Red Acacia / Shittah

Acacia seyal
(Acacia hockii)

Luaa or Mugaa, Acacia seyal, Eldoret, Kenya, photo © by Michael Plagens

Observed in a pasture area near Eldoret, Kenya. January 2012. I am reasonable certain ot this plant's identification. Some authorities have moved this and related acacias to Vachellia.

galls on seed pods of Acacia seyal, Eldoret, Kenya, photo © by Michael Plagens

The developing seed pods play host to one or more species of gall-causing insects. The swollen pod segments may be strangely hirsute or else bright red and are probably caused by the larvae of chalcidoid wasps less than 2 mm long. On a future trip I hope to collect some galls and examine the emerging insects. Eldoret, December 2012.

FLOWERS: Yellow-orange flowers small and densely packed into spherical clusters. Color is from the stamen filaments.
close view of bark, Acacia seyal, Eldoret, Kenya, photo © by Michael Plagens
SHRUB or TREE: Scrubby plant on rangeland. Typically trees have reddish, powdery bark, but some varieties have greenish-yellow and peeling bark bark. This was once used to distinguish A. hockii from A. seyal. Left undisturbed it reaches tree size.

LEAVES: Leaves are twice compound with the ultimate segments quite small so the leaves appear feathery.

RANGE: This plant is native, but because it is resistant to cattle and goats it is often abundant in poorly managed pastures. Found at mid elevations up to 2000m.

FRUIT: The bean pods are slender and flattened. The seeds remain attached to the pods by slender threads for a while after it splits opens.

ARMED. Spines are a few cm long, sometimes shorter or longer and typically gray to white in color.

foliage and flowers of Acacia hockii, photo © Michael Plagens

Fabaceae -- Bean Family -- Mimosoideae - Mimosa Sub-Family

More Information:

Camponotus visiting buds on Acacia seyal, vicinity of Eldoret, Kenya. Photo © by Michael Plagens

Ants play a role in this and other acacias dominance on overgrazed pastures. The ants get sweet sustanence from glands on new buds and help defend the plant from herbivorous insects.


Kenya Natural History

Michael J. Plagens, Created on 10 September 2012,
updated 22 November 2013