Acacia is a fascinating plant, with many species dispersed throughout the world. From California to Africa, the acacia genus has adapted to survive in a multitude of conditions. In this article, we’ll discuss the many varieties of acacia, where they grow, and how they manage to survive such diverse environments.
What You'll Learn Today
- Where Can Acacia Be Found?
- What Climate Does Acacia Grow In?
- How Do Acacia Trees Survive in the Savanna?
- Can Acacia Grow Anywhere?
- How Do Acacia Trees Reproduce?
Where Can Acacia Be Found?
Acacia refers to a genus of approximately 160 species of trees and shrubs. Acacias belong to the pea family Fabacae.
When you think of acacia, you might picture one with a backdrop of an African savanna. But this beautiful tree can be found in many different parts of the world.
Many different species of acacia are native to Australia, and some to Africa. In the United States, you can find acacia trees in states like California, Arizona, Hawaii, and Texas.
In some areas, like California, acacia trees are considered highly invasive. To learn more, check out this video that shows how to recognize some of the problematic varieties:
What Climate Does Acacia Grow In?
Acacia is a species that can adapt to surprisingly diverse climates, depending on the variety. Here are some of the most popular varieties of the plant, and their ideal climate:
Bailey acacia (Acacia baileyana)
More commonly known as a wattle, this variety is native to Australia. It thrives in sub-humid subtropical and tropical climates. Wattles grow in temperatures between 46 degrees and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Koa (Acacia koa)
Koa trees are native to Hawaii. They do best in tropical rainforests that receive heavy rainfall.
Sweet Acacia (Acacia farnesiana)
This is a small shrub or tree that grows well in warm temperate to tropical locations, such as wastelands and semi-dry grasslands. They prefer temperatures between 68 degrees and 89 degrees Fahrenheit.
Willow Acacia (Acacia salicina)
Willow acacias are native to Australia and grow well in drier climates. These trees are drought, wind, and frost tolerant.
Gum acacia (Acacia senegal)
Also known as the gum arabic tree, it grows well in its native Sudan and Northern Sahara climate. Gum acacia trees like heat, dry air, and full sun.
How Do Acacia Trees Survive in the Savanna?
Acacia trees, along with certain types of grasses and other trees, have developed many features to adapt to their environment. The acacia tree’s adaptations include:
Long, pointy barbs protrude from the tree, and it has developed a biological relationship with stinging ants. The ants live amongst the thorns and drink the nectar that the acacia tree produces. Together, the thorns and ants deter other creatures from eating the tree’s leaves.
The hot, dry climate they live in is prone to wildfires. As a result, the acacia tree has become more fire-resistant – some varieties can resprout then the base of the tree sustains fire damage.
Since the savanna sometimes has long periods of drought, the acacia has long tap roots that can reach deep underground water sources.
The tree has a defense mechanism to stop animals such as giraffes from eating its leaves. Once an animal starts to eat the leaves, a chemical is emitted that renders the remaining leaves inedible.
Can Acacia Grow Anywhere?
While acacia trees have developed some amazing adaptations to survive harsh conditions, this doesn’t mean that they can survive anywhere. The physical characteristics of acacia are best suited for its native environments.
Acacia trees only do well in desert-like and tropical areas. Each climate has higher temperatures. Acacias do not tolerate freezing conditions, and most generally start to suffer when the temperature dips below 40 degrees.
How Do Acacia Trees Reproduce?
Acacia trees mostly propagate by seed pods that hang from their branches. When the pods have matured, the tree will naturally start dropping seed pods.
In the wild, seed pods are dispersed by the wind and various critters to other areas, where new trees will start to grow. Outside of their natural habitat, seeds can be started indoors easily.
Some species of acacia are propagated more easily via cuttings from the parent plant. With this method, stem cuttings are collected and planted in potting soil.
The many climates and ecosystems that acacias are able to withstand make it a really interesting plant to learn about and one that has so many different uses.
Many people who recognize acacia as the dome-shaped trees in Africa or Australia probably don’t realize that they may have an acacia species growing closer than they think.