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Vachellia tortilis - (Forssk.) Galasso & Banfi

Common Name Umbrella Thorn
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards There are unconfirmed allegations that the foliage can be toxic to livestock[269 ].
Habitats Widespread in the Sahel, in woodlands and in the savannah[303 ]. It generally forms open, dry forests in pure stands or mixed with other species[303 ].
Range Africa - semi-arid areas from S. Africa to the Sahel and also to Israel and Arabia.
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 tortilis Umbrella Thorn

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Vachellia tortilis Umbrella Thorn
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Vachellia tortilis, otherwise known as Umbrella Thorn, is a medium to large tree native to the savanna and Sahel of Africa that grows up to 21 m in height. It has a large, spreading, umbrella-shaped canopy. The leaves are pinnate, with each leaf composed of about 15 pairs of leaflets. Flowers are small, white, fragrant, and occur in tight clusters. Seeds are in flat pods. V. tortilis is tolerant to drought, high alkalinity, high temperatures, sandy and stony soils, strongly sloped rooting surfaces, and sand blasting. It has a wide range of uses including food source and medicine. The immature seeds are eaten and the stems produce an edible gum. A porridge is made from the pods when seeds have been removed. Powdered bark is used as an anthelmintic and on skin conditions. The stems are used against asthma and seeds are for diarrhea. The pods are used as beads in necklaces. The bark yields tannin and strong fiber. The fruits are used as molluscicide and algicide. The timber is not durable but used for planking, boxes, poles, plywood, furniture, house construction, and farm implements. Also known as Acacia tortilis

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Vachellia tortilis is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 15 m (49ft) 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: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acacia heteracantha Burch. Acacia raddiana Savi. Acacia spirocarpa Hochst. ex A.Rich. Acacia tortili

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed  Seedpod  Stem
Edible Uses: Gum

A porridge is made from the pods after extracting the seed[303 ]. The immature seeds are eaten[46 ]. An edible gum is obtained from the stems[775 ]. Of moderate quality[775 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Anthelmintic  Antiasthmatic  Antidiarrhoeal  Disinfectant  Skin

The dried, powdered bark is used as a disinfectant in healing wounds[303 ]. In Senegal the powdered bark is used as an anthelmintic and is dusted on to skin ailments[269 , 303 ]. The stem is used to treat asthma[303 ]. Seeds are taken to treat diarrhoea[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Beads  Biomass  Charcoal  Disinfectant  Fibre  Fodder  Fuel  Furniture  Gum  Shelterbelt  Soil stabilization  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Due to its drought hardiness and fast growth, this is a promising species for afforesting shifting sand dunes, refractory sites, hill slopes, ravines and lateritic soils[303 ]. It is the tree most recommended for reclaiming dunes in India and Africa[269 ]. It has been grown successfully with Azadirachta indica in shelterbelts[303 ]. Other Uses The pods have been used as beads in necklaces[269 ]. The source of a resin called Gomme Rouge[46 ]. The bark is reported to be a rich source of tannin[269 , 303 ]. A strong fibre is obtained from the bark[46 ]. A powerful molluscicide and algicide, the fruits are placed in fish ponds to kill the snail species that carry schistosomiasis, without affecting the fish303]. The thorny branches are suitable material for erecting barriers[303 ]. The sapwood and heartwood are white and lustrous, with the heartwood aging to reddish-brown. Growth rings are distinct and separated by brown lines. The wood is moderately soft, not very strong, and is readily attacked by decay-causing fungi and insects. It should be promptly converted after felling and subjected to rapid drying conditions. The timber is not durable in the open but moderately so under cover. It is used for planking, boxes, poles, moisture-proof plywood, gun and rifle parts, furniture, house construction and farm implements[303 ]. It is believed that Noah of the Old Testament made his ark from the wood of this tree[303 ]. The root of this tree is traditionally used to make quivers for arrows[775 ]. A piece of wood about 40 - 60cm long is placed in the spent ashes of a warm fire and left overnight. The next morning, a short section of the bark of the root is removed at one end; a circular groove is carved into the exposed core wood; a piece of wire is wound around the groove at one end whist the other end is attached to a tree; the bark (having already been loosened from the wood by the drying action of the warm ashes) is then simply pulled whole off the root[775 ]. The core of wood remaining is then often used as a pestle[775 ]. The plant starts producing fuel wood at the age of 8 -18 years, at the rate of 50 kg/tree. Its fast growth and good coppicing behaviour, coupled with the high calorific value for its wood (4400 kcal/kg), make it suitable for firewood and charcoal[303 ]. Carbon farming - Industrial Crop: biomass, tannin. Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, windbreak, crop shade. Fodder: pod, bank. Other Systems: parkland.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Pod  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Industrial Crop: Tannin  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Other Systems: Parkland  Regional Crop

Umbrella thorn is a plant for semi-arid tropical and subtropical areas, succeeding at elevations from sea level to 2,000 metres[303 , 325 ]. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature is in the range 23.4 - 31.3c, with a mean annual rainfall of 100 - 1,000mm[303 ]. It tolerates a maximum temperature of 50c and a minimum temperature close to 0c[303 ], though trees less than 2 years old are very susceptible to frost damage[269 ]. The tree favours alkaline soils and grows in sand dunes, sandy loam, rocky soils and other soils that drain well[303 ]. It also does well on light brown, sandy soil with little or no calcium carbonate, and pH ranges of between 7.95-8.30[303 ]. Tolerates pH in the range 6.5 - 8.5[269 ]. A drought resistant plant, it can tolerate strong salinity and seasonal waterlogging[303 ]. The long taproot and numerous lateral roots enable it to utilize the limited soil moisture available in the arid areas[303 ]. Plants can grow fairly well in shallow soil, less than 0.25 m deep, though they develop long lateral roots that can become a nuisance in nearby fields, paths, and roadways[269 ]. A fast-growing tree, it develops a long lateral root system and creates problems in marshy fields, paths and roadways. It grows fairly well even on shallow soils less than 25cm deep. However, the plant assumes shrubby growth and must be widely spaced for the lateral root growth[303 ]. It responds vigorously to felling by producing numerous coppice shoots, provided there is no interference from browsing animals[303 ]. Lopping of entire branches does not seem to affect the vitality of the tree[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, coppice.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • 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: 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: 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.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Parkland  Africa - Trees scattered throughout cropland. An Irregular intercropping system.
  • 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 - requires pre-treatment. The simplest method is to pour boiling water over the seeds and soak the seeds in this cooling water for 24 hours[303 ]. Commercially, scarification with 50% concentrated sulphuric acid for 40-50 minutes followed by washing in cold running water and then drying in the shade overnight is often used[303 ]. Seeds of various dimensions have varying scarification requirements[303 ]. This method gives the maximum germination rate, about 95%. It is further reported that older seeds give healthier seedlings compared with fresh seeds[303 ]. The pre-treated seeds are sown in cylindrical metallic containers 10.2 cm in diameter and 30.5 cm long, filled with equal proportions of finely powdered farmyard manure, tank silt and soil that is sieved through a fine wire mesh. Two seeds are sown in each container. The sowing depth should not be more than to 4 cm; otherwise, seedling emergence will be adversely affected. Germination starts on the 4th day and is mostly completed over 10 days, although it may continue for 60 - 70 days. Germination rates can be low, around 45%[396 ]. Seedlings should be watered twice a day. Shade, when provided during the summer months, reduces the water requirement of the plants by 9.6% as compared with those grown in the open. Seedlings raised in metallic containers and planted in cemented beds, which are immersed in water, require 29% less water than those kept in earthen beds. In the long run, metallic containers are cheaper than the other types of containers and last longer (about 12 years). Seedlings are planted out when 0.5 - 1 m high and require initial weeding to facilitate growth[303 ]. Plants less than 2 years old are damaged by frost and are tender to hot, desiccating winds[303 ]. 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 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

!duns, /gali, afadar, afaggag, basterkameeldoring, chebitet, curly-pod acacia, d'addaca, dadach, dadacha, dadech, dadwota, dahar, dahar qubdo, djelck, djilouki, djoa, djuaa, djúaa, eluwo, entepesi, esoi, etiir, etir, ewoi, gahar khabdo, gorete, guanaki, gudis, haak-en-steek, haak-en-steekdoring, haakdoring, hairan, haras, igunga, ikunyi, isanqawe, itepes, kamutaka, kasamere, kilaa, krulpeul, kura, likonda, ltepes, magunga, meuisi, mgunga, migunga, mkungugu, mojwa, mokhu, moku, mokwa, morwane, moshaoka, moshu, mosu, mosunyana, mosunyane, moswana, moswani, mrimba, msasana, msawero, mtshatshatsha, mua, muaa, mudjwa, mugaa, muhango, muhua, muhwa, mukoka, mulaa, mumanganjamba, munga, mushu, muswu, muzwa, mwalaganza, ngoka, nsasane, nsasani, nsu, n|arab, n|rab, okano, ol-gorete, oldepesi, olerai, oltepesi, oltepessi, omungondo, omunjarava, omushu, omutshu, orusu, orusu orupunguya, orusu-orupunguya, quadi, qurah, ringelh?lsenakazie, rooi-wag-'n-bietjie, saganeib, sagaram, sagararam, sambreeldoring, samr, sant, sanzavi, sayal, seech-geebe, ses, sesai, sesami, sesoy, sesya, sesyai, shittah, sies-geebe, siesiet, singa, tafelboom, tahl, tili, ulaa, ullaf, umbrella thorn, umbrella-thorn, umlaladwayi, umsasana, umsasane, umshishene, umtshatshatsha, unshishene, untwetwe, withaak, zo??a, zoaa, |agri, |ari, |duns, |gali, |narab, |naras, |nubi||huus.

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Found In

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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 seyalShittim WoodTree10.0 10-12 FMHNDM224

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


(Forssk.) Galasso & Banfi

Botanical References

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