|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
English: whistling thorn Borana: waachu, waachu-adi, waaqu-hallu Gabra: iddaado, iddad'o Ilchamus: lerai, lera Kamba: kisewa (Machakos), mweya Kikuyu: mugaa Kipsigis: mugurit Luo: ali, ale, arombe Maa: olerai, elereta, elereta-nanyokie, oljerai, olerai-oibor (Ngong) Marakwet: rena, renon (plural) Mbeere: mureera Pokot: rena, chowogh, chuwugh Rendille: fulai Samburu: lerai, lera Somali: fullai (Mandera), fulai Teso: ekoramai Turkana: ekoromait, echekereng
Description: Thorny tree up to 10 m high with an open flat-topped crown at maturity. Trunk often with many bulging knots. BARK: Yellowish to greenish white or orange-red and powdery on the surface, green inside. THORNS: White, long, straight, in pairs. They may or may not be galled. FLOWERS: In bright yellow to orange fluffy heads. FRUIT: A slightly curved, narrow dehiscent pod.
Ecology: Widespread in eastern Africa from Egypt in the north to Malawi and Zambia in the south. In Kenya, absent in the coastal zone but widespread in the drier parts of the country in open or bushed grassland and woodland, especially at the foot of hills and on plains, 200-2,200 m, more common at about 1,500 m. Often found forming pure stands. Common on black cotton and rocky soils, less frequently on red soils. Zones III - V.
Uses: FOOD: Inner bark fibre chewed for its nice rather sweet taste (++). The tree produces an excellent clear gum (+++). Bark is ground and used to make tea (Maasai).
OTHER: Poles, fodder (++), bee forage, fuelwood (++), dye, charcoal (++).
COMMERCIAL: Gum occasionally exported along with gum arable but is less valuable as it cracks with time.
Season: Flowers in September-October (Naivasha, Kajiado).
Management: Best propagated by seed. Soaking in water for a day or nicking may improve germination.
Remarks: Two varieties of this species occur in Kenya:
· var. seyal is the more common of the two and has no galls. Distribution: From Uganda and Tanzania north to Egypt. Altitude: 550-2,200 m.
· var. fistula (Schweinf.) Oliv. (Borana: wachu dima, Somali: fulaii wajol) has ant galls. Distribution: Baringo, Wajir, Isiolo, Marsabit. From Sudan, Somalia south to Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Altitude: 200-1,750 m. Use: Gum edible and of some commercial value.
Acacia xanthophloea Benth., (English: fever tree, Naivasha thorn, Kamba: mweya, Maa: olerai) is a much larger acacia. It usually has the same uses and local names as A. seyal. Ecology: Most drier parts of Africa, and East Africa south to eastern Zimbabwe and KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.
Common at medium altitudes 1,400-2,300 m, especially Nairobi, Kajiado, Narok and Naivasha, especially in riverine conditions or places with high groundwater. Zones III-IV.