibre  Fodder  Fodder  Fuel  Gum  Ink  Parasiticide  Repellent  Soil stabilization  String  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: The plants root system makes it a good soil stabilizer[200 ]. Other Uses: A gum arabic is obtained from the trunk[46 ]. The gum (known as talha gum) is darker and inferior in quality to that of Acacia senegal (gum arabic)[303 ]. However, it forms 10% of the Sudanese gum exported to India and Europe. Talha does not meet the requirements of the food industry because it has not been toxicologically evaluated and contains tannins[303 ]. For technological use outside the food industry, talha gum is attractive because of its clarity and solubility[303 ]. The gum is mixed with soot and powdered Nubian sandstone for black and red ink[303 ]. Pods and bark contain 20% tannin[303 ]. The bark contains 18-30 % tannins and is a source of red dye[303 ]. The smoke produced by burning the wood acts as a fumigant against insects and lice[303 ]. Chemicals in the bark kill the freshwater snails that carry bilharzia parasites and algae growing in ponds[303 ]. Methanolic extracts from the bark applied to ponds display algicidal properties[303 ]. Molluscidal properties have been demonstrated with spray-dried powder of ethyl extracts, which are effective against schistosomiasis vectors Biomphalaria pfeifferi and Bulinus truncatus[303 ]. The roots are used for making staves. The bark is used for making rope[303 ]. The fibre has promising technological characteristics for use as particleboard[303 ]. In many areas, farmers cut branches of A. Seyal to make fences. The thorny branches are good for this purpose and last about 2 years[303 ]. The wood is pale yellow to medium brown, with localized pinkish-brown patches and some dark mahogany-red heartwood in larger or older individuals[303 ]. It has potential in rural areas as timber. If the tree is grown with few knots and straight grain, sprayed with insecticide after felling, and treated with preservatives, the timber works well and is hard and tough. It produces a hard, dark wood, called shittim wood, with interlocked, irregular and coarse-textured grain[303 ]. It takes good a polish but is susceptible to insect attack. Therefore, it must be properly treated by splitting it, putting it under water for a few weeks and then drying it thoroughly[303 ]. Shittim wood was used by ancient Egyptians for pharaohs' coffins[303 ]. Produces a good, dense firewood that is highly valued and is used widely throughout its range[303 ]. The smoke is pleasantly fragrant and the wood burns rather quickly[303 ]. In Sudan it is used to make a fragrant fire over which women perfume themselves[303 ]. A. Seyal var. Seyal is an important source of rural energy as both firewood and charcoal[303 ]. Carbon Farming - Industrial Crop: gum. Agroforestry Services: nitrogen. Fodder: pod.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Nitrogen Fixer  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Pod  Industrial Crop: Gum  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

This species is more commonly found within 12 degrees of the equator, especially in semi-arid areas[303 ]. It is found in an altitude range of 1,700 - 2,000 metres, growing best where the mean annual temperature is in the range 18 - 28°c and the mean annual rainfall is 250 - 1,000mm[303 ]. Grows best in a well-drained, neutral to acid soil[238 ]. It normally prefers heavy, clayey soils, stony gravely alluvial soils or humic soils[303 ]. This species is tolerant to a high pH in the range 6 - 8[303 ]. Plants also tolerate salts in the soil and periodic flooding[303 ]. The subspecies var. Fistula is more tolerant to waterlogging than var. Seyal[303 ]. Plants are tolerant of wind and salt spray[200 ]. On good sites, young trees can increase in height by more than 1 metre a year[774 ]. Trees managed on a 10 - 15 years rotation can yield 10 - 35 cubic metres of fuel wood per hectare per year[303 ]. Trees usually coppice very freely[774 ]. The flowers are borne in profusion and are spicy scented or sweet smelling[303 ]. Bees are the likely pollinators, the flowers yielding a white-coloured honey with mild aroma[303 ]. Flowering is concentrated in the middle of the dry season, with ripe fruits appearing 4 months later[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 - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Fodder: Pod  Fodder plants with pods.
  • Industrial Crop: Gum  Used as thickeners and gelling agents. Non-destructively harvested gums come from tapped trees and seed.
  • 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 - the hard coat needs to be scarified in order to allow water to enter. It should then be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water prior to sowing[238 ]. Seed germinates best at a temperature around 21?c[238 ]. About 30% germination of treated seed is usually obtained in about 7 days - the seed is often germinated on moist filter paper in order to allow rapid identification of the viable seeds, which are transferred to deep containers of silt-rich soil as soon as germination is observed[325 ]. Plants make a deep taproot and resent root disturbance, they should be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible[238 ]. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. Viability can be maintained for several years in hermetic storage at 10 deg. C. With 4.5-9% mc[303 ]. Semi-ripe cuttings of lateral shoots[238 ]. Large cuttings are said to strike root readily in moist soils[269 ]. Root suckers[303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

acacia, acaciae gummi, ale, ali, arombe, bu denkan, bulki, chowogh, chuwugh, dushe kerafi, echekereng, ekoramai, ekoromait, elereta, elereta-nanyokie, epineux, fonah, fulai, fulaii wajol, fullai, iddaado, iddad'o, kisewa, lebrai, lera, lerai, mgunga, mimosa, mimosa epineux, muaa-mweo, mugaa, mugarit, mugurit, mureera, musewa, mweya, ndomb, okulu, olerai, olerai--oibor, oljerai, oriang, red acacia, rena, renon (plural), sade, seyal, shittah, shittim, shittim wood, shittimwood, shittium, soffa, spray-dried acacia, surur, talca, talh, talh abiad, talh ahmar, talka, thal, thirtythorn, waachu, waachu-adi, waaqu-hallu, wacho dima, wachu dima, waddi, wajo, whistling thorn, whistling tree, whistlingtree, white whistling wood.

Afghanistan, Africa*, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, East Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, India, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Pakistan, Portugal, Sahel, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Southern Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda, USA, West Africa, Yemen, Zambia, 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.

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Vachellia karrooCape Thorn TreeTree10.0 10-12 MMHNDMWe214
Vachellia niloticaGum Arabic TreeTree10.0 10-12 FMHNM224
Vachellia tortilisUmbrella ThornTree15.0 10-12 FLMNDM224

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


(Delile) P.Hurter

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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