Acacia tortilis

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Abelmoschus moschatus
Acacia aneura
Acacia angustissima
Acacia aulacocarpa
Acacia auriculiformis
Acacia catechu
Acacia cincinnata
Acacia crassicarpa
Acacia elatior
Acacia erioloba
Acacia etbaica
Acacia ferruginea
Acacia glauca
Acacia holosericea
Acacia karroo*
Acacia koa
Acacia laeta
Acacia lahai
Acacia leptocarpa
Acacia leucophloea
Acacia mangium
Acacia mearnsii*
Acacia melanoxylon
Acacia mellifera
Acacia nilotica subsp nilotica
Acacia pachycarpa
Acacia pennatula
Acacia polyacantha ssp. polyacantha
Acacia saligna
Acacia senegal
Acacia seyal
Acacia sieberiana
Acacia tortilis
Acacia xanthophloea
Acrocarpus fraxinifolius
Adansonia digitata
Adenanthera pavonina
Aegle marmelos
Afzelia africana
Afzelia quanzensis
Agathis macrophylla
Agathis philippinensis
Ailanthus altissima
Ailanthus excelsa
Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
Aleurites moluccana
Allanblackia floribunda
Allanblackia stuhlmannii
Allanblackia ulugurensis
Alnus acuminata
Alnus cordata
Alnus japonica
Alnus nepalensis
Alnus rubra
Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alstonia boonei
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Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
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Annona reticulata
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Anogeissus latifolia
Anthocephalus cadamba
Antiaris toxicaria
Antidesma bunius
Araucaria bidwillii
Araucaria cunninghamii
Arbutus unedo
Areca catechu
Arenga pinnata
Argania spinosa
Artemisia annua
Artocarpus altilis
Artocarpus camansi
Artocarpus heterophyllus
Artocarpus integer
Artocarpus lakoocha
Artocarpus mariannensis
Asimina triloba
Ateleia herbert-smithii
Aucomea klaineana
Averrhoa bilimbi
Averrhoa carambola
Azadirachta excelsa
Azadirachta indica
Azanza garckeana
Related Links
Nine-year-old plantation of Acacia tortilis planted at 4 x 4m spacing for sand dune stabilization, near Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.
© Colin E. Hughes
Goats browsing nine-year old Acacia tortilis planted for sand dune stabilization near Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.
© Colin E. Hughes
14-year old plantation of Acacia tortilis, planted for sand dune stabilization, near Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.
© Colin E. Hughes
Acacia tortilis bole
© Bob Bailis
Acacia tortilis
© Chris Gardiner
Mature Trees in Northern Kenya
© Chris Fagg
Acacia tortilis pods in Lodwar market
© Patrick Maundu
Acacia tortilis subsp. spirocarpa: A population of subsp. spirocarpa growing through sand dunes near Lake Turkana, in arid northern Kenya.
© Chris Fagg
Habit of subsp. spirocarpa: Subsp. spirocarpa growing at 2000 metres on the scarp of the Cherangani Hills, northern Kenya.
© Chris Fagg
Habit of subsp. tortilis: Subsp. tortilis growing at the Ben Naga Forest Reserve, northern Sudan.
© Chris Fagg
Subsp. spirocarpa var. crinata: Providing shade, fuel and fodder in the Ruaha Valley, Tanzania.
© Chris Fagg
Subsp. spirocarpa: Subsp. spirocarpa growing on rocky soils in arid rangelands of northern Somalia.
© Chris Fagg
Subsp. spirocarpa: Trees of subsp. spirocarpa maintained in maize fields at Rumphi, northern Malawi.
© Chris Fagg
Young subsp. raddiana bush
© Chris Fagg
Flowers: Flowers clustered in globose inflorescences on thorny shoots of subsp. spirocarpa.
© Chris Fagg
Immature pods: Immature pods of subsp. heteracantha.
© Chris Fagg

Local names:
Afrikaans (haak-en-steek), Arabic (sammar,samar,samor,samra,sayyal,seyyal,seyal), English (umbrella thorn,karamoja), Hindi (Israeli babool), Ndebele (isanqawe,umsasane,umshishene,umtshatshatsha), Nyanja (nyoswa,nsangunsangu,mzunga,nsangu), Somali (abak,k

Acacia tortilis is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree or shrub that grows up to 21 m tall; well-developed multiple boles support a flat-topped or rounded, spreading crown; bark grey to black or dark brown, rough, fissured or smooth; young branchlets densely pubescent or glabrous to subglabrous and red to brown; spines paired, 2 types-long, straight and white, or short, brownish and hooked; they range from 1.2 to 8 cm in length.

Leaves glabrous to densely pubescent, glandular, short at 1.25-3.75 cm long; petiole 0.2-0.9 cm long, with a gland; rachis 0.3-2 cm long, glabrous to densely pubescent, with a small gland at the junction of the apical pair of pinnae; pinnae 2-10 pairs; leaflets 4-22 pairs per pinnae, 0.5-4 (6 max.) x 0.2-1 mm, glabrous to densely pubescent on the underside; margins with or without cilia, linear to linear oblong.

Inflorescence globose heads; peduncle white, pubescent, 0.4-2.5 cm long, with involucel on the lower half; flowers white or pale yellowish-white, sessile or shortly pedicellate, scented, 0.5-1.1 cm in diameter, on axillary peduncles; calyx 1-2 mm long; corolla 1.5-2.5 mm long.

Pods variable, indehiscent, spirally twisted or rarely almost straight, 7-10 cm long, 6-10 (max. 13) mm broad, longitudinally veined, leathery, glabrous to tomentellous or villous, somewhat constricted between the seeds; seeds oblique or parallel to long axis of pod, 4-7 x 3-6 mm, compressed; areole 3-6 x 2-4 mm.

The generic name ‘acacia’ comes from the Greek word ‘akis’, meaning a point or a barb. The name ‘tortilis’ means twisted and refers to the pod structure.


A. tortilis is drought resistant, can tolerate strong salinity and seasonal waterlogging and generally forms open, dry forests in pure stands or mixed with other species. The long taproot and numerous lateral roots enable it to utilize the limited soil moisture available in the arid areas. It tolerates a maximum temperature of 50 deg. C and a minimum temperature close to 0 deg. C.

Native range
Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Tree management

Initial integrated soil and water conservation measures help check mortality and boost early growth and establishment of trees in very unfavourable conditions. The fast-growing tree 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 25 cm deep. However, the plant assumes shrubby growth and must be widely spaced for the lateral root growth. It responds vigorously to felling by producing numerous coppice shoots, provided there is no interference from browsing animals. Lopping of entire branches does not seem to affect the vitality of the tree. Studies conducted on its nitrogen-fixing ability, photosynthetic efficiency, seedling morphology and drought resistance have shown that it is relatively a better species than Prosopsis juliflora. A tree 6-7 years old on average yields about 5-6 kg of clean seeds. Planting is done in pits 60 cm deep dug at a spacing of 5 x 5 m and filled with weathered soil. If raised as a windbreak, 3 rows are planted spaced at 9 x 10 m, and 50 gm/plant of ammonium sulphate is applied at watering time. Plants grow to about 1.5 m in 2 years, should be protected from grazing and mulching should be practised. 2 weedings in the 1st year and 1 in the 2nd year are considered sufficient.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox; viability can be maintained for several years in hermetic storage at 10 deg. C with 4.5-9% mc. There are about 12 000-25 000 seeds/kg.

A. tortilis is drought resistant, can tolerate strong salinity and seasonal waterlogging and generally forms open, dry forests in pure stands or mixed with other species. The long taproot and numerous lateral roots enable it to utilize the limited soil moisture available in the arid areas. It tolerates a maximum temperature of 50 deg. C and a minimum temperature close to 0 deg. C.

A. tortilis can be grown from potted seedlings or by direct seeding. The seeds have a hard testa and require pretreatment before sowing. Boiling water is poured over the seeds before they are soaked in water for 24 hours. 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 an alternative method. Seeds of various dimensions have varying scarification requirements. This method gives the maximum germination rate, about 95%. It is further reported that older seeds give healthier seedlings compared with fresh seeds. The pretreated 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 sowed 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. 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. Plants less than 2 years old are damaged by frost and are tender to hot, desiccating winds.

Poison:  A. tortilis is a powerful molluscicide and algicide; in Sudan, fruits are placed in fish ponds to kill the snail species that carry schistosomiasis, without affecting the fish.

Erosion control:  Due to its drought hardiness and fast growth, the species is considered more useful than many indigenous species growing in the arid zone of India. It is a promising species for afforesting shifting sand dunes, refractory sites, hill slopes, ravines and lateritic soils.

  In Kenya, the Turkana make porridge from the pods after extracting the seed; the Maasai eat the immature seeds.

It is an important source of fodder for cattle in India, West Africa, Somalia and Ethiopia. Foliage and fruits form important browse. The leaves are fed green as well as dry. A 10-year-old A. tortilis yields about 4-6 kg dry leaf and 10-12 kg pods per year. Fruits are preferred for stall-fed animals and should be ground to make them more nutritious. Crude protein and digestibility coefficients of A. tortilis are about 18% and 46.2%, respectively. Over 90% of the flowers abort and drop to the ground, providing additional important forage.

A. tortilis starts producing fuelwood 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.

Timber:  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. It is believed that Noah of the Old Testament made his ark from the wood of A. tortilis.

Shelter or shade:  In India, it has been grown successfully with Azadirachta indica in shelterbelts.

Tannin or dyestuff:  The bark is reported to be a rich source of tannin.

Medicine:  The dried, powdered bark is used as a disinfectant in healing wounds; in Senegal it serves as an anthelmintic. In Somalia the stem is used to treat asthma. Seeds are taken to treat diarrhoea.

Nitrogen fixing:  A. tortilis nodulates and hence is nitrogen fixing.

Boundary, barrier or support:  The thorny branches are suitable material for erecting barriers.

Intercropping:  Poor herbaceous growth under A. tortilis has been reported. In India clusterbean, cowpea and mothbean are said to have failed when planted in association with A. tortilis. However, yields of mungbean, and sorghum have been shown to increase when lateral roots of A. tortilis are trenched.