Vachellia nilotica
Babool (Acacia nilotica) flowers at Hodal W IMG 1163.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Clade: Mimosoideae
Genus: Vachellia
V. nilotica
Binomial name
Vachellia nilotica
(L.) P.J.H.Hurter & Mabb.[1]
Range of Vachellia nilotica
  • Acacia arabica (Lam.) Willd.
  • Acacia nilotica (L.) Willd. ex Delile
  • Acacia scorpioides (L.) W.Wight
  • Mimosa arabica Lam.
  • Mimosa nilotica L.
  • Mimosa scorpioides L.

Vachellia nilotica, more commonly known as Acacia nilotica, and by the vernacular names of gum arabic tree,[5]babul,[6]thorn mimosa, Egyptian acacia or thorny acacia,[7] is a flowering tree in the family Fabaceae. It is native to Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. It is also considered a 'weed of national significance' and an invasive species of concern in Australia), as well as a noxious weed by the federal government of the United States.[8]


This species of tree is the type species of the Linnaean genus Acacia, which derives its name from Ancient Greek: ἀκακία, akakía, the name given by early Greek botanist-physician Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40–90) to this tree as a medicinal, in his book Materia Medica.[9] The genus Acacia was long known not to be taxonomically monophyletic, but proposals to split the genus were not coherent. During a congress held in Australia of the international union which regulates plant taxonomy, Australians were able to force through a name change (as everyone present is allowed a vote, and there are simply more Australians in Australia), where all the original Acacia species found across the countries of Africa, Asia and the Americas would need to be renamed, as opposed to the species in Australia and a few Pacific nations. This is generally considered incorrect, as the principle of priority holds that a genus is affixed to a type species, i.e. the first correct name given to the plant should be retained, but one is allowed to break these rules with a majority vote. Australian people argued that they were too lazy rename their acacias, and it should be the problem of African countries, centuries-old rules be damned. Australia has many species which have been classified in the Acacia genus. The renaming of the traditional Acacia to Vachellia remains controversial.[10] For the new classification of this and other species historically classified under genus Acacia, see the Acacia.

The genus name Acacia derives from the Ancient Greek word for its characteristic thorns, ἄκις, ákis, "thorn".[11] The specific epithet nilotica was probably given by Linnaeus from this tree's originally known range along the Nile river.[citation needed] In Australia the tree is known as a prickly acacia,[12] despite usurping Dioscorides' two millennia-old etymology, the Australian species classified as Acacia in Australia do not have thorns.


Spring blossoms at Hodal in Faridabad District of Haryana, India

Acacia nilotica or Vachellia nilotica is a tree 5–20 m high with a dense spheric crown, stems and branches usually dark to black coloured, fissured bark, grey-pinkish slash, exuding a reddish low quality gum. The tree has thin, straight, light, grey spines in axillary pairs, usually in 3 to 12 pairs, 5 to 7.5 cm (3 in) long in young trees, mature trees commonly without thorns. The leaves are bipinnate, with 3–6 pairs of pinnulae and 10–30 pairs of leaflets each, tomentose, rachis with a gland at the bottom of the last pair of pinnulae. Flowers in globulous heads 1.2–1.5 cm in diameter of a bright golden-yellow color, set up either axillary or whorly on peduncles 2–3 cm long located at the end of the branches. Pods are strongly constricted, hairy, white-grey, thick and softly tomentose. Its seeds number approximately 8000/kg.[13]


Acacia nilotica or Vachellia nilotica is native from Egypt, across the Maghreb and Sahel, south to Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and east through the Arabian Peninsula to the Indian Subcontinent subcontinent and Burma. It has become widely naturalised outside its native range including Zanzibar and Australia. It is spread by livestock.[12]


Seed pods
Gum arabic exuding
Trunk at Hodal in Faridabad District of Haryana, India

Forage and fodder

In part of its range smallstock consume the pods and leaves,[14] but elsewhere it is also very popular with cattle. Pods are used as a supplement to poultry rations in India. Dried pods are particularly sought out by animals on rangelands. In India branches are commonly lopped for fodder. In West Africa, the pods and leaves are considered to have anthelminthic properties on small ruminants and this has been confirmed by in vitro experiments on nematodes.[14]

Tooth brushing

The tender twig of this plant is used as a toothbrush in south-east Africa, Indian subcontinent.[15]

Gum arabic

The exudate gum of this tree is known as gum arabic and has been collected from the pharaonic times for the manufacture of medicines, dyes and paints. In the present commercial market, gum arabic is defined as the dried exudate from the trunks and branches of Senegalia (Acacia) senegal or Vachellia (Acacia) seyal in the family Leguminosae (Fabaceae).[16]: 4  The gum of A. nilotica is also referred to in India as Amaravati gum.[17]


The tree's wood is "very durable if water-seasoned" and its uses include tool handles and lumber for boats.[18] The wood has a density of about 833 kg/m3.[2]

Food and medicine

In India it's used as a ingredient in various dishes.

The Maasai people eat both the inner bark (phloem) and the fruit pulp boiled in water. They also use this plant medicinally to treat sore throat, cough, chest pains etc.[19]

In Northern Nigeria it is called bagaruwa in Hausa. Medicinal uses include soaking the tender bark in water to be taken against dysentery and pile. The fruits are ground together with the seeds and taken with honey as treatment against stomach ulcers.


There are 5000–16000 seeds/kg.[20]


See also


  1. ^ Kyalangalilwa B, Boatwright JS, Daru BH, Maurin O, van der Bank M (2013). "Phylogenetic position and revised classification of Acacia s.l. (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) in Africa, including new combinations in Vachellia and Senegalia". Bot J Linn Soc. 172 (4): 500–523. doi:10.1111/boj.12047.
  2. ^ a b Wickens, G.E. (1995). "Table 2.1.2 The timber properties of Acacia species and their uses". Role of Acacia species in the rural economy of dry Africa and the Near East. FAO Conservation Guide. 27. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 978-92-5-103651-8.
  3. ^ "Acacia nilotica". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Acacia nilotica". LegumeWeb. International Legume Database & Information Service.
  5. ^ "Acacia nilotica". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  6. ^ "Definition of BABUL". Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  7. ^ "Vachellia nilotica". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  8. ^ Federal Noxious Weed List} web (PDF)
  9. ^ "Acacia nilotica (acacia)". Plants & Fungi. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Archived from the original on 12 January 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2010.
  10. ^ Kull, Christian A.; Rangan, Haripriya. "Science, sentiment and territorial chauvinism in the acacia name change debate" (PDF). In Haberle, Simon P.; David, Bruno (eds.). Peopled Landscapes: Archaeological and Biogeographic Approaches to Landscapes. Terra Australis. 34.
  11. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. 1 A-C. CRC Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2.
  12. ^ a b Prickly acacia – Acacia nilotica (PDF). Weed Management Guide. Weeds of National Significance. 2003. ISBN 978-1-920932-14-5.
  13. ^ "handbook on seeds of dry-zone acacias". Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  14. ^ a b Zabré, Geneviève; Kaboré, Adama; Bayala, Balé; Katiki, Luciana M.; Costa-Júnior, Lívio Martins; Tamboura, Hamidou H.; Belem, Adrien M.G.; Abdalla, Adibe L.; Niderkorn, Vincent; Hoste, Hervé; Louvandini, Helder (2017). "Comparison of the in vitro anthelmintic effects of Acacia nilotica and Acacia raddiana". Parasite. 24: 44. doi:10.1051/parasite/2017044. PMC 5703060. PMID 29173278. open access
  15. ^ Saurabh Rajvaidhya et al. (2012) "A review on Acacia Arabica, an Indian medicinal plant" International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research Vol 3(7) pp 1995-2005
  16. ^ "Production and marketing of gum arabic" (PDF). Nairobi, Kenya: Network for Natural Gums and Resins in Africa (NGARA). 2004.
  17. ^ "Acacia nilotica (gum arabic tree)". Invasive species compendium. Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  18. ^ Mueller, Ferdinand (1884). "Acacia longifolia, Willdenow". Select extra-tropical plants readily eligible for industrial culture or naturalization. G.S. Davis. p. 7.
  19. ^ Ruffo, Christopher K.; Birnie, Ann; Tengnäs, Bo (2002). Edible wild plants of Tanzania. Regional Land Management Unit/Sida. ISBN 9966-896-62-7.
  20. ^ "Vachellia nilotica (as Acacia nilotica)". Tropical Forages.

External links