SCIENTIFIC NAME: ACACIA SENEGAL
COMMON NAMES: KUMBAT, GUM ARABIC
A shrub or small deciduous tree, Acacia Senegal grows generally to a height of 2 -6m (occasionally to 15m). It is a small sized tree species of Tropical arid region of Southern West Pakistan. It is well-known for producing gum arabic. The tree has many branches and twigs. The bark is typically yellow-brown and smooth on younger trees, changing to dark grey and cracked on older trees. It has double-pinnate, greyish green coloured leaves. The white or cream coloured fragrant flowers grow in bunches during the rainy season. Fruits from dry streams with loamy sand soil type were of bigger size whereas seed output per pod and seed weight were higher in hilly regions.
Pods are yellowish to brown, papery and oblong, and mature between January and March.The seeds possess external dormancy (seed coat), which can be broken by mechanical and chemical scarification, water (cold and boiling) and dark treatments. Seeds collected from different localities showed considerable variation in germination capacity. Percentage and rate of germination increased with the lapse of time.
Distribution, Habitat and Ecology
Acacia Senegal is widespread in different parts of Africa. In Pakistan, it can be found in lower Sindh and Balochistan.
It is a drought resistant tree that grows at a number of sites with severe conditions, in elevations generally ranging from 100-1700m. It tolerates high daily temperatures (mean maximum temperatures of up to 45 degrees centigrade or more), dry wind, and sandstorms. It grows on sites with annual rainfall between 100-950mm and can endure 5-11 months of dry period. Generally it is not known to withstand frost.
Acacia Senegal prefers coarse-textured soils with approximately 800mm annual precipitation.
Benefits or Uses
Acacia Senegal tree is one of the main sources for obtaining commercial Gum Arabic. Gum Arabic has been used for at least 4,000 years by local people for preparation in food, in human and veterinary medicine, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. Today it is an important element in various industries like beverages, pharmaceutical and vitamins, chemical and cosmetic, high fibre formulation, and printing, colours and textile
The wood of this tree is valued for fuel wood and charcoal. It is used in local construction for poles and fence posts, tool handles etc. Strong ropes are made from the bark of the tree's long surface roots. Dried and preserved seeds of the tree are eaten as vegetables.