Vachellia nilotica

Vachellia nilotica (L.) P. J. H. Hurter & Mabb.

Synonym: Acacia nilotica

Common Names: Gum Arabic Tree, Egyptian Acacia, Babul

Family: Fabaceae

Habit: Vachellia nilotica grows as a small tree/large shrub to 18 m in height. The trunk is dark brown to almost black with fissures exposing lighter bark and exuding resin.  There are stipular spines in pairs. The bipinnate leaves are arranged alternately with spinose stipules at the base of the petioles and with a sessile round gland between the pinnae. There is 3-8 pair of pinnae each with 16-20 pairs of linear to oblong leaflets with an entire margin.

The complete, perfect, actinomorphic flowers are arranged in tight, axillary or terminal, globular heads with each flower subtended by a bract. There are 5 fused sepals in the calyx forming a shallow tube.  There are 5 fused petals in the corolla forming a tube that exceeds the calyx. There are numerous yellow showy stamens that are 2 times as long as the perianth.  The ovary is superior with a single locule.  The fruit is a curved legume that turns brown at maturity, is up to 8 cm in length, and constricted between the seeds.

Habitat: Vachellia nilotica grows in Human Altered environments (yards, abandoned fields, roadsides).  It has escaped into the edges of Pine Woodlands and Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formations – Forests/Shrublands.

Distribution: Vachellia nilotica is NOT native to the Lucayan Archipelago.  It is native to Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.  It is has become a weedy/invasive species in many parts of the world.

Medicinal/Cultural/Economic usage: Vachellia nilotica is not known to be used medicinally in the Bahamas. 

In Africa and India the fruits have been used as food stock by eating the inner bark and fruits.  It has also been used to feed both small animals such as chickens and for cattle.

Gum Arabic is extracted from this species which has historically been used in medicines, dyes, cosmetics, foods, paints, glues, and lithography.