Wild Plants of Pakistan








A small thorny, deciduous tree with yellowish white bark and feathery crown, reaching a height of 3 – 6 m and a girth of 30 – 60 cm, old branches glaucous-grey, commonly known as Khair or Kumta in Sindhi / Urdu whereas, Gum Arabic tree / Gum senegal tree in English, it is a native to Sudan, it is widely distributed in West Pakistan (Sindh and Baluchistan); India; Arabia; and in Tropical Africa. Flowers white / creamy white, fragrant in axillary, its pods are straight, strap-shaped, bearing 5 - 6 seeds, flowering from August – December.

Acacia senegal is extremely hardy and resistant to drought, and is considered one of the main cash crops of the desert region. It tolerates high daily temperatures (mean maximum temperatures of up to 45oC or more), dry wind, and sandstorms. It prefers coarse-textured soils such as fossil dunes, but it will also grow on slightly loamy sands and skeletal soils such as Lithosols. The best sites have pH of 5 to 8.

It is grown in agroforestry systems especially in the Sudan in "gum gardens” for gum as well as to restore soil fertility and it also provides fuel and fodder. It is important for desertification control through sand dune stabilization and wind breaks. It yields the true gum arabic of commerce, which is also known as Senegal gum.

The principal use of gum arabic in confectionary as an emulsifier, for preserving flavours of soft drinks and spray-dried instant foods, and also in the manufacture of chewing gums. It is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a binding agent in the manufacture of cough pastilles and other medical preparations or as a coating for pills. Another major use of gum arabic is in the manufacture of adhesives for domestic and office use, for stamps and envelopes. It is also used in lithographic printing and to a small extent in sizing of paper and cloth, and in the textile industry for finishing silk and crepe. It has a variety of applications in the paint and ink industry and in cosmetics.

Gum arabic is a demulcent and emollient, used internally for intestinal troubles and externally to cover inflamed surfaces, such as burns and sores and nodular leprosy. The gum is also used for hair set and as a suspending agent. The wood takes beautiful polish and is used for weaver’s shuttles, fuel wood and charcoal.

The bark of the long flexible strands of the surface roots furnishes a fibre. It is used for cordage, well ropes, fishing nets, horse girths and foot ropes. The roots are said to be used for dysentery, gonorrhoea and nodular leprosy. The seeds are sometimes eaten as a vegetable. The leaves and fallen flowers are often collected for cattle fodder.