What is the Acacia tree?
Acacia is a genus that contains about 1350 species of trees and shrubs usually native to the tropical and subtropical regions on the Planet. They are very common in Australia, where they are called a wattle. Another home for acacia is the continent of Africa. The tree has become a landmark for the African savanna scenery. However, the genus Acacia is also seen in some European countries as well. Although some of the species of acacia might look entirely different, they are still part of the same Fabaceae pea family. The genus name comes from the Greek word akakia meaning thorny Egyptian tree.
The first files about Acacia trees were introduced by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who was also a zoologist, taxonomist, and physician. In the year 1773, he first described the Acacia nilotica which is a native species of Africa. The first observations stated that the Acacia species are pod-bearing, with sap leaves.
The species of the acacia tree that was introduced to Europe around the 1740s is the Robinia or also known as the black locust. The plant has become the main reforestation plant in Romania and Hungary. And because of this, nowadays the two countries have the biggest acacia forests in Europe. In Romania, the fast-growing plant covers over 270 thousand hectares and it grows best in the Danube region of Southern Romania. And because of the big acacia plantation in the country, regions like Bărăgan, Steppe, and Dobrogeana have been named the main acacia wood producers.
Some of the amazing characteristics of acacias are the small flowers, pinnate leaves, and high tannin content which sometimes leads to the plant being used for leather making. The African species of the genus are considered quite thorny compared to the ones in Australia.
5 Acacia species:
1. Silver wattle
Another species are the silver wattle or also known by the name of Acacia dealbata is a big tree with yellow flowers. This is one of the few plants that stay the same colour and shape all year round and it’s evergreen. The silver wattle is also the most widely grown acacia tree type in the UK. This tree is often planted in garden centres or naturally grown in forest areas.
2. Sydney golden wattle
Also known as Acacia longofolia, the Sydney golden wattle is a shrub with sharply angled, hairless twigs. The acacia trees are decorated with beautiful pale to golden yellow flowers between the months of July and August and their seeds are with cup-shaped appendages. This acacia species is also one of the most invasive species and is extremely widespread.
The seeds are spread in soil and often by water movement from old hedges and roadsides. This plant is common for dry fernland, bare land, and coastal areas.
3. Hickory wattle
Acacia implexa or also acacia mangium is native to islands and grows in the land of Papua New Guinea. Not as common as other acacia species this plant is a tall spreading tree usually 5-12m high. It has grey bark and sickle-shaped leaves.
4. Black wattle
Also known as acacia decurrens or early green wattle this tree blooms between July and September and grows between 2-15m. The leaves are dark green on both sides and arranged in 15-45 pairs of widely spaced branches. Cultivated throughout Africa, Australia, and the southwestern united states, the black wattle is extremely fast-growing.
5. Spreading wattle
Another species is the spreading wattle or also known as acacia genistifolia. This native to southeastern Australia plant is a small shrub reaching a maximum of 3m in height and it has narrow phyllodes with a length of 25-30mm. The blooming period is between springtime and late summer. The flowers are cream to pale yellow in colour.
Other plants, closely related to the acacia family are the black locust and teak wood.
Another name for the black locust is Robina pseudoacacia and it’s a medium-sized tree belonging to the tribe of Robinieae. The tree grows in Europe, Southern Africa, Asia, and North America. Another name for the species is false acacia.
Teak wood comes from the teak tree, which is a tropical hardwood tree species from the family Lamiaceae. The tree is large and deciduous and can be seen in mixed hardwood forests. It can be recognized for its fragrant white flowers arranged in dense clusters at the end of the branches. Teak wood has a leather-like smell when freshly cut and it’s valued for its durability and water resistance. This wood is often used in boat building, exterior construction, and furniture
What is Acacia used for?
In Biblical times acacia was used for the building of the Tabernacle and its utilities: the Ark of the Covenant, the Altar and the Table, and the Pillars of the Curtain. And for that, the acacia is considered an honourable tree.
Acacia is a robust and firm wood with a high density which makes it perfect for building and supporting wood products. Therefore, its most common use is for hardwood furniture and construction.
The material is very durable and it’s considered one of the greatest furniture materials. It is very often used for dining tables and benches.
Acacia gums are used in food too as a foodstuffs thickener. They promote a balanced and textured consistency amongst foods like gravies, jams, soups, dressings for salads, sauces, and cake batter.
One extremely valuable product extracted by acacia trees is gum arabic. Gum arabic is a natural product, consisting of gum of the hardened soap of two species of the acacia tree – Senegalia Senegal and Vachellia seyal. Other names for the product are gum Sudan, Acacia gum, Arabic gum, Senegal gum, Indian gum, and others. Gum arabic is an extremely abundant polysaccharide in nature and has excellent water solubility and biocompatibility paired with low cost.
The product is used in traditional lithography as well as printing, paint production, glue, and some cosmetics. Other purposes of the gum are emulsifiers, thickening agents in icing, fillings, chewing gum, and numerous other confectionery treats.
According to the Handbook of Hydrocolloids (Second Edition), 2009 by P.A. Williams, G.O. Phillips a new process has been created to produce a modified version of the gum with much better emulsification properties and commercial use. This new gum is classified as “Super gum” and the natural qualities of the original gum with reproducible and improved functionalities.
Acacia is also used by doctors to heal wounds in tropical environments. Scientists believe that alkaloids, glycosides, and flavonoids are the reason for the wound healing effects of acacia.
Some extracts of acacia such as catechu, a.k.a. black khair promote oral health. Therefore, it can be used as an ingredient in mouthwash or other dental products.
The spiritual meaning of acacia.
Like most plants, acacia has a spiritual meaning too. The plant is considered by many cultures as a symbol of persistence, restoration, and honesty. Its evergreen nature is a reflection of the human soul as an entity.
Acacia Flower Meaning:
The acacia flowers don’t have thorns, therefore they symbolize the purity of the soul and its beauty.
What is Acacia Honey?
Acacia honey is 100% pure and natural, sweet nectar derived from the acacia plant. It’s considered a superfood because of its multiple health benefits. This product can be used externally and internally in combination with many other products. Because of its higher levels of fructose honey is the best natural sweetener and a great substitute for white sugar.
Acacia honey is also great for savoury recipes as well as desserts. One of the best ways to use this honey in dishes is glazing. Honey in general is a great glazing ingredient. You can glaze vegetables before roasting them, beef, duck, or any kind of product you would roast. Acacia honey can also be combined with other ingredients for more flavourful results. Mustard is one of the products that go extremely well with honey in recipes. Try it and you will see!
Read our Acacia Honey Recipes by Rachel Haron article or Oats Carbs Fest with Delicious Acacia Honey by @thehungry.medic for extremely “honeylicious” and exclusive breakfast recipes.
Acacia honey crystallizes very slowly because of the high contents of fructose and it’s the least allergic of all other honey types. This type of honey is low in pollen and it’s the most suitable one for people who suffer from allergies.
Because of its slow crystalization, acacia honey is a great choice if you don’t consume honey daily because it will keep its shape for a long time, which also prevents food waste.
This honey is light in texture and colour and has a neutral floral scent. And because of its mild flavour, acacia is the most common type of honey to be used for cooking.
As already established acacia honey is a natural sweetener. Because of its low glycemic index, honey is used as a natural sweetener in many products and recipes. This makes it an ideal food in diets and the favourite treat for weight watchers. It’s a great substitute for industrial sugars and we highly recommend you choose it as much as possible instead of white sugar.
Another great use of acacia honey is when in a workout regime. Honey, in general, is a great energy resource and two tablespoons before a workout, especially when combined with nuts such as walnuts or even whole wheat bread will give you the kick you need to sustain your workout program.
Like many other varieties of honey, acacia has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and laxative components. And because of its beneficial properties, acacia honey is often used for healing or dietary purposes such as constipation, blood circulation, and calming effects.
Acacia honey increases the red blood cells in the body which improves blood flow and helps blood circulation. This product is also great for people with medical conditions that predispose to the lack of red blood cells such as Anemia. Also due to its high mineral content acacia honey boosts immunity which is essential for people with Anemia. A spoonful of honey and a handful of walnuts is a great way to start the day, giving your body a boost of energy and raising your sugar levels to sustain you all day.
Acacia honey is also great if you find yourself constipated. With its laxative properties rest assured that this will give you the wanted effect. When consumed honey helps decrease intestinal inflammations and the detoxification of the liver. Acacia honey also has a probiotic effect. The oligosaccharides are complex sugars contained in the honey, which are believed to contribute to the anti-diabetic effect of honey and have beneficial effects on lipid (fat) levels. They are not digested in the upper gastrointestinal tract and go to the large intestine where they fulfil their prebiotic properties for the gut unlike the simple sugars in honey who have a different path once consumed.
Acacia honey is famous for its calming effects. It helps the body fight nervous and anxiety disorders plus stress and insomnia. Before going to sleep add a tablespoon of honey to a glass of milk or to a calming tea (usually Chamomile) and enjoy a peaceful and unbothered sleep. The reason honey helps with sleep is that it makes the brain release melatonin, which is the main hormone that the body uses to restore its strength during sleep.
This happens because of a chain of transformations in the brain starting with honey’s sugars spiking the insulin levels and then releasing tryptophan, which then becomes serotonin, which turns into melatonin. It also provides fuel for the brain throughout the night. Another thing honey does if consumed before bed is to restock glycogen in the liver. If glycogen levels are low signals are being sent to the brain alarming that it’s time to eat which might disrupt sleep.
When choosing honey, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Do you want honey that is light in colour and flavour, or something darker and more intense? Do you want a honey that will work well in baking, or one that you can add to your morning tea? Once you know what kind of honey you want, you can narrow down your options and find the perfect variety for you.