Gum arabic: Where in the World
habitat and range for gum arabic

Acacia nilotica is native from Egypt, across the Maghreb and Sahel, south to Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and east through Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan, India and Burma. It has become widely naturalized outside its native range including Zanzibar and Australia.

Gum arabic: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on gum arabic

Acacia nilotica is a tree of the Fabaceae family 5–20 m high with a dense spheric crown, stems and branches usually dark to black colored, fissured bark, grey-pinkish slash, exuding a reddish low quality gum. The tree has thin, straight, light, grey spines in axillary pairs, usually in 3 to 12 pairs, 5 to 7.5 cm (3 in) long in young trees, mature trees commonly without thorns. The leaves are bipinnate, with 3–6 pairs of pinnulae and 10–30 pairs of leaflets each, tomentose, rachis with a gland at the bottom of the last pair of pinnulae. Flowers in globulous heads 1.2–1.5 cm in diameter of a bright golden-yellow color, set up either axillary or whorly on peduncles 2–3 cm long located at the end of the branches. Pods are strongly constricted, hairy, white-grey, thick and softly tomentose. Its seeds number approximately 8000/kg.

common names & nomenclature
The generic name of this plant derives from the Greek akakia, which derives from the Greek word for its characteristic thorns. The species name nilotica was given by Linnaeus from this tree's best-known range along the Nile river.

Also known as:
gum arabic tree, acacia, egyptian thorn, kher, dreidorn-skazie, arabisches gummi, gomme arabique vraie, gum acacia, acaciae gummi, gummi arabicum, khordofan gum, senegal gum, west african gum, babul/kikar, sant tree, al-sant, prickly acacia, thorn mimosa, scented thorn, karuvela maram, acacia gum, chaar gund, char goond, or meska

Gum arabic: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting gum arabic

Dry savanna (grassland) and Sahel (desert edge), scattered, often in thickets, and sometimes in extensive pure stands.

Prefers light sandy soil, slightly loamy sand and skeletal soils (lithosols) but it prefers coarse-texture soils such as fossil dunes.

When propagating this species by seed it is important to note that the seeds are hard coated and must be scarified (subjected to mechanical abrasion or hot water treatment) before sowing.

Gum arabic is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from certain species of the acacia tree.

Acacia senegal is tapped for gum by cutting holes in the bark, from which a product called kordofan or Senegal gum is exuded. Seyal gum, from Acacia seyal, the species more prevalent in East Africa, is collected from naturally occurring extrusions on the bark. The hardened extrusions are collected in the middle of the rainy season (harvesting usually begins in July), and exported at the start of the dry season (November). This hardened sap is often ground into a dried powder.

Store gum arabic in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.