Babul (Acacia nilotica): Introduction, Classification, Origin, Distribution, Plant Description, Chemical constituents, and, Uses
Acacia nilotica is often referred to as the Egyptian thorn, Babul, or prickly tree. The nitrogen-fixing tree legume acacia serves a variety of purposes. It can be found anywhere from the sea to a height of nearly 2000 metres. It can tolerate temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius and air dryness, but while it is young, it is vulnerable to frost. From Egypt through Mauritania south to South Africa, it is widely distributed in subtropical and tropical Africa. In Asia, it is widely distributed east to Pakistan and India.
Class : Magnoliopsida
Scientific Name: Acacia nilotica
Common Name: Egyptian thorn, Babul, or Prickly tree
Origin and distribution
The species is found in Australia, Kenya, and most of Africa and Asia. In addition to the southern Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, the Gambia, Sudan, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria, the Indian gum Arabic tree can be found in well-watered Sahelian and Sudanian savannas. It is commonly grown on the Indian subcontinent and may also be found in India’s Himalayan foothills on lateritic soil.
1. Acacia nilotica is a single-stemmed plant that can reach heights of 15–18 m and diameters of 2–3 m.
2. Acacia nilotica, also known as prickly acacia or gommier rouge in French, is an evergreen, spiny legume tree that can withstand altitudes between 0 and 340 metres, temperatures between 4 and 470 degrees Fahrenheit on average, rainfall between 200 and 1270 millimeters on average, and a variety of soil types.
3. Pods and Seeds: Pods are 7–15 cm long, juvenile pods are green and tomentose, mature pods are greenish black, indehiscent, and severely constricted between the seed, giving the impression of a necklace. There are 8–12 compressed, ovoid, dark brown, shiny seeds per pod, and each one has a firm testa.
4. Leaves: The leaves are bipinnate, pinnate 3–10 pairs, 1.3–3.8 cm long, and have 10–20 pairs of leaflets that are 2–5 mm long.
5. Flowers: The flowers are globular heads that range in size from 1.2 to 1.5 cm in diameter and are bright golden yellow. They grow in axillary or whorly patterns on peduncles that are 2-3 cm long and are found at the ends of branches.
6. Stem: Stems typically have a dark to black colour, deep longitudinal fissures, a greyish-pink slash, and exude low-quality reddish gum.
7. Bark: Young trees have bark that is slightly orange or green, while older trees have bark that is dark and tough and tend not to have as many thorns.
8. Thorns: In young trees, the thorns are light grey, thin, straight, and found in axillary pairs (often 3–12). They are 5-7.5 cm long.
9. Root: In older and younger locations, the colour of the root is often brown.
10. Gum: The number of tannins in the sample determines the colour of the gum, which ranges from a very light yellowish brown to a dark reddish brown. The darker gum’s tannins make it less soluble in water and less valuable; the lighter gums are both soluble and exceedingly viscous. The gum is mildly dextrorotary and has a moisture level of 13%.
Development and Germination
The tropical species Acacia nilotica grows in India from sea level to elevations of more than 2000 m. During the rainy season, Prickly Acacia seeds germinate in the rain. Some seeds, however, may continue to germinate up to 15 years after being dropped. Near water, seedlings develop quickly, whereas, in open grasslands, they grow more slowly. It can resist daily maximum temperatures of 50°C and thrives best in average yearly temperatures between 15 and 28°C. When young, it is frost sensitive. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures for the hottest and coldest months, respectively, are 25–42°C and 6–23°C. Babul plants enjoy arid climates with annual rainfall between 100 and 250 millimeters (mm) and up to 2300 mm. This subspecies typically grows on clay-rich soils, while it can also grow on deep sandy loam in regions with higher rainfall. It frequently grows close to waterways on river flats that are periodically flooded and do well with salinity. Trees can bloom and bear fruit two to three years after germination, but this happens more quickly following heavy rain, typically between March and June. Pods form between July and December. The majority of leaves fall between June and November, while seed pods fall between October and January. Plant seeds are quite basic. The outer integument forms the testa after the inner integument degenerates. Meharia (2005) found that after receiving slat treatment, A. nilotica was more productive than A. tortilis. It thrives on black cotton soil and riverian alluvial soil, two different types of soil.
Major chemical constituents
Acacia species contain secondary metabolites such as amines and alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, cyclitols, fatty acids, seed oils, fluoroacetate, gums, nonprotein amino acids, terpenes (including essential oils, diterpenes, phytosterol, and triterpene genins and saponins), hydrolyzable tannins, flavonoids, and condensed tannins. The plant contains higher concentrations of cystine, methionine, threonine, lysine, tryptophan, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Chemicals found in plants include diester, pentacosane dioic acid dihexadecyl ester, and alcohol, heptacosane 1, 2, 3-triol.
Seeds: It contains a high percentage of phenolic compounds, including leucocyanidin, m-digallic dimer 3,4,5,7-tetrahydroxy flavan-3-ol, oligomer 3,4,7-trihydroxy flavan 3,4-diol, and 3,4,5,7-tetrahydroxy flavan-3-ol, as well as (-) epicatechol. The mature seed also includes large concentrations of potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, manganese, and carbohydrates. It is also a stronger source of cystine, methionine, threonine, lysine, and tryptophan. Mucilage and saponins are also found in fruit.
Pods: It includes condensed tannins, gallic acid, and its metabolite, digallic acid.
Leaf: It has 8% digestible protein (12.4% crude protein), rutin, and 6- and 8-bisD-glucoside. Deseeded pods have a relative tannin content of 50%, followed by pods (5.4%), leaves (7.6%), bark (13.5%), and twigs (15.8%) in the plant.
Bark: The tannin (12–20%), terpenoids, saponins, glycosides, gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, pyrocatechol, (+)-catechin, and (-) epigallocatechin5,7-digallate are all present in the bark (29). Its extract has a total phenolic content per 100 grams that ranges from 9.2 to 16.5 g.
Root: It contains B-amyrin, betulin, octaconsanol, and butyrate.
Gum: Gum is made up of galactoaraban, which when broken down into its component sugars, produces L-arabinose, D-galactose, L-rhamnose, D-glucuronic acid, and 4-O-methyl-D-glucuronic acid.
Acacia nilotica is a pioneer species that are utilized commercially as a source of tannins, gums, lumber, fuel, and fodder. It also has a comparatively high concentration of bioactive secondary compounds and is significant for several activities. Babul plant is used medicinally to treat conditions such as cancer, tumors, antiscorbutic, astringency, antioxidant activity, intestinal pain and diarrhoea, nerve stimulation, dysentery, fever, hemorrhages, leucorrhea, ophthalmia, and sclerosis.
Seed: Seeds have antimalarial, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, and antispasmodic properties.
Leaves & Pod: The leaves and pods are a great source of protein-rich, anti-inflammatory food. The pods have molluscicidal and algicidal qualities.
Bark: It is used to cure hemorrhages, colds, diarrhoea, TB, and leprosy.
Root: The flowers are used to heal syphilis sores, while the root acts as an aphrodisiac.
Gum: Gum obtained from trees is employed in pharmaceuticals as a suspending and emulsifying agent as well as in the creation of numerous formulations. Insects and water are repelled by its resins.
A plant that provides resilience
For human use, woody plants are grown for their leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, or other parts. A crucial multifunctional tree with numerous socioeconomic benefits is Acacia nilotica. For instance, Acacia nilotica-derived goods like gum, fuel, fodder, and medicines can be utilized to combat social poverty and prepare for climate change in rural areas. For instance, Acacia nilotica is utilized as green manure to enhance soil fertility, which may be a strategy for adapting to climate change. This offers a chance to improve food security and fight poverty. This is in line with the objectives of sustainable development. It is well known that farmers must look for food in the wild to survive during the lean season. These dietary items come from natural sources and are both animal and vegetable. In sub-Saharan nations like Nigeria and Sudan, for example, the fruits of A. nilotica are a good source of income for the populace thanks to the transformation of seeds into condiments. This process also produces a lot of byproducts that are used in pharmacopeia and for tanning and dyeing leather. This generates significant benefits for the community along the leather production chain, including other tree-derived goods. In the face of climate change, this might strengthen the population’s resilience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What are the benefits of Acacia nilotica?
Ans: Acacia nilotica is a pioneer species that are utilized commercially as a source of tannins, gums, lumber, fuel, and fodder. It also has a comparatively high concentration of bioactive secondary compounds and is significant for several activities. Babul plant is used medicinally to treat conditions such as cancer, tumors, antiscorbutic, astringency, antioxidant activity, intestinal pain and diarrhoea, nerve stimulation, dysentery, fever, hemorrhages, leucorrhea, ophthalmia, and sclerosis.
Question: Where is Acacia nilotica found in India?
Ans: In Western Maharashtra, Pune, Satara, Sangli, Ahmednagar, and Sholapur districts.
Question: What is the English name of Acacia nilotica?
Ans: Gum Arabic Tree
Question: What fruit is found in Acacia arabica?
Ans: Schizocarpic fruit
Question: What is the common name of Acacia arabica?
Question: What is the habitat of Acacia?
Ans: The species is found in Australia, Kenya, and most of Africa and Asia. In addition to the southern Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, the Gambia, Sudan, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria, the Indian gum Arabic tree can be found in well-watered Sahelian and Sudanian savannas