Acacia karroo*

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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
Alstonia congensis
Alstonia scholaris
Altingia excelsa
Anacardium occidentale
Andira inermis
Annona cherimola
Annona muricata
Annona reticulata
Annona senegalensis
Annona squamosa
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
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Typical habit of dwarf coastal form found on heavy clay soils
© Ellis RP
Deep golden yellow pom-pom like flowers borne in long, loosley packed terminal panicle-like sprays. Synchronised flowering occurs at regular intervals throughout spring and summer. Srongly scented and provides excellent bee food.
© Ellis RP
Grey, relatively smooth bark of this ecotype of sweet thorn. Differs from typical dark, rough, longitudinally fissured bark.
© Ellis RP
Densely coppicing sweet thorn specimen forming a multistemmed shrub. Coppicing may be caused by chopping, browsing or burning.
© Avenant PL

Acacia karroo is an evergreen tree 3-15 m tall, rarely shrubby; bark on trunk dark red-brown to blackish; young branchlets glabrous or rarely sparsely and inconspicuously puberulous, also with small inconspicuous pale to reddish sessile glands; epidermis flaking off to expose a dark rusty red, not powdery under bark, sometimes grey to brown and persistent; stipules spinescent, up to 7 (max. 17) cm long, rather robust, whitish, often deflexed, sometimes fusiform-inflated, up to 1 cm or more.

Leaves with small to large (sometimes paired) gland at the junction of each pinna-pair, rarely lacking at the basal 1-2 pairs; sometimes a large gland on the upper side of the petiole; pinnae 2-7 pairs; leaflets 5-15 pairs, 4-7 x 1-3 mm, glabrous or rarely with minutely ciliolate margins, glandular, obtuse to subacute but not spinulose-mucronate at the apex; lateral nerves invisible on the underside.

Flowers deep or golden yellow, in axillary pedunculate heads 8-12 mm in diameter borne along shoots of the current season, sometimes aggregated into leaflets’ terminal racemes. Calyx 1.25-2 mm long, subglabrous; corolla 2.5-3 mm long, glabrous or almost so.

Pods dehiscent, 6-16 x 0.6-0.9 cm, linear, falcate, usually constricted between the seeds, glabrous except for small usually inconspicuous glands; seeds olive-green to brown, 5-8 x 3-5 mm, oblong-elliptic, compressed; areole 4.5-5.5 x 2-3.5 mm.

The generic name ‘acacia’ comes from the Greek word ‘akis’, meaning a point or a barb. The specific name ‘karoo’ does not signify that this is a species of the Karroo alone, but that it is a principal and most conspicuous tree of this semi-desert of southern Africa.

Ecology

A pioneer species with a climax of 40 years, it occupies a successional position between the tropical forest and the bushveld. It grows in riverine communities and even in arid environments, where it can do well provided there is an assured supply of groundwater. Large specimens are an indicator of underground water. A. karroo is included in the national weed list in South Africa. It competes for space, water and nutrients with pasture grasses, thus replacing them. Sweet thorn is frost- and drought-tolerant.

Native range
Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Tree management

Stand establishment  of this species is either through natural regenerations or planting stock. A. karroo tolerates drought, fire, frost and termites. It also regenerates rapidly through suckers and fixes nitrogen. It is difficult to handle due to its thorns, and it is an aggressive colonizer, easily taking over grasslands. Its invasive root system means that it is unsuitable for planting near buildings or paved pathways.

Seed must be soaked in hot water, left overnight, and then sown the next morning. Seeds are planted either directly into small black nursery bags or in flat seedling trays filled with seedling mix. Seeds germinate in 3-12 days.

A pioneer species with a climax of 40 years, it occupies a successional position between the tropical forest and the bushveld. It grows in riverine communities and even in arid environments, where it can do well provided there is an assured supply of groundwater. Large specimens are an indicator of underground water. A. karroo is included in the national weed list in South Africa. It competes for space, water and nutrients with pasture grasses, thus replacing them. Sweet thorn is frost- and drought-tolerant.

In its natural range, A. karroo is reported as being easy to raise from seed and has been planted widely for firewood on experimental plots in South Africa and Botswana.

Poison:  Roots are placed in fowl runs to control external parasites.

It is universally accepted for use as a rehabilitation plant in degraded sites and dunes. It flushes when the temperatures are highest and before the rains, when there is a great need for shade to reduce soil temperatures.

  The gum is eaten as a confection; seeds are substitute for coffee, and children chew the sweet thorns.

Foliage, flowers and green pods are important browse for livestock. Cattle do not browse it as much as do goats, when it is the only green forage in the woodland at the end of the dry season. Green foliage and pods contain 14-15% proteins (as percentage of dry matter).

Apiculture:  The long flowering season makes it a useful tree for apiculture. Bees collect pollen and nectar from the flowers.

It burns brightly, with very little smoke and no odour. It splits easily and once dried does not absorb moisture from the atmosphere. It has calcium oxalate crystals that give its embers high temperatures and make them long lasting. These clean burning traits, ideal for cooking and heating, make it excellent firewood wherever it grows. In the coastal dunes of Zululand, South Africa, it is reputed as an excellent charcoal source.

Fibre:  Root bark is used for twine and rope (like in the traditional Nama mat house).

Timber:  Few trees reach a commercial size, limiting their commercial use. The wood saws easily, planes to a smooth finish, is moderately durable, and glues and varnishes well for furniture. It is, however, likely to twist in seasoning and is susceptible to attack by borers and fungi. Kraft properties have been tested, and it pulps quite easily under standard kraft macro-pulping conditions.

Tannin or dyestuff:  The Nama people of southern Africa extract a red dye from the bark. The bark contains up to 19% tannins, which when used for tanning, give the leather a red colour.

Medicine:  In Zimbabwe, a root infusion is taken for pain in the alimentary canal, rheumatism, convulsions, gonorrhea and as an aphrodisiac. Root powder is applied to penile sores for syphilis. A bark decoction is an emetic for diarrhoea in humans and ‘tulp’ poisoning in cattle.

Gum or resin:  A.  karroo gum is used regionally in southern Africa as a substitute for gum arabic. It cannot be exported to Europe or the USA because it has not been cleared for toxins. Annual production is 25-30 t/ha.

Nitrogen fixing:  Nodulation increases soil fertility through nitrogen fixation. In the communal areas of Zimbabwe, it is well known that dryland crop yields increase where A. karroo has grown and been cleared.

Soil improver:  It stimulates the development of an understorey of perennials, palatable and nutritious grasses (Cenchrus ciliaris, Panicum maximum) through providing them shade, fixing nitrogen and improving soil structure and infiltration. A.  karroo is considered to be a good indicator of fertile soils for crops and an indicator of surface or underground water.

Intercropping:Its deep root system and nodulation make A. karroo suitable for intercropping.