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For Acacia in the broader sense, see Acacia sensu lato.
Acacia smallii 4.jpg
A. farnesia, foliage and flower head
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Mimosoideae
Tribe: Acacieae
Genus: Acacia
Miller, 1754
Type species
Acacia nilotica (L.) Delile,
typified by Britton & Brown (1913:735)[1]

147; see text.

Vachellia Distribution Map.svg
  • Acacia subg. Acacia Vassal
  • Acaciopsis Britton & Rose
  • Aldina E.Mey.
  • Bahamia Britton & Rose
  • Delaportea Gagnepain
  • Farnesia Gasparrini
  • Feracacia Britton & Rose
  • Fishlockia Britton & Rose
  • Gumifera Raf.
  • Lucaya Britton & Rose
  • Myrmecodendron Britton & Rose
  • Nimiria Craib
  • Pithecodendron Speg.
  • Poponax Raf.
  • Protoacacia Mill.
  • Tauroceras Britton & Rose

Acacia (/əˈkʃə/ or /əˈksiə/) is a monophyletic genus[10] of flowering plants in the legume family, Fabaceae, commonly known as thorn trees or shittah trees. The genus name is derived via Latin from ancient Greek ακακία (akakia). It was the name used by Theophrastus and Dioscorides to denote thorn trees,[11] the word root being ἀκίς (akis)[12] or ἀκή (akḗ),[13] meaning "thorn" and "point" respectively.[14][15] Before discovery of the New World, Europeans in the Mediterranean region were familiar with several species of Acacia, which they knew as sources of medicine, and had names for them that they inherited from the Greeks and Romans.[11]

The wide-ranging genus occurs in a variety of open, tropical to subtropical habitats, and is locally dominant.[16] In parts of Africa, Acacias are shaped progressively by grazing animals of increasing size and height, such as gazelle, gerenuk and giraffe. The genus in Africa has thus developed thorns in defence against such herbivory.[17] They belong to the subfamily Mimosoideae, the major clades of which may have formed in response to drying trends and fire regimes that accompanied increased seasonality during the late Oligocene to early Miocene (∼25 mya).[18] Pedley (1978), following Vassal (1972), viewed Acacia as comprising three large subgenera, but subsequently (1986) raised the rank of these groups to genera Acacia, Senegalia (s.l.) and Racosperma,[10][19][20] which was underpinned by later genetic studies.[3][6] The International Code of Nomenclature provides that under the rules, if Acacia is dismantled, then the name Acacia follows the type.[9][21][22]


They are trees or shrubs, sometimes climbing, and are always armed. Younger plants especially, are armed with spines which are modified stipules, situated near the leaf bases. Some (cf. A. tortilis, A. hebeclada, A. luederitzii and A. reficiens) are also armed with paired, recurved prickles (in addition to the spines).[23] The leaves are alternate and bipinnately arranged, and their pinnae are usually opposite. The racemose inflorescences usually grow from the leaf axils. The yellow or creamy white flowers are produced in spherical heads, or seldom in elongate spikes, which is the general rule in the related genus Senegalia. The flowers are typically bisexual with numerous stamens, but unisexual flowers have been noted in A. nilotica (cf. Sinha, 1971).[24] The calyx and corolla are usually 4 to 5-lobed. Glands are usually present on the rhachis and the upper side of the petiole. The seed pod may be straight, curved or curled, and either dehiscent or indehiscent.[23]

Species list[edit]

Of the 163 species, 52 are native to the Americas, 83 to Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands, 32 to Asia and 9 to Australasia and the Pacific Islands.[25]

Incertae sedis[edit]

The following species are suspected to belong to Acacia.[7]


  • Acacia × cedilloi (Rico Arce) Seigler & Ebinger
  • Acacia campechiana × pennatula
  • Acacia erioloba × haematoxylon
  • Acacia × gladiata (Saff.) Seigler & Ebinger
  • Acacia kirkii × seyal
  • Acacia macracantha × pennatula
  • Acacia seyal var. fistula × xanthophloea
  • Acacia × standleyi (Saff.) Seigler & Ebinger


  1. ^ Carruthers, Jane; Robin, Libby (February 2010). "Taxonomic imperialism in the battles for Acacia: Identity and science in South Africa and Australia". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 65 (1): 48–64. doi:10.1080/00359191003652066. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  2. ^ Seigler DS, Ebinger JE. (2005). "New combinations in the genus Vachellia (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) from the New World.". Phytologia 87 (3): 139–78. 
  3. ^ a b Kyalangalilwa B, Boatwright JS, Daru BH, Maurin O, van der Bank M. (2013). "Phylogenetic position and revised classification of Acacia s.l. (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) in Africa, including new combinations in Vachellia and Senegalia.". Bot J Linn Soc 172 (4): 500–523. doi:10.1111/boj.12047. 
  4. ^ Seigler DS, Ebinger JE. (2010). "New Combinations in Senegalia and Vachellia (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae)." (PDF). Phytologia 92 (1): 92–95. 
  5. ^ Maslin BR, Seigler DS, Ebinger J. (2013). "New combinations in Senegalia and Vachellia (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae) for Southeast Asia and China.". Blumea 58 (1): 39–44. doi:10.3767/000651913X669914. 
  6. ^ a b Clarke HD, Seigler DS, Ebinger JE. (2009). "Taxonomic Revision of the Acacia acuifera Species Group (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) in the Caribbean.". Syst Bot 34 (1): 84–101. doi:10.1600/036364409787602285. 
  7. ^ a b Maslin B. "List of Acacia sensu lato species". World Wide Wattle. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Kodela PG, Wilson PG (2006). "New combinations in the genus Vachellia (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) from Australia.". Telopea 11: 233–244. 
  9. ^ a b Maslin, B. R.; Orchard, A. E.; West, J. G. "Nomenclatural and classification history of Acacia (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae), and the implications of generic subdivision" (PDF). Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Rico Arce, M. de L.; Bachman, S. (16 May 2007). "A taxonomic revision of Acaciella (Leguminosae, Mimosoideae)". Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid 63 (2): 189–244. doi:10.3989/ajbm.2006.v63.i2.7. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Austin, Daniel F. (2004). Florida ethnobotany Fairchild Tropical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona: with more than 500 species illustrated by Penelope N. Honychurch ... [et al.] Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. pp. 58–59. ISBN 9780203491881. 
  12. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. 1 A-C. CRC Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2. 
  13. ^ Morris, William, ed. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1971.
  14. ^ Andorlini, Isabella. "ἀκακία". Medicalia Online. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  15. ^ Gledhill, David (2006). The names of plants (4th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780521866453. 
  16. ^ Shorrocks, Bryan; Bates, William (2014). The Biology of African Savannahs (Biology of Habitats Series ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 231–233. ISBN 0198702701. 
  17. ^ Chidumayo, Emmanuel N.; Gumbo, Davison J. (2010). The Dry Forests and Woodlands of Africa: Managing for Products and Services. Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 9781136531378. 
  18. ^ Bouchenak-Khelladi, Yanis; Maurin, Olivier; Hurter, Johan; van der Bank, Michelle (November 2010). "The evolutionary history and biogeography of Mimosoideae (Leguminosae): An emphasis on African acacias". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57 (2): 495–508. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2010.07.019. Retrieved 15 November 2015. 
  19. ^ Maslin, Bruce R. (2004). Classification and phylogeny of Acacia. In: Evolution of ecological and behavioural diversity: Australian Acacia thrips as model organisms. Australian Biological Resources Study and Australian National Insect Collection, CSIRO. pp. 97–112. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  20. ^ Boland, D. J. (2006). Forest trees of Australia (5th ed.). Collingwood, Vic.: CSIRO Publ. [u.a.] p. 127. ISBN 9780643069695. 
  21. ^ "Acacia". The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  22. ^ "Racosperma". The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  23. ^ a b Hyde, Mark; et al. "3446.000 Acacia Mill. - Thorn trees". Flora of Zimbabwe. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  24. ^ "Handbook on seeds of dry-zone acacias, 3. Reproductive biology". FAO Corporate Document Repository: Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  25. ^ Thiele, Kevin R. (February 2011). "The controversy over the retypification of Acacia Mill. with an Australian type: A pragmatic view" (PDF). Taxon 60 (1): 194–198. Retrieved 15 November 2015. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f Taxon in the A. karroo complex, see: Roland, Dr. Wolf-Achim. "The Acacia (s.l.)-karroo complex, Status 2014". Acacia World. Retrieved 20 November 2015. 
  27. ^ "Protected Trees" (PDF). Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Republic of South Africa. 3 May 2013. 
  28. ^ Seigler DS, García R, Mejía M, Ebinger JE. (2012). "A new species of Vachellia (Fabaceae: Mimosoideae) from Haiti". Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 6 (1): 45.