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Faidherbia albida.JPG
F. albida growing with palms and maize crops
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae[1]
(unranked): Mimosoid clade[1]
Genus: Faidherbia
Species: F. albida
Binomial name
Faidherbia albida
Faidherbia alba Distribution Map.svg
The range of Faidherbia albida.
Faidherbia albida - MHNT

Faidherbia is a genus of leguminous plants containing one species, Faidherbia albida, native to Africa and the Middle East. The species was formerly widely included in the genus Acacia as Acacia albida. It has also been introduced to Pakistan and India. Common names for it include apple-ring acacia (their circular, indehiscent seed pods resemble apple rings),[2] ana tree, balanzan tree, gao tree[3] and winter thorn.[4]

It is a thorny tree growing up 6–30 m (20–98 ft) tall and 2 m (6.6 ft) in trunk diameter. Its deep-penetrating tap root makes it highly resistant to drought. The bark is grey, and fissured when old. There are 11,000 seeds/kg. Faidherbia albida is not listed as being a threatened species.[4][5][6]

It grows in areas with 250–600 mm (9.8–23.6 in) of rain per year.[6]

Faiderbia albida is known in the Bambara language as balanzan and is the official tree of the city of Segou on the Niger River in central Mali. According to legend, Segou is home to 4,444 balanzan trees, plus one mysterious "missing tree" the location of which cannot be identified.

In Serer and some of the Cangin languages, it is called Saas. Saas figures prominently in the creation myth of the Serer people. According to their creation myth, it is the tree of life and fertility.[7]

The northernmost natural populations are found in relict groves in Israel (in the Shimron nature reserve, near the community settlement of Timrat). All of the trees in a given grove are genetically identical and seem to have multiplied by vegetative reproduction only, for thousands of years.[citation needed]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Faidherbia albida is important in the Sahel for raising bees, since its flowers provide bee forage at the close of the rainy season, when most other local plants do not.[8]

The seed pods are important for raising livestock, are used as camel fodder in Nigeria,[8] and are relished by elephant, antelope, buffalo, baboons and various browsers and grazers, though strangely ignored by warthog and zebra.[9]

The wood is used for canoes, mortars, and pestles and the bark is pounded in Nigeria and used as a packing material on pack animals. The wood has a density of about 560 kg/m3 at a water content of 12%.[10] The energy value of the wood as fuel is 19.741 kJ/kg.[8]

Ashes of the wood are used in making soap and as a depilatory and tanning agent for hides. The wood is used for carving; the thorny branches useful for a natural barbed fence.[11] Pods and foliage are highly regarded as livestock fodder. Some 90% of Senegalese farmers interviewed by Felker (1981) collected, stored, and rationed Acacia alba pods to livestock. Zimbabweans use the pods to stupefy fish. Humans eat the boiled seeds in times of scarcity in Zimbabwe.

It is also used for nitrogen fixation, erosion control for crops, for food, drink and medicine. Unlike most other trees, it sheds its leaves in the rainy season; for this reason, it is highly valued in agroforestry as it can grow among field crops without shading them.[4] The leaves from this legume tree are high in nitrogen, and can double yields in maize crops when added to the soil.[12]

Medicinal uses[edit]

The extract is used to treat ocular infections in farm animals.[8]

Regional names[edit]

Branch with flowers
Language Name
Afrikaans Ana, ana-boom
Arabic (Chad) حراز (Harraz)
Arabic (Sudan) حراز (Haraz, hiraz)
Bambara (Bamanankan) Balansan, balasa
Cangin Saas[7]
Dagomba Pùhù wúnì
Djerma Gao
English Apple-ring acacia, winterthorn
French Kad, cadde
Fula (Fulfulde; Pulaar) Cayki, caski
German Anabaum
Hausa Gao
Hebrew שיטה מלבינה (sheeta malbina)
Kuunda Musangu
Maasai Ol-erai
Moore Zanga, zaaga
Serer Saas[7]
Somali Garbi
Tabwa Muchese
Tamachek athes, ahtes, ates
Tonga Musangu, muunga
Turkana Edurukoit
Wolof Kad


  1. ^ a b The Legume Phylogeny Working Group (LPWG). (2017). "A new subfamily classification of the Leguminosae based on a taxonomically comprehensive phylogeny". Taxon. 66 (1): 44–77. doi:10.12705/661.3.
  2. ^ Armstrong, W. P. "Unforgettable Acacias, A Large Genus Of Trees & Shrubs". Wayne's Word. Archived from the original on 10 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  3. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/16/regreening-niger-how-magical-gaos-transformed-land
  4. ^ a b c ILDIS LegumeWeb
  5. ^ African Plants Database: Faidherbia albida Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b FAO: Handbook on Seeds of Dry-Zone Acacias
  7. ^ a b c (in French) Gravrand, Henry, "La civilisation sereer", vol. II : Pangool, Nouvelles éditions africaines, Dakar, 1990, pp. 125–127, ISBN 2-7236-1055-1
  8. ^ a b c d World AgroForestry
  9. ^ Kevin M. Dunham (1990). "Fruit production by Acacia albida trees in Zambezi riverine woodlands". Journal of Tropical Ecology. 6 (04): 445–457. doi:10.1017/S0266467400004843.
  10. ^ FAO: Role of acacia species in the rural economy of dry Africa and the Near East
  11. ^ VITA (1977)[full citation needed]
  12. ^ http://www.evergreenagriculture.net/sites/default/files/Evergreen%20Agriculture%20Garrity%20et%20al%20Food%20Security.pdf


External links[edit]