|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
syn: A. spirocarpa A. Rich., A. raddiana Savi
Borana: dadach, dadacha, urbu-ree (fruits) Daasanach: seech-geebe, sies-geebe (plural) English: umbrella thorn Gabra: d'addaca Ilchamus: ltepes, lkunyi Kamba: mulaa, muaa, ulaa (fruits) Kipsigis: chebitet Maa: oltepesi, sagararam (fruit) Malakote: dadacha, dadwota, dadech (young) Marakwet: ses, sesai (plural), sesoy (plural) Mbeere: mugaa Meru: mugaa Orma: gudis Pokot: ses, sesyai (plural), sesoy (plural) Rendille: gahar khabdo (pods), dahar, qubdo Samburu: ltepes, sagaram (fruits) Somali: qurah Swahili: mgunga Tugen: siesiet, sesya Turkana: ewoi (mature), etir (young)
Description: A spiny acacia, usually 4-8 m high but reaching 20 m in riverine vegetation. Crown narrow when young, spreading, fiat-topped and umbrella-like at maturity. BARK: Longitudinally fissured, dark grey. THORNS: Branches armed at each node with a straight white thorn as well as two short grey sharply recurved spines. FLOWERS: In white heads. FRUIT: A green-yellow to brown pod, often curled into a ring or crescent shape. Seeds smooth, greenish grey.
Ecology: Widespread in Africa from Algeria and Senegal to Eritrea and south to Angola, Namibia and Mozambique. Widespread in Kenya in dry bushland, bushed grassland, wooded grassland, riverine vegetation and arid-land scrub, 600-1,500 m. Soils very variable, from sandy to black cotton. Common in red soils. It is among the most drought-resistant acacias in Kenya. Rainfall: 200-900 mm. Zones IV-VII.
Uses: FOOD: Ripe fresh pods are eaten but seeds are discarded (+) (Maasai, Pokot, Turkana, Somali, Gabra, Daasanach). The crunchy pods have a faint sweet taste. Pods (ng'itit) are pounded, sieved to remove fibrous particles and the flour mixed with blood and eaten (Turkana). The gum is also eaten (Pokot, Turkana, Somali) but is of inferior quality, sticky and may cause choking.
MEDICINAL: Boiled infusion of bark used for diarrhoea and stomach-ache (Pokot).
OTHER: Fuelwood (+++), charcoal (+++), fibre (++) for weaving traditional baskets (Tharaka), kyondo (Kamba), ciondo (Mbeere); ropes and string for building and other purposes are obtained from the bark. This fibre was much used before the introduction of sisal. Thorns used as pins or needles. Fibre chewed for coated tongue, kivuti (Kamba). Debarked roots, which have tiny perforations, are smoked as a remedy for colds (Kamba, Tharaka). Leaves, young shoots, and especially dry pods, are excellent fodder (+++) for livestock, especially goats and camels. Shade and as a meeting place (Turkana). Fencing using dry branches.
CULTURAL/BELIEFS: Roots burned to reconcile families (Tharaka). The tree is believed to attract lightning (Tharaka).
COMMERCIAL: This is the most important acacia among pastoral communities. Pods sold for livestock (Lodwar, Mandera) and human food (Lodwar). Fuelwood and charcoal from this plant are widely sold in small market centres.
Season: Fruits in September-October (Machakos, Kajiado, Kitui, Tharaka).
Management: Seeds taken straight from the pod seldom germinate. Dormancy is broken when they pass through an animal gut, by scarification, bush fire or by hot-water treatment. Should not be planted near homes because of its thorns and the likelihood of attracting caterpillars that feed on the plant at certain seasons. Protection of some areas for some time to give young plants time to grow above the reach of goats may be the best way of increasing this useful tree. As this species is very drought-resistant it has a high potential for desert reclamation.
Status: Locally very common.
Remarks: Two subspecies occur in Kenya:
· ssp. spirocarpa (A. Rich.) Brenan (syn: A. spirocarpa A. Rich.). Fruit hairy and glandular. Distribution: Moyale, Kima (Machakos), Taveta. Eritrea and the Sudan south to Mozambique and Angola.
· ssp. raddiana (Savi) Brenan var. raddiana (syn: A. raddiana Savi). Fruit non-hairy and non-glandular. Distribution: Coastal area, Faza and Manda Islands, Lamu. Algeria and Senegal east to Egypt, Somalia and Kenya.