Vachellia seyal

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Red acacia
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Clade: Mimosoideae
Genus: Vachellia
V. seyal
Binomial name
Vachellia seyal
(Delile) P.J.H.Hurter
  • Vachellia seyal var. fistula (Schweinf.) Kyal. & Boatwr.
  • Vachellia seyal var. seyal (Delile) P.J.H.Hurter
Vachellia seyal bark
Vachellia seyal

Vachellia seyal, the red acacia, known also as the shittah tree (the source of shittim wood), is a thorny, 6–10 m (20–33 ft) high tree with a pale greenish or reddish bark. At the base of the 3–10 cm (1.2–3.9 in) feathery leaves there are two straight, light grey thorns, growing to 7–20 cm (2.8–7.9 in) long. The blossoms are displayed in round, bright yellow clusters approximately in 1.5 cm (0.59 in) diameter.

In Vachellia seyal var. fistula, which is more common on heavy clay soils, some of the thorns are swollen and house symbiotic ants.[2]

It is distributed from Egypt to Kenya and west Senegal. In the Sahara, it often grows in damp valleys. It is also found at wadis in the Arabian Peninsula.


Two varieties are recognized:[3][4]

  • Vachellia seyal var. fistula (Schweinf.) Kyal. & Boatwr.
  • Vachellia seyal var. seyal (Delile) P.J.H.Hurter


Vachellia seyal occasionally hybridizes with V. xanthophloea.


Gum arabic[edit]

Vachellia seyal is, along with other Vachellias, an important source for gum arabic, a natural polysaccharide, that exudes from damaged stems and solidifies.[5] The gum of Vachellia seyal is called gum talha, from the Arabic name of the tree: ( Talh).


Parts of the tree have a tannin content of up to 18-20%. The bark and seed pods of Vachellia seyal var. seyal have a tannin content of about 20%.[4]


Wood from the tree is said to have been used in Ancient Egypt to make coffins and also the Ark of the Covenant.[6]

Medicinal uses[edit]

Acacia tree in Ein Khadra Desert Oasis, Nuweibaa, South Sinai, Egypt.


The bark is used to treat dysentery and bacterial infections of the skin, such as leprosy. The bark is also used as a stimulant.[5]


The gum is used as an aphrodisiac, to treat diarrhoea, as an emollient, to treat hemorrhaging, inflammation of the eye, intestinal ailments and rhinitis. The gum is used to ward off arthritis and bronchitis.[5]


Incense from the wood is used to treat pain from rheumatism and to keep expectant mothers from contracting rhinitis and fevers.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ILDIS LegumeWeb
  2. ^ Young, T.P.; Cynthia H. Stubblefield; Lynne A. Isbell (December 1996). "Ants on swollen-thorn acacias: species coexistence in a simple system". Oecologia. 109 (1): 98–107. doi:10.1007/s004420050063. PMID 28307618.
  3. ^ ILDIS
  4. ^ a b "Tables (Cont. c)". Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  5. ^ a b c d Purdue University
  6. ^ Vachellia seyal in BoDD – Botanical Dermatology Database