It is so true that our nature have enough for everyone’s needs and that we can never be so efficient to unfold each and every aspect of it, we all come across a lot of surprises that nature has to offer us and we just find ourselves mesmerized and totally struck by surprise.
Nowadays we can see that mankind is showing more interest in natural products being available in the market and because of this with each approaching day we can see or hear a lots of new natural things being discovered from the depths of mother Earth.
The discovery of the acacia plant years back is also the one among such discoveries which no one might have thought to have so versatile uses in different spheres of our everyday lives.
The History Behind Shoestring Acacia
Acacia, also commonly known as acacia, whistling thorn, thorn tree, or wattle, is basically a genus of trees and shrubs which belongs to the subfamily of “Mimosoideae” of “Fabaceae” family, it was first mentioned by Carl Linnaeus a Swedish botanist in the year 1773 based upon Acacia “nilotica”, an African species
Most of the non-Australian species are normally found to be thorny, on the other hand most of the Australian acacias are found to be non-thorny. Normally almost all of the species are found to be pod-bearing, bearing good amount of condensed tannins and tannins with in the sap and leaves. Acacia plant found its usage in preservatives and pharmaceuticals historically.
The acacia tree has got its several popular names for varying reasons. The generic name of shoestring acacia derives from “akakia”, given to it by “Pedanius Dioscorides” an early botanist-physician from Greece (middle to the late first century) for the medicinal tree called A. nilotica mentioned in his own book “Materia Medica”. Shoestring acacia tree derives its name from a Greek word representing its characteristic thorns, as “akis” stands for thorn. Nilotica that is the species name it gets due to its well-known range accompanied by the Nile River was historically given by Linnaeus.
Categories of Shoestring Acacia
There were over 1,300 species of Acacia believed to have exist. Further discoveries led to the classification of the Acacia plant into five basic genera accompanied by much-debated re-classification of this genus with some Australian species rather than with the African type species original, which seemed to be as an exception to the traditional priority rules requiring ratification by “International Botanical Congress”. And the debate still continues with controversial decision.
In common scenario, the very term “acacia” has occasionally been related with “Robinia” i.e. acacia is believed to be species of this genus, which tends to belong to the pea family.
Structure and Description of Shoestring Acacia Tree
Shoestring Acacia with it binomial name being “Acacia stenophylla”, combines the two qualities which are rare among the famous desert landscape trees i.e. its columnar structure (or upright growth) and its evergreen foliage. Acacia trees being Australian native were introduced to the desert areas of the southwest several decades ago. Some of the basic features of acacia trees:
Shoestring Acacia are quite fast growing trees which are found to be touching a maturing height of about 20-40 feet and with foot spread ranging in the range of 15-20 feet.
The shoestring acacia tree are found to have a moderate tolerance towards drought but they cannot be thought of as naturalizing to subsist upon annual rainfall in deserts of the southwest. Acacia trees are found to have grown well in the areas of full sun or in
partial shade, it is cold tolerance to temperature of about 18 F. In Australia where acacia plant or acacia tree is also used as a source for lumber and food for the Aborigines, it grows along the river edges and found to be tolerating periodic floods and heavy amounts of clay soils. And due to its very tendency of growing along streams edges also explains its Australian common names i.e. “Native Willow” and another being “River Cooba” (Cooba being the common name for Acacia “salicina” in Australia). The Best growth of these fast growing trees is
Observed to be found in the well-drained soils supplied along with regular deep irrigation.
LEAVES AND FLOWERS:
Flowers: Its flowers vary in colors from cream to yellow and the flowers are ball shaped ball-shaped forming small clusters with 3 to 6 flowers per cluster. The flowers on acacia plant appear throughout the year and the majority of them being produced in the spring season. Acacia flowers mature quickly into pods resembling strings of beads of pale green color with the pods restricted between each seed.
Leaves: Leaves (or the phyllodes) are observed to be quite long and narrow approximately measuring from 0.25-0.50 inch wide and up to 12 inch long. They have pale grayish green color and are mostly straight but sometimes can have slight curves or twists.
Bark: For the maturing acacia tree the bark is quite rough, textured deeply, dark brown in color hence providing a very sharp contrast to the gray green leaves. The shoestring acacia tree have a columnar shape due to the weepy leaves and branches hanging down paralleled towards the main upright trunk(s).
Life form of the shoestring acacia
Acacia can be said to be a small and an erect tree or also a spreading shrub with its height being about up to 20 meter with rounded crown. These vary in their forms in regard to their distributions but acacias are normally single stemmed along with pendulous branchlets. The shoestring acacia have a general life of about 50 years or even more.
Habitat of acacia trees
Acacia trees normally grow inside heavy soils found in plain areas and gentle slopes of the flood zones, watercourses and depressions or along the watercourses which is subject to the periodic flooding. The soils are mainly alluvial soils with fine textures, red sandy clays and grey cracking clays that basically have pH varying from neutral to alkaline. These soils may also get saline and are subject to the periods of waterlogging.
Multiple Uses of the Shoestring Acacia
The open canopy and unique structure allows acacia trees to have a great usage in variety of applications such as landscape. As the narrow leaves get fairly disperse thereby giving canopy a lacy quality, transparency producing a quite filtered shade. They are also used for screen planting along the perimeters of properties or around the sidewalks and streets. As they have taller heights so are also found to be used near taller structures and also for the purposes of adding color, graceful silhouettes for lengthy walls. And due to his filtered shade acacia trees allows the normal and healthy growth of several flowering plants and shrubs beneath it. And it is the columnar structure of the shoestring acacia tree that qualifies it to be ideal for planting in tight or narrow landscapes.
Used as human food
Shoestring Acacia seeds are also often used for the purpose of food and a various other products as well. The shoots of acacia tree tend to be feathery and they are used for the purpose of ingredients in curries, soups, stir fries and omelets in countries such as Burma, Laos and in Thailand (common name being cha om and su pout in Burmese).
Used as Gum
Various species of shoestring acacia are found to yield gum. Like true gum arabic being the product of “Senegalia senegal” found abundantly in the dry tropical regions of West Africa and also in northern Nigeria. Vachellia nilotica (or the Acacia arabica) of India is gum Arabic acacia tree, but yields gum that is inferior to true gum arabic. Various food products such as some of the soft drinks and confections also make use of Gum Arabic. The acacia gum was also being used in paints in the ancient Egypt.
Used in folk medicine
- The species of Shoestring Acacia have found possible usage in folk medicine. One cure for rabies as described in some Ethiopian medical text of the 19th century gives the details of a potion that is prepared using an Ethiopian species (called asgrar) is mixed with acacia tree roots, and boiled together thereafter.
- An astringent medicine that is high in tannins, which is called as cutuch or catechu, is basically obtained from several species of acacia plant or acacia trees, but most specifically from the Acacia catechu or cutuch, by first boiling the wood and then later evaporating the solution obtained in order to get extract. A. catechu from which the extract catechu extract is procured dates back to history of chemistry, and this is from where catechol, catechin and catecholamine chemical families derived their names.
- As Decorating resource: A few species of the acacia plant are very widely grown for serving the purposes of ornamental uses
in the gardens. A. deabata also known as the silver wattle is one such acacia species which is the most popular for such decorating purposes. The silver wattle laced with its bright yellow colored flowers and attractive and glaucously silver leaves is often known as the mimosa plant erroneously in certain areas where its cultivation is done, due to confusion with the somehow related genus i.e. Mimosa.
- As Flowers: Fever tree is another species of acacia used for ornamental purposes. A. baileyana, A. pycnantha, A. retinodes and A. dealbata are some more acacia that the florists of Southern Europe use as cut flowers with the common name being mimosa there too.
- As means of home Security: Many home owners and landscape architects also use various species of ornamental for the purposes of home security. These acacia species help in deterring unauthorized person or intruders off their private properties with the help of their sharp thorns, and may help in preventing break-ins if they are being planted under the windows or near drain pipes. The aesthetic appearance of the shoestring acacia plants in addition with their home securing qualities qualifies them as a considerably safe alternative in place of artificial walls and fences.
Used for Perfume making
“Vachellia farnesiana” another name for Acacia farnesiana have strong fragrance and for the very same reason it has found its use in the perfume producing industries. And this trend of usage is not new rather it dates back centuries.
Uses of acacia wood
- A.Melanoxylon or black wood from Australia is one of the few species of acacia which are as valuable as is timber, which tend to attain a great size. The wood of these trees is used mainly for furniture manufacturing as they take a high polish
- A. omalophylla also known as myall wood found in Australia is basically used for ornaments as it yields fragrant timber.
- A. seyal another species of the acacia tree is also thought as the “shittah tree” mentioned in the Bible supplying the “shittim” wood. And as per the Book of Exodus, acacia wood was used for constructing “Ark of the Covenant”.
- A. koa acacia species available in the Hawaiian Islands, A. heterophylla acacia from Reunion work as excellent timber trees. Some of the acacia tree species such as A. fumosa for example based upon their regional culture and abundance are also traditionally being used for firewood purposes. The acacia wood is also found to have its usage for making homes for various animals.
Used for obtaining Pulpwood
A. Mangium have its plantations established in some regions such as in Sumatra, (Indonesia) and in Sabah, (Malaysia) in order to meet the supply of pulpwood to various paper industries. Acacia wood pulp provides a below average paper bulk and a quite high opacity. The pulp obtained from these trees is suitable for the purpose of lightweight offset papers which are used for preparing Bibles and dictionaries. And it is suitable for paper tissue as well as it adds to the softness of the paper.
Used for Land reclamation
Acacia plants and trees are found to be planted for the purposes of erosion control. It is especially useful after construction or mining damage
Used for obtaining Tannin
The bark of several Australian species of acacia, known as wattles, are found to be very rich in “tannin”. And for the very same reason they are mostly seen to be part of various important exports, example of such species of acacia plant include A. pycnantha (or golden wattle), A. mearnsii (or black wattle). A. decurrens (or tan wattle), A. dealbata (or the silver wattle). The Black wattle is usually grown as part of plantations in regions such as South America and South Africa. Most of the Australian species of Acacia that were introduced to regions of South Africa because of naturally aggressive ratio have emerged as an enormous problem. The flower pods of acacia named A. nilotica, and also of some other African species as well are rich in the compound tannin and hence found of use by the tanners.
Uses in Phytochemistry
- Alkaloids: acacias have a number of special organic compounds found in them that help them in fighting the pests and also against grazing animals. Of these compounds many are found psychoactive in humans. Some of the alkaloids found in acacia species include dimethyltryptamine, N-methyltryptamine, 5 methoxy dimethyltryptamine. The acacia plant stem, leaves, and roots are also used to make a brew along with some MAOI containg plant and is consumed by people in oral forms for purposes of healing, for religious or ceremonial uses.
- Cyanogenic glycosides: Acacia’s nineteen different species in regions of America contains cyanogenic glycosides,
which upon its exposure to an enzyme splits specifically glycosides, and can also release hydrogen cyanide within the “leaves”. But sometimes this results in poisoning death of the livestock. Under some condition if fresh acacia plant spontaneously generates 200 ppm or even more of hydrogen cyanide (or HCN), then it is found to be potentially toxic. This results in about 7.5 μmol of HCN/gram of fresh acacia plant material. So if leaves of acacia lack this specific enzyme which splits glycoside, then these may turn out to be less toxic than normal, even if they have some quantity of cyanic glycosides. The names of some such acacia species with cyanogens include A. cunninghamii, Acacia erioloba, A. sieberiana and A. obtusifolia.
- Cyanogenic glycosides: Acacia’s nineteen different species in regions of America contains cyanogenic glycosides,
Reproduction and Establishment
Acacia trees and plants generally start flowering from the month of March to August. Although, it can also flower irregularly throughout other months of the year as well. The flower pods start to become woody with their maturing starting from October and continuing up to December and thereby producing approximately about 6-12 viable seeds per group. The number of viably successful seeds in per unit weight of a particular seed lot has been found to be as l2-25,000 per kg.
Establishment and growth
The germination of seeds occurs prolifically. It is often observed after major floods that seedlings laying along the flood line are in abundance but out of these only a small number of seedlings persist. Acacia stenophylla or shoestring acacia tend to possess growth that is moderate to fast. It may grow slowly on sites that are extremely poor or in cases where their roots are damaged. It tends to coppice when finds young or favorable conditions for its growth.
Like most of the native Australian shrub legumes “Acacia stenophylla” is basically known as to show some symbiotic attachments with the bacteria forming root-nodule in case of the genus Bradyrhizobium. The basic nitrogen fixation capabilities of this very species along with the high levels of salt tolerance capabilities turns it into an important species for the restoration and for re-vegetation of the riverine and also for floodplain habitats. In particular, A. stenophylla provides the addition of nitrogen as input to the soil and it proves to be beneficial to the other plants that are non-legume in the community. When planting is done in association with shoestring acacias then it has significant growth advantages for other companion plants as well.
Problems Faced by Shoestring acacia
Pest: Spider Mite
The spider mites are quite small and they are 8 legged creatures resembling spiders which basically thrive in dry and hot conditions (for example like in heated houses). These spider mites have piercing mouth parts with which they feed upon plants, and this causes the plants to appear stippled and yellow in color. Dropping of Leaf leading to the death of plant can occur due to the heavy presence of parasites. These pests can quickly multiply, and a female spider mite is found to lay about eggs in its life span of around 30 days. These pests are also known to produce a web capable of covering infested flowers and leaves.
Prevention and Control: Try to Keep the weeds down and also timely remove infested plants and their leaves. As it has been seen
that the dry air worsens the problem, therefore make sure that plants are watered regularly, especially the ones preferring high humidity like the tropicals, tomatoes or citrus. Check properly the new plants before bringing them home from nursery or garden center. Try to take advantage from natural enemies like ladybug larvae. And also direct your gardening efforts towards the undersides of leaves because that is where these pests are generally found to live.
- Pest: Scale Insects
These are basically insects which are related to the mealy bugs, and they can become a problem for a large number of plants whether indoor or outdoor. The younger scales crawl so that they can find a suitable site to feed. The adult females thereafter tend to lose their legs remaining on the spot that is protected by hard shell layer.
Prevention and Control: If they establish then they get hard to control. So it is better to isolate affected plants from rest of them. Also consultation with professional from local garden center or from Cooperative Extension office can be taken regarding their control. Also encourage the natural enemies like parasitic wasps.
Conservation Status of Acacia Species
Acacia have a lots of species that are found in many countries worldwide and it is not being considered as some endangered plant species neither it is at risk.