According to Kew Species Profiles[KSP]
- General Description
Gum arabic has been used for at least 4,000 years in the preparation of food, in human and veterinary medicine, in crafts and as a cosmetic.
Gum arabic is harvested from Senegalia senegal because it has superior properties over other 'acacias', and hence it is this gum that has dominated international trade. Currently the biggest markets for Senegalia senegal gum are the European Union, North America (mainly the USA) and the Indian Subcontinent (mainly India). The UK imported 1,253 tonnes in 1998. Sudan, Nigeria and Chad are the three biggest sources of this gum.
Gum arabic is traded in large quantities, and is grouped into three grades. Grade 1 (the best) is in large, round or worm-shaped pieces and is white/pale or brownish yellow. Grade 2 gum is in rounded, worm-shaped or branched pieces, and is smaller in size and generally darker in colour than the top quality. The poorest grade gum (Grade 3) is in the form of small brown grains.
- Species Profile
Geography and distribution
Senegalia senegal is found growing in Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Côte d'lvoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, and India. It has been introduced to Egypt, Australia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and elsewhere.
This species can grow on light sandy soil, slightly loamy sand and skeletal soils (lithosols) but it prefers coarse-texture soils such as fossil dunes, with a 300 to 400 (maximum 700) mm annual rainfall. It can also grow in areas that receive 100 to 950 mm annual rainfall, but these extremes reduce the production of gum. It can tolerate five to 11 months of drought. It can survive temperatures of 45˚C, dry wind and sandstorms, but cannot withstand frost. The best sites for the species have a pH of 5 to 8. The altitude ranges from 100 to 1,700 metres above sea level in the Sudan to 1,950 m around Nakuru in Kenya.
Overview: A low branching shrub or small tree to 7 m high (maximum 15 m). The tree flowers during the rainy season and loses its leaves during the dry season. When water is only available at great depth, deeply penetrating tap roots can develop, and the tree will grow considerably larger than normal.
The bark of Senegalia senegal is yellow to brown and smooth in young trees, becoming dark grey, gnarled and cracked on older trees. It is armed with recurved prickles just below the nodes, in pairs or in groups of three.
Leaves: The leaves are 3.5 to 8 cm long, with 3 to 8 pairs of pinnae. The rachis (main stem of the compound leaf) sometimes bears prickles. The pinnae are 1.5 to 2.5 cm long with 5 to 25 pairs of leaflets per pinna. The leaflets are 1 to 9 mm long, 0.5 to 3 mm wide, elongated-oval in shape, sparsely hairy or smooth on both surfaces.
Flowers: The flowers are borne on spikes 3 to 8.5 cm long.
Fruits: The hairy fruits are yellow-brown, flat and papery, 1.8 to 9 cm long, 1.2 to 3.4 cm wide, 2 mm thick and open on maturity to discharge the seeds.
There are four varieties of Senegalia senegal. These differ in the presence or absence of hair on the axis of the flower spike, colour of the axis, shape of pod tips, number of pinnae pairs, trunk branched or not branched from the base and shape of the crown, as well as their geographical distribution.
The germination of seed is slow and young plants usually have to contend with competition from grass and browsing stock. Those which survive will begin to yield gum at three to four years of age. The best yields in West Africa come from trees 12 to 15 years old and up to 20 cm diameter. In Kordofan trees aged four years are opened for tapping, which continues to the age of 20 or older, but elsewhere in Sudan six to 18 years is usual. The best yields come from trees in areas with an annual rainfall of only 250 to 300 mm. Trees die at an age of 25 to 30 years, by which time they will have succumbed to borers and termites.
Many common names
Kew’s biodiversity informatics records accord 196 local names for this plant. Common names include: tur, tulh, harheyr (Jibbali); temmar (Dhofari arabic); Sudan gum, Kordofan gum (English); gommier, gommier vrai, gomme blonde, gomme blanche (French); khor (Punjab); kumta (Rajputana); Senegal gum, Somali gum (in the trade industry).
Threats and conservation
Other than in the case of Sudan, where pressure for cultivated land, droughts and fuelwood collecting is a threat, Senegalia senegal is generally well managed as its cultivation is very important. There are a number of pests that may damage it however. The buffalo treehopper ( Stictocephala bubalus) may destroy seed crops. Spiders ( Cyclops sp.) can smother young growing tips. The larval stages of beetles ( Coleoptera - bruchids), moths and butterflies, and bees and wasps ( Hymenoptera) can damage the seeds. Locusts ( Acridium melanorhodon) can defoliate vast areas overnight.
Senegalia senegal is also attacked by the fungi Cladosporium herbarium, Fusarium sp., Ravenelia acaciae-senegalae and R. acaciocola.
Locusts and browsing goats and camels are major enemies. Herdsmen lopping off branches to make cattle enclosures can also be a threat
The use of gum arabic (or gum acacia), which is derived from an exudate from the bark, dates from the first Egyptian Dynasty (3400 B.C.). It was used in the production of ink, which was made from a mix of carbon, gum and water. Inscriptions from the 18th Dynasty refer to gum as ‘komi’ or ‘komme’. Gum arabic has been used for at least 4,000 years by local people for the preparation of food, in human and veterinary medicine, in crafts, and as a cosmetic. Senegalia senegal produces the only acacia gum evaluated toxicologically as a safe food additive.
Nowadays the gum is present in a wide range of everyday products. Sixty-75% of the world production of gum arabic is used in the food industry and in human and animal medicine.Food
In the food industry gum arabic is used as a flavour fixative and emulsifier, to prevent crystallisation of sugar in confectionery, as a stabiliser in frozen dairy products, for its viscosity and adhesive properties in bakery products, and as a foam stabiliser and clouding agent in beer.
The dried and preserved seeds of Senegalia senegal are used as vegetables. The leaves and pods are browsed by sheep, goats, camels, impala and giraffe. The seeds are sometimes eaten as a vegetable in India.
The flowers are a good source of honey, an important source of nutrition and income generation to support rural livelihoods in marginal lands.Medicine
In pharmaceuticals, it is used as a stabiliser for emulsions, a binder and coating for tablets, and as an ingredient in cough drops and syrups. A soothing and softening agent, gum arabic is extensively employed in folk medicines. Among many other uses, it is used internally for coughs, diarrhoea, dysentery, haemorrhage, and externally to cover inflamed areas.Cosmetics
Gum arabic is used in cosmetics as an adhesive for face masks and powders, and to give a smooth feel to lotions.Fuel
Senegalia senegal wood is locally valued for fuel wood and charcoal, although biomass yield per unit of land area is not sufficient to plant it for this.Construction
Industrially, gum arabic is applied as an adhesive, as a protective colloid and safeguarding agent for inks, sensitiser for lithographic plates, coating for special papers, sizing agent for cloth to give body to certain fabrics, and coating to prevent metal corrosion. Gum arabic is also used in the manufacture of matches and ceramic pottery.
In construction the wood is used locally for poles and fence-posts, the light-coloured wood for tool handles and dark heartwood for weaver's shuttles. Strong ropes are made from the bark fibres of the long surface roots. Where the trees are large (for example near the River Niger) they are cut into planks at least 12 cm thick for making canoes for hunting hippopotamuses. The wood is hard and heavy and takes a beautiful polish, with the sapwood being yellowish white and the heartwood nearly black and irregular. The wood is made into throwing-sticks which, in contrast to the Australian boomerang, can be made to fly straight and used for hunting and pageantry.Sand dune stabilisation
Senegalia senegal can help prevent desertification, through sand dune stabilisation and by acting as a wind break.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in a seed bank vault.
A collection of Senegalia senegal seeds is held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.
See Kew's Seed Information Database for further information on Acacia senegal seeds
Gum arabic reaches 4 to 7 m tall with a taproot up to 30 m in depth. It grows on sandy soils and requires strong light. It is drought and heat resistant, but sensitive to waterlogging. The tree is able to fix nitrogen from the air.
When propagating this species by seed it is important to note that the seeds are hard coated and must be scarified (subjected to mechanical abrasion or hot water treatment) before sowing.
In agroforestry the seed should be harvested before the pods have dried for easy collection and to avoid insect attack. Seed is easily extracted by hand. Freshly extracted seed should be dusted immediately with an insecticide, following all necessary safety precautions. Seed will remain viable for three to four years if kept in opaque, airtight containers. There are 10,000 to 30,000 seeds per kg. Fresh seed requires no pre-treatment if sown immediately after harvest. Seed collected in previous seasons, however, requires pre-treatment to break seed dormancy. Soaking seed in water for 12 to 24 hours gives good results and is simple to apply. Seeds can also be nicked (a small cut made into them).
Senegalia senegal is raised in plant nurseries in polyethylene pots, two to four seeds per pot, thinned to one seedling after four to six weeks. Direct seeding (five to eight seeds in 30 x 30 x 30 cm pits or larger) can also be used. Strict protection from fire and livestock grazing, and efficient control of weed competition during at least the first two years is important for seedling survival. Minimum spacing for block planting is 4 x 4 m. At 10 x 10 m spacing, agricultural intercropping is possible, for example, inter-planting with millet, beans, or groundnuts.
When trees are near well-watered locations, they grow taller but they do not produce any gum. The tree has to be under stress, diseased, ill-nourished and cut off from water before it will produce gum.
- Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Oman, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda
- Dry savanna (grassland) and Sahel (desert edge), scattered, often in thickets, and sometimes in extensive pure stands.
- None of the four varieties of this species are threatened. Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria.
None. Senegalia senegal produces the only acacia gum evaluated toxicologically as a safe food additive.
According to Flora Zambesiaca under the synonym Acacia senegal[FZ]
- Shrub or tree up to 13 m. high; bark grey to brown or blackish, scaly, rough; young branchlets densely to sparsely pubescent, soon glabrescent.
- Stipules not spinescent.
- Prickles just below the nodes, either in threes, up to 7 mm. long, the central one hooked downwards, the laterals ± curved upwards, or else solitary, the laterals being absent.
- Leaves: petiole glandular or not (gland c. 0·5-0·75 mm. in diam.); rhachis ± pubescent, glandular between the top 1-5 pairs of pinnae, prickly or not; pinnae (2)3-6(12) pairs, 0·5-1·5(2·4, very rarely to 4 or more) cm. long; leaflets 7-25 pairs, 1-4(9) x 0·5-1·75(-3) mm., linear-to elliptic-oblong, ciliate on the margins only or ± hairy on the surface, or wholly subglabrous, lateral nerves not visible or sometimes somewhat prominent beneath, apex obtuse to subacute.
- Flowers white or cream, fragrant, sessile, in spikes 1·5-10 cm. long on peduncles 0·7-2 cm. long, normally produced with the leaves; axis pubescent to glabrous.
- Calyx 2-2·75(3·5) mm. long, glabrous to somewhat pubescent.
- Corolla 2·75-4 mm. long, exceeding the calyx, 5-lobed, glabrous outside.
- Stamen-filaments 4·5-7 mm. long, free; anthers 0·2-0·25 mm., across, with a caducous gland.
- Ovary glabrous, very shortly stipitate.
- Pods usually grey-brown, sometimes pale- or dark-brown, dehiscent, (1·8)4-19 x (1·2)2-3·4 cm., densely to sparsely appressed-pubescent to -puberulous, oblong, straight, venose, rounded to acuminate at the apex.
- Seeds ± subcircular-lenticular, 8-12 mm. in diam.; central areole small to medium, 2·5-6 x 2·5-5 mm., markedly impressed.
According to Flora of Tropical East Africa under the synonym Acacia senegal[FTEA]
- Shrub or tree up to 12 m. high; bark grey, scaly, rough.
- Young branchlets densely to sparsely pubescent, soon glabrescent.
- Stipules not spinescent.
- Prickles just below nodes, either in threes, up to 7 mm. long, the central one hooked downwards, the laterals ± curved upwards, or else solitary, the laterals being absent.
- Leaves: petiole glandular or not (gland about 0.5–0.75 mm. in diameter); rhachis ± pubescent, glandular between the top 1–5 pairs of pinnae, prickly or not; pinnae (2–)3–6 pairs, 0.5–1.5 (–2.4, very rarely to 4) cm. long; leaflets 8–18 pairs, 1–4(–7) mm. long, 0.5–1.75 mm. wide; linear- to elliptic-oblong, ciliate on margins only or ± hairy on surface, or wholly subglabrous, lateral nerves not visible or sometimes somewhat prominent beneath, apex obtuse to subacute.
- Flowers white or cream, fragrant, sessile, in spikes 2–10 cm. long on peduncles 0.7–2 cm. long, normally produced with the leaves; axis pubescent to glabrous.
- Calyx 2–2.75(–3.5) mm. long, glabrous to somewhat pubescent.
- Corolla 2.75–4 mm. long, exceeding the calyx, 5-lobed, glabrous outside.
- Stamen-filaments 4.5–7 mm. long, free; anthers 0.2–0.25 mm. across, with a caducous gland.
- Ovary glabrous, very shortly stipitate.
- Pods (Fig. 14/17, p. 52) usually grey-brown, sometimes pale or dark brown, dehiscent, densely to sparsely appressed-pubescent to -puberulous, oblong, straight, venose, rounded to acuminate at apex, (3–)4–14 cm. long, (1.3–)2–3.3 cm. wide.
- Seeds ± subcircular-lenticular, 8–12 mm. diam.; central areole small to medium, 2.5–6 × 2.5–5 mm., markedly impressed.
According to Project MGU – Useful Plants Project (UPP) species profiles under the synonym Acacia senegal[UPPp]
- Gum Arabic (English); Kikwata (Swahili); Mung’othi (Mbeere); King’ole (Kamba).
- Life form: Shrub/Tree. Plant: Plants up to 12 m high, with a rough, scaly, grey bark, young branchlets densely pubescent, soon glabrescent.
- Leaves: Compound with the rachis more or less pubescent, pinnae in (2)3-6 pairs and leaflets in 8-18 pairs.
- In its natural distribution area, the species flowers throughout the year, with a peak in February-March, followed by a seeding peak in June-July .
- Widespread in tropical Africa from Senegal in the west to Etiopia and Somalia in the north-east, southwards to Natal; also extends into India .
- Widely distributed in the semi-arid and arid zones .
- This species is not considered threatened .
- Seed conservation. Harvesting: Pods should be harvested before they open, by shaking the branches over a tarpaulin on the ground. To minimize insect attack pods are often collected when they are still green . Processing and handling: The pods can be dried in the sun and then threshed in a gunny bag by using a stick. After threshing, seeds can be cleaned by winnowing, by using a sieve or a mechanical blower . Storage and viability: Seeds of this species are reported to be orthodox  and therefore can be stored at temperatures below zero for longe term conservation. In addition, mature and properly dried seeds can be stored in airthight containers at room temperature for at least one year at +10ºC for several years .
- Vegetative propagation. No protocols available. Seeds. Dormancy and pre-treatments: Unlike other species of the same genus [see 3], the seed coat of this species is not impermeable to water and therefore seeds of this species have not physical dormancy [1,3,6,9]. Nevertheless, a 14 minutes scarification in 95% sulphuric acid or a pregermination soaking in water for 12 to 24 hours (Fig. 2) accelerates and synchronizes the germination . Germination, sowing and planting: High germination percentage (100%) are reported under laboratory controlled conditions, for scarified seeds, incubated in agar at constant 20 and 25ºC in the light . This species is easy to propagate from seed. Seeds should be sown polypots or in 30 cm long tubes, 2-4 seeds per tube, thinned to one seedling after 4-6 weeks. Frequent root pruning is necessary the first two years. For intercropping, 10 x 10 m spacing is suitable. For gum production, plants can be raised in the nursery or in direct seeded plantations spaced about 4 x 4 m .
- General Description
- Project activities. Through the UPP project, seeds were collected and banked in the Gene Bank of Kenya (GBK). Seed propagation activities have been carried out in the nursery of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Botanic Garden in Nairobi.
- Trade. Commercial gum is collected from the wild (Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, Marakwet, Garissa, Samburu) mainly by children and women. It is usually picked for export to the Far East and Europe. The gum trade in Kenya is less lucrative than in Sudan and Somalia. The main reason is the poor quality of the gum, mainly due to the fact that various grades and types are mixed .
-  Albrecht J. (Eds.), 1993 – Tree seed handbook of Kenya. GTZ Forestry Seed Centre Muguga, Nairobi, Kenya.  Awouda E.H.M., 1974. Production and supply of gum Arabic. Khartoum , Sudan: Forest Department.  Baskin C.C., Baskin J.M., 2014. Seeds – ecology, biogeography and evolution of dormancy and germination Second Edition. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, USA.  Boer, E., 2002. Acacia senegal (L.) Willd. Record from Protabase. Oyen, L.P.A. & Lemmens, R.H.M.J. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa/Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, the Netherlands.  Brenan J.P.M., 1959 – Leguminosae Subfamily Mimosoidae. In: Hubbard C.E., Milne-Redhead E. (Eds.) Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Goverments and Administrations, London.  Danthu P., Roussel J. Dia M., Sarr A., 1992 – Effect of different pretreatments on the germination of Acacia Senegal seeds. Seed Science and Technology, 20: 111-117.  Duke, J.A. 1981a. Handbook of legumes world economic importance. Plenum Press. New York.  IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.Version2013.2. . Downloaded on 24 February 2014.  Jøker D., 2000 - Seed leaflet No. 5, Danida Forest Seed Centre, Website: www.dfsc.dk  Maundu P.M., et al –Traditional food plants of Kenya: National Museums of Kenya 1999.  Morton, J.F. 1977. Major medicinal plants. C.C. Thomas, Springfield, IL.  Orwa et al., 2009 -www.worldagroforestry.org/treedb2/AFTPDFS/Acacia_senegal.pdf?  Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2008 - Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1. Available from: http://data.kew.org/sid/ (May 2008).  Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1999). Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database. Published on the Internet; http://apps.kew.org/sepasalweb/sepaweb
According to Flora of West Tropical Africa under the synonym Acacia senegal[FWTA]
- Small tree, to 25 ft. high
- Short bole grey and fissured
- Bark of twigs yellowish, soon peeling
- Flowers cream, in spikes usually longer than the leaves.
According to Project MGU – Useful Plants Project (UPP) database as Acacia senegal[UPPd]
- Digestive System Disorders
- A decoction of the bark is drunk to treat diarrhoea and stomach disorders Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa. Second edition Root decoction is slightly purgative and is drunk in the case of constipation or stomach ache Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - Medicinal Plants of East Africa. Second edition
- Other Animal Food Type
- Camels - Leaves as fodder for camels. Leaves - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya Camels - Pods as fodder for camels. Other plant parts - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya Goats - Pods as fodder for goats. Other plant parts - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya Goats - Leaves as fodder for goats. Leaves - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya
- Charcoal. Unspecified plant parts - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya
- Gums Resins
- Emulsifiers Exudates - Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SEPASAL) database Adhesives - 'Gum arabic' used as a glue. Exudates - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya
- Gums, Mucilages or Resins
- Exudates - Field guide to trees of Southern Africa 'Gum arabic' used as food stablizer. Exudates - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya
- Firewood. Unspecified plant parts - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya
- Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
- 'Gum arabic' has pharmaceutical uses. Exudates - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya Veterinary medicine. Unspecified plant parts - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya
- Other Animals - Black Rhino Leaves - Field guide to trees of Southern Africa
- Infections & Infestations
- Root decoction is used for the treatment of gonorrhoea Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - Medicinal Plants of East Africa. Second edition
- Erosion Control
- Soil conservation and sand stabilization. Live plant (in situ) - Useful trees and shrubs of Kenya
According to Project MGU – Useful Plants Project (UPP) species profiles as Acacia senegal[UPPp]
- This species is well known for the production of clear gum, which is used for different purposes. Gum formation is naturally activated by injuries on the wood to which the plant responds by gum exudation, in order to prevent dessication . However, to induce gum formation, a section of the bark is wounded or stripped off . All the gum harvested in Kenya comes from the bush, collected mainly by women and children . The species is also a valuable source of fuel wood, charcoal, house pole, fencing; bark and it can be used as a source of fibre and leaves as fodder for goats, sheeps and camels . It is also useful for reforestation of arid tracts, soil reclamation, and windbreaks . In the pharmaceutical sector, extracts from the plant are used mainly in the manufacture of emulsions, excipients for pills and troches and demulcents for throat inflammations . Seeds can be dried and preserved for human consumption as a vegetable in the arid lands of Eastern Africa. Bees seek the nectar from the flowers, producing an amber honey with a mild aroma which granulates rapidly. It has been used for desertification control, re-establishment of vegetative cover in degraded areas, sand dune fixation and wind erosion control. It also improves soil fertility by nutrient cycling after leaf fall .
Angola, Benin, Botswana, Botswana, Burkina, Burkina, Cameroon, Central African Repu, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Malawi, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Mozambique, Namibia, Namibia, Niger, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe
Haiti, Haiti, Leeward Is., Leeward Is., Taiwan
- Gum arabic
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International Plant Names Index
The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
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Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
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