ಚಂದನವನ (sandalwood)

karuvela mara (Vachellia nilotica but also known as Acacia nilotica)

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Post by Sandeep Sunstar on Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:34 pm

Acacia nilotica (acacia)

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Post by Sandeep Sunstar on Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:43 pm

Acacia nilotica (acacia)

The wood of Acacia nilotica was used by ancient Egyptians to make statues and furniture.

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Species information

Common name(s): acacia, Egyptian mimosa, Egyptian thorn, red thorn. Babool, babul (in India). Burkill gives at least 129 different names for this plant as a whole or for the fruit and seeds.

Conservation status: IUCN status: ‘Least Concern’.

Habitat: The species can withstand extremely dry environments and can also endure floods. It thrives under irrigation. Some African subspecies occur in wooded grassland, savanna and dry shrub forest. Other subspecies are restricted to riverine habitats and seasonally flooded areas. The subspecies nilotica is adapted to periodic flooding followed by extended droughts. It grows at elevations from sea level to 1500 m, although only to 500 m in the Himalaya mountains. It prefers alluvium soil but also grows well on heavy, clay soil with a pH range of 5 to 9.

Known hazards: The leaves and fruits can be poisonous if eaten in large quantities.

Class: Equisetopsida
Subclass: Magnoliidae
Superorder: Rosanae
Order: Fabales
Family: Leguminosae/ Fabaceae - Mimosoideae
Genus: Acacia

About this Species

This species has been used since early Egyptian dynasties. Disocorides (the Greek philosopher, physician and ‘father of botany’ c.40 to 90 A.D.) described in his ‘Materia Medica’ a preparation extracted from the leaves and fruit pods. He called this ‘akakia’, and it is from this word that the modern name is derived. The origin of the name Acacia means 'spiny' which is a typical feature of the species.

Geography & Distribution

Acacia nilotica is widely spread in subtropical and tropical Africa from Egypt to Mauritania southwards to South Africa, and in Asia eastwards to Pakistan and India. It has been introduced in China, the Northern Territory and Queensland in Australia (where it is considered to be a pest plant of national importance), in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean islands, Mauritius, United States, Central America, South America and the Galápagos Islands). It has naturalized in several countries where it has been introduced as a medicinal, forage and fuel wood plant.

  • There are nine subspecies of Acacia nilotica, which occur in Africa (two in southern Africa), India and Pakistan.


A small to medium tree, 7 to 13 m tall, with a stem diameter of 20 to 30 cm. The crown is low, spreading and almost symmetrical, and can be flattened or a rounded umbrella-shape (in free standing specimens). The bark is very dark brown to black with deep regular vertical grooves in older specimens. The thorns are almost straight, paired at the nodes of the stem and usually pointing slightly backwards.

The leaves are bipinnate, 4.5 to 7 cm long, with 2 to 14 pairs of pinnae. The leaflets are 1.5 to 7 mm long. The trees generally lose their leaves during the dry season, though riverine subspecies can be almost evergreen.

The flowers are bright yellow and borne on globe-shaped flower heads. The flowers are sweetly scented and appear near the beginning of the rainy season. Flowering is prolific, and can occur a number of times in a season. Often only about 0.1% of flowers set pods.

The nutritious pods retain their seeds at maturity and are dispersed by animals. The pods are compressed, slightly curved, and vary from slightly constricted to almost rosary-like (like a string of beads). The pods are smooth or covered with fine hairs. A mature tree can produce 2,000 to 3,000 pods in a good fruiting season, each with eight to sixteen seeds, yielding 5,000 to 16,000 seeds per kg, depending on the subspecies.

Threats & Conservation

Acacia nilotica is a pioneer species, easily regenerated from seed, and it is not considered to be threatened. The species can become a weed when introduced out of its native range, particularly in more humid zones. Thorniness can be a problem when introduced to areas where people do not traditionally use thorn trees.

A wide range of pests and diseases affect this species. The stem borer Cerostema scabrator is a pest of economic importance on young plantations in India. Euproctis lunata and E. subnotata occasionally defoliate patches of forest in Sukkur and Hyderabad. In Africa, bruchid beetles attack the seeds, destroying up to 70 % of them. Buprestid beetles cause a dieback disease in Sudan. Fungal rots (Fomes papianus and F. badius) attack unhealthy trees, and powder-post beetles (Sibixylon anale and Lyctus africanus) attack the sapwood of felled timber. Many wild mammals feed on the seed pods and a large number of insect species


Acacia nilotica has a wealth of medicinal uses. It is used for stomach upset and pain, the bark is chewed to protect against scurvy, an infusion is taken for dysentery and diarrhoea. In Nigeria it is one of the standard drugs for treating diarrhoea. It has also been used to eliminate stomach worms, as an antiseptic for open wounds and as an expectorant for treating coughs. The species has also been used in veterinary medicine, for example as a molluscicide to reduce liver-flukes in cattle. The pods are desirable as fodder for cattle, and the leaves, young shoots and young pods are thought to aid milk production.

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Acacia nilotica inflorescences (Image: Jonathan Timberlake)

Acacia nilotica wood burns without too much smoke and provides good charcoal. The flowers provide both pollen and nectar for bees. The species is suitable for live fencing, mine timber, railway sleepers, boat building, wheels, and water wells as its wood is durable and resistant to borers and termites. The sap-wood and heart-wood was used in ancient Egypt for house beams, furniture, panelling and statues as it was regarded as impervious to insect and fungus attack. The bark contains tannins and has been used to preserve and soften leather. Phytochemical analysis has shown the presence of two types of tannin (gallotannins and catechins) which explain its therapeutic action as well as its use in tanning hides.

Gum is present in the bark but tends to be dark in colour. This species may indeed have been the original source of the true gum arabic which is now obtained commercially from Senegalia senegal. The Acacia nilotica gum, samogh or samuk (arabic) is sold in balls and it is commercially of inferior quality. It has been used as an emulsifying agent and emollient. It is edible and is used to relieve throat and chest complaints.

Babul (subspecies indica) is a popular farm tree of the central plains of India. More recently interest has centred on the fastigiate form (subspecies cupressiformis). This subspecies makes an ideal windbreak to surround fields as its narrow crown shades less than other windbreak species.

In shamanism Acacia nilotica has been used to drive away evil spirits.

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Acacia nilotica seed pod (Image: RBG Kew)

Extracts of the pod have been found to be active against two fresh-water snails (Bulinus truncatus and Biomphalaria pfeifferi), which are vectors of the parasitic disease schistosomiasis in Sudan. A pilot scheme to produce ‘tan’ (a vegetable molluscicide) has been set up. This is a water extract in which tannins amount to over 56% of the product, and are probably the active ingredient.

In Senegal Acacia nilotica is considered an important tree in the forest reserves along the banks of the Senegal River. In Sudan and the Upper Nile region it has been planted as part of the reforestation of the areas alongside river banks, which are subject to flooding.

In India this species is used extensively on degraded saline/alkaline soils, growing on soils up to pH 9, with a soluble salt content below 3%. It also grows well when irrigated with tannery effluent, and colonises waste heaps from coal mines. Over 50,000 hectares of the Indian Chambal ravines have been rehabilitated with A. nilotica by aerial seeding (it is one of the three most frequently used trees for this purpose). In India, too, A. nilotica is an important tree for lac insects  - lac being used as a dye and as shellac, a glazing agent


Acacia nilotica is a slow-growing species but is moderately long-lived. It is easily established from seed, but it needs scarification (the hard seed coat must be subjected to mechanical abrasion or hot water treatment), especially if the seeds are not fresh. Seeds generally germinate quickly (7-15 days). The seedlings need full exposure to sunlight and a free-draining soil.

The species will tolerate only light frost, but is extremely resistant to drought and heat. It is also tolerant of saline soil. Young trees coppice well, and the species can be propagated from truncheons, root suckers and cuttings. Some subspecies can be invasive (and can be extremely invasive in exotic habitats). The species can be direct seeded or established by seedlings. In the nursery long poly-tubes (20 x 7 cm) should be used so as not to restrict rapid tap root growth. Frequent root pruning is advised. Nursery grown seedlings are usually planted out after six months, but in some cases stay in the nursery for up to a year. Establishment varies depending on the site. Seedlings are shade intolerant.

In irrigated plantations in the Sind and Punjab, 10-15 seeds are spot sown at 2 x 3 m spacing on the tops of trenches. They are thinned to three to four seedlings after three to four months. Further thinning occurs at five year intervals. Rotations are 20-25 years. In the Thal desert, Pakistan (where there is 250 mm annual rainfall), promising growth resulted from irrigation at ten day intervals. Growth rates varied considerably depending on the sites, with maximum mean annual increment of 13 m3 /ha at 20 years old and 10.5 m3 /ha at 30 years recorded.

Useful Links

Find out more with:

Kew Herbarium Catalogue

International Legume Database & Information Service

Winrock International

SEPASAL (Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands)

Global Invasive Species Database

Search Kew's science databases for more information on this species

Last edited by Sandeep Sunstar on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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karuvela mara (Vachellia nilotica but also known as Acacia nilotica) Empty Re: karuvela mara (Vachellia nilotica but also known as Acacia nilotica)

Post by Sandeep Sunstar on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:01 pm

Acacia nilotica (L.) Del.

Syn.: Mimosa nilotica L. Mimosaceae

"Motse", Egyptian Mimosa, or Thorn

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.


Some feel that the thorn bush of Exodus 3 was Acacia nilotica, the fire, the parasite Loranthus acaciae. Inner bark contains 18–23% tannin, used for tanning and dyeing leather black. Young pods produce a very pale tint in leather, notably goat hides (Kano leather). Pods were used by the ancient Egyptians. Young bark used as fiber, twigs esteemed for tooth brushes (chewsticks). Trees tapped for gum arabic. The gum arabic is still used in making candles, inks, matches, and paints (NAS, 1980). Tender pods and shoots used as vegetable, and used as forage for camels, sheep and goats, especially in Sudan, where it is said to improve milk from these animals. Seeds are a valuable cattle food. Roasted seed kernels, sometimes used for flavoring and when crushed provide the dye for black strings worn by Nankani women. Trees used in Sudan for afforestation of inundated areas. Sapwood is yellowish-white, heartwood reddish-brown, hard, heavy, durable, difficult to work, though taking a high polish. Because of its resins, it resists insects and water, and trees are harvested for the timber for boat-making, posts, buildings, water-pipes, well-planking, plows, cabinet-work, wheels, mallets and other implements. Wood yields excellent firewood and charcoal (Duke, 1981a). The aqueous extract of the fruit, rich in tannin (18–23%) has shown algicidal activity against Chroccoccus, Closteruim, Coelastrum, Cosmarium, Cyclotella, Euglena, Microcystis, Oscillatoria, Pediastrum, Rivularia, Spirogyra, and Spirulina (Ayoub, 1983).

Folk Medicine

Zulu take bark for cough, Chipi use root for tuberculosis. Masai are intoxicated by the bark and root decoction, said to impart courage, even aphrodisia, and the root is said to cure impotence. Astringent bark used for diarrhea, dysentery, and leprosy. Bruised leaves poulticed onto ulcers. According to Hartwell, the gum or bark is used for cancers and/or tumors (of ear, eye, or testicles) and indurations of liver and spleen, condylomas, and excess flesh. Said also to be used for cancer, colds, congestion, coughs, diarrhea, dysentery, fever, gallbladder, hemorrhage, hemorrhoids, leucorrhea, ophthalmia, sclerosis, smallpox, and tuberculosis. Bark, gum, leaves, and pods used medicinally in West Africa. Sap or bark, leaves, and young pods are strongly astringent due to tannin, and are chewed In Senegal as antiscorbutic; in Ethiopia as lactogogue. Bark decoction drunk for intestinal pains and diarrhea. Other preparations used for coughs, gargle, toothache, ophthalmia, and syphilitic ulcers. In Tonga, the root is used to treat tuberculosis. In Lebanon, the resin is mixed with orange-flower infusion for typhoid convalescence. Masai use the bark decoction as a nerve stimulant. In Italian Africa, the wood is used to treat smallpox. Egyptian Nubians believe that diabetics may eat unlimited carbohydrates as long as they also consume powdered pods (Duke, 1983a). Extracts are inhibitory to at least four species of pathogenic fungi (Umalkar et al, 1976).


Babul has been reported to contain l-arabinose, catechol, galactan, galactoaraban, galactose, N-acetyldjenkolic acid, N-acetyldjenkolic acid, sulphoxides pentosan, saponin, tannin. Seeds contain crude protein 18.6%, ether extract 4.4%, fiber 10.1%, nitrogen-free extract 61.2%, ash 5.7%, and silica 0.44%. Phosphorus 0.29% and calcium 0.90% of DM. When bullocks were given the seeds and bran (2:1) with dry pasture grass daily DM intakes were 1.82, 0.91, and 5.35 kg respectively. Total DM intake/100 kg bodyweight was 1.40 kg. The animals retained 20.8 g N and 7.4 g Ca daily but the P balance was slightly negative (Pande et al, 1981). Walker (1980) puts the CP content of the browse at 12.9%, the crude fiber at 15.2%


Small tree, 2.5–14 m tall, quite variable in many aspects; bark of twigs not flaking off, gray to brown; branches spreading, with flat or rounded crown; bark thin, rough, fissured, deep red-brown; branchlets purple-brown, shortly or densely gray-pubescent, with lenticels; spines gray-pubescent, slightly recurved, up to 3 cm long; leaves often with 1–2 petiolar glands and other glands between all or only the uppermost pinnae; plnnae 2–11 (-17) pairs; leaflets 7–25 (-30) pairs, 1.5–7 mm long, 0.5–1.5 mm wide, glabrous or pubescent, apex obtuse; peduncles clustered at nodes of leafy and leafless branchlets; flowers bright yellow, in axillary heads 6–15 mm in diam.; involucel from near the base to about half-way up the peduncle, rarely somewhat higher; calyx 1–2 mm long, subglabrous to pubescent; corolla 2.5–3.5 mm long, glabrous or pubescent outside; pods especially variable, linear, indehiscent, 8–17 (-24) cm long, 1.3–2.2 cm broad, straight or curved, glabrous or gray-velvety, turgid, blackish, about 12-seeded; seeds deep blackish-brown, smooth, subcircular, compressed, areole 6–7 mm long, 4.5–5 mm wide. Fl. Oct.–Dec.; fr. Mar.–June (Duke, 1981a).


Acacia nilotica var. kraussiana (Benth.) Brenan is the most common form in east tropical Africa. Young branches more or less densely pubescent; pods not necklace-like, 1–1.8 cm wide, oblong, more or less pubescent all over at first with raised parts over seeds becoming glabrescent, shining and black when dry, margins shallowly crenate. Exhibits wide range of altitudinal and habitat requirements. Found in Botswana, Zambia, Rhodesia, Malawi, Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique, Transvaal, and Natal. A. nilotica var. tomentosa A. F. Hill (A. arabica var. tomentosa Benth.), has pods straight, constricted between seeds and densely tomentose; found in Senegal and northern Nigeria, to Sudan, Arabia and India. A. nilotica var. adansonii (Guill. et Perr.) Kuntze is a tree up to 17 m with dark reddish-brown bark deeply fissured, tomentose, reddish-brown twigs and gray fruits; commonest variety in West Africa, from Senegal to Nigeria and widespread in northern parts of Tropical Africa. Assigned to the African Center of Diversity, babul or cvs thereof is reported to exhibit tolerance to clay, drought, heat, heavy soil, high pH, poor soils, salt, savanna, and waterlogging. (2n=52.)


Native from Egypt south to Mozambique and Natal; apparently introduced to Zanzibar, Pemba, and India; Arabia. Considered a serious weed in South Africa.


Woodlands of various sorts, wooded grasslands, scrub and thickets. Thrives in dry areas, but endures floods. Grows 10–1,340 m altitude, in a wide range of conditions. Grows on a wide variety of soils, seemingly thriving on alluvial soils, black cotton soils, heavy clay soils, as well as even poorer soils (NAS, 1980). Ranging from Subtropical Desert to Subtropical Dry through Tropical Desert to Tropical Dry Forest Life Zones, babul is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3.8–22.8 dm (mean of 12 cases = 12.0 dm), annual mean temperature of 18.7–27.8°C (mean of 12 cases = 24.1°C), and pH of 5.0–8.0 (mean of 10 cases = 6.9) (Duke, 1981a).


Trees propagated in forest by seeds. Direct seeding is the common practice. Stored seed may require scarification. Young seedlings are said to "require full sun and frequent weeding" (NAS, 1980a).


Although there are other sources of gum arabic, trees are still tapped for the gum by removing a bit of bark 5–7.5 cm wide and bruising the surrounding bark with mallet or hammer. The resulting reddish gum, almost completely soluble and tasteless, is formed into balls. Though used in commerceto some extent, it is inferior to other forms of gum arabic, with which it is sometimes mixed.

Yields and Economics

Various products of the tree are used locally in tropical Africa, but none enter international markets. Trees usually add 2–3 cm in diameter each year (NAS, 1980a).


Extensively used, e.g. in India, for firewood and charcoal, this species has been used in locomotives and steamships as well as industry balers. It is cultivated for industrial fuel in the Sudan. The calorific value of the sapwood is 4,800 kcal/kg of the heartwood 4,950. The species does nodulate and fix nitrogen.

Biotic Factors

Wood borers may afflict the stems and bruchids may afflict the seeds. Following fungi have been reported on this plant: Ctyospora acaciae, Diatryphe acaciae, Diplodia acaciae, Fomes badius, F. endotheius, F. fastuosus, F. rimosus, Fusicoccum indicum, Phyllactinia acaciae, Ravenelia acaciae-arabicae, Septogloeum acaciae, Septoria mortolensis, Sphaerostilbe acaciae. Trees are also parasitized by Dendrophthoe falcata and Loranthus globiferus var. verrucosus (Duke, 1981). In a survey for phytophagous insects on Acacia nilotica, 43 species were recorded in Pakistan, of these, 16 appeared stenophagous. The more promising for biological control of the tree were: Anarsia sp. cf. acaciae, Pseudosterrha paulula, Azanus ubaldus, and Ceutholopha isidis feeding on flowers; Bruchidius sahlbergi and Sulcobruchus sp. damaging seeds; Ascalenia callynella, Gisilia stereodoxa and an unidentified gracillariid boring shoots; and Cydia sp. making stem galls (Mohyuddin, 1981).

Yields and Economics

Various products of the tree are used locally in tropical Africa, blit none enter international markets. Trees usually add 2–3 cm in diameter each year (NAS, 1980).


Ayoub, S.M.H. 1983. Algicidal properties of Acacia nilotica. Fitoterapia 53(5–6):175–8.
Duke, 1981.
Duke, J.A. 1981a. Handbook of legumes of world economic importance. Plenum Press. NewYork.
Duke, J.A. 1983a. Medicinal plants of the Bible. Trado-Medic Books, Owerri, NY.
Mohyuddin, A.I. 1981. Phytophages associated with Acacia nilotica in Pakistan and possibilities of their introduction into Australia. p. 161–166. Proceedings of the 5th International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds. Australia Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
N.A.S. 1980a. Firewood crops. Shrub and tree species for energy production. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.
Pande, M.B., Talpada, P.M., Patel, J.S., and Shukla, P.C. 1981. Note on the nutritive value of babul (Acacia nilotica L.) seeds (extracted). In: Indian J. Anim. Sci. 51(1):107–108.
Umalkar, C.V., Begum, S., Nehemiah, K.M.A. 1976. Inhibitory effect of Acacia nilotica extracts on pectolytic enzyme production by some pathogenic fungi. Indian Phytopath.: publ. 1977, 29(4):469–470.
Walker, B.H. 1980. A review of browse and its role in livestock production in southern Africa. p. 7–24. In: LeHouerou, H.N. (ed.), Browse in Africa. International Livestock Centre for Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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karuvela mara (Vachellia nilotica but also known as Acacia nilotica) Empty Re: karuvela mara (Vachellia nilotica but also known as Acacia nilotica)

Post by Sandeep Sunstar on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:08 pm

Common names
: scented-pod Acacia ( Eng. ); lekkerruikpeul (Afr.); Mogohlo (Northern Sotho); isiThwetwe, umNcawe (Siswati); Motsha (Tshwana); umNqawe (Zulu)

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If you were a game or stock farmer with browsers on your property, this lovely Acacia species would be an asset to you. Please just remember the pods are said to be toxic to goats.

A medium to large tree that can reach a height of 10 m, with an average of 4-7 m in height. The crown is somewhat flattened or rounded, with a moderate density. The branches have a tendency to droop downwards if the crown is roundish. The bark is blackish grey or dark brown in mature trees and deeply grooved, with longitudinal fissures. The young branches are smooth and grey to brown in colour. The young twigs are covered in short hairs. Paired, slender, straight spines grow from a single base and sometimes curve backwards, are up to 80 mm long and whitish but often reddish brown in colour.

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The leaves are twice compound, i.e. they consist of 5-11 feather-like pairs of pinnae; each pinna is further divided into 7-25 pairs of small, elliptic leaflets that can be bottle to bright green in colour. The leaf stalks are heavy. Very small glands, almost not noticeable with the naked eye, can be found at the base of most of the upper pinnae pairs.

It bears single to several, bright, golden yellow, globose, scented inflorescences between the leaves. The flower stalks are hairy. It flowers mainly from September-January, but it depends on the rainy season. The pods are very characteristic, resembling a beaded necklace. The pods are flat, straight or slightly curved, and fleshy when young with reddish hairs, becoming dark blackish when mature, deeply constricted between each seed and they do not split open, but break up transversely on the ground into single-seeded segments during March to September. The pods are sweetly scented when crushed and contain a sticky fluid.

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Distribution and Habitat
This tree occurs in a variety of woodland types, wooded grassland and scrub escarpment, forests and low-lying forest, in deep soil and along rivers. It is found in large areas of KwaZulu-Natal , Swaziland , eastern and northern Mpumalanga , the northern part of Gauteng , throughout Limpopo and the northeastern part of the North-West. This subspecies occurs south of the Zambezi River.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
Acacia  is from the Greek word akis meaning sharp point, nilotica  refers to it occurring along the Nile River , and kraussiana  refers to Dr Christian Ferdinand Friedrich von Krauss (1812-1890), a German biologist and professor at the University of Stuttgart who travelled and collected in South Africa .

Uses and cultural aspects
The wood of this species is hard and reddish in colour and most of the browsers eat the leaves. It is used as firewood and for fencing posts. The bark exudes an edible gum and is used medicinally according to Van Wyk et al.  (2000). The gum can also be used as glue. The Zulus take a decoction of the bark as a cough remedy. The Voortrekkers made ink and dyes from the pods (red, black and yellow). Other parts of the tree were used to treat eye diseases, or as a tranquillizer and even as an aphrodisiac. A root extract was used in the treatment of tuberculosis, impotence, diarrhoea, haemorrhages, toothache, dysentery and gonorrhoea. Extracts made from the leaves are used in the treatment of menstrual problems, eye infections, sores (specifically those caused by leprosy), ulcers, indigestion and haemorrhage.

This medium to large semi-deciduous tree will grow in most gardens although slightly frost tender. It is very drought resistant. It can easily be grown from seed. Please ensure that the seeds are cleaned properly. They can be slightly scarified or left in hot water for a few hours or overnight. For best results sow seed in separate bags as it develops a taproot very quickly. Seed normally germinates reasonably fast within 7-15 days. The trees are slow growing.

References and further reading
Coates Palgrave, K. 1990. Trees of southern Africa . Struik, Cape Town .
Davidson, L. 1981. Acacias, a field guide to the identification of the species of southern Africa .  Centaur Publishers, Johannesburg .
Thomas, V. & Grant, R. 2004. SAPPI tree spotting: KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape . Jacana, Johannesburg .
Van Wyk, P. 1990. Veldgids tot die bome van die Nasionale Krugerwildtuin . Struik, Cape Town .
Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 1997. Field guide to trees of southern Africa . Struik, Cape Town .
Van Wyk, B., Van Wyk, P. & Van Wyk, B-E. 2000. Photographic guide to trees of southern Africa .  Briza Publications, Pretoria .
Venter, F. & Venter, J.A. 1990. Making the most of indigenous trees . Briza Publications, Pretoria .
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