Acacia drepanolobium

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Acacia drepanolobium (Whistling thorn, black-galled acacia) is a plant in the legume family (Fabaceae).[1] It grows in eastern and Central Africa, including Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is "most commonly found in open black clay plains, dry rocky hillsides or wooded grassland. Often the dominant shrub in plains with black cotton soil at medium altitudes; less often in red clay soil and rocky areas."[1] It requires 500 to 1300mm rainfall annually.

Physical Description

"A spiny bush, shrub or small tree to 6 m high with an open spreading crown, flat-topped at maturity. More commonly a small shrub 1.5-3.5 m. Bark: Grey, usually smooth, older bark finely fissured. Thorns: White, straight, some galled at their base. Galls fleshy, hollow, up to 5cm in diameter, dark green to reddish purple when fresh, turning dark grey to black and usually inhabited by black or brown ants as they dry. Flowers: Numerous, in white heads. Fruit: A narrow reddish brown pod."[1]

Uses in Kenya

The fresh soft fleshy galls are edible as food. They have a sweet, often slightly bitter taste. They are eaten after they have turned from green to reddish purple and become hollow. In Machakos, the tree's inner bark fiber is sometimes chewed. "Galls are a favourite food for herdsmen."[1] Additionally, branches are used in fencing and mature plants can be used as wood for fuel. Leaves, shoots, and fresh soft galls are good food for goats and camels, and also to some extent for cattle and donkeys. Giraffes also use this plant as food. The fresh galls are found after the rainy season.

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 [Patrick M. Maundu, Grace W. Ngugi, and Christine H.S. Kabuye, Traditional Food Plants of Kenya, Kenya Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, 1999, p. 41.

External Resources

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