By: Rogia al-Shafee
KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - The laoat tree (Botanical name: Acacia oerfota) is indigenous of Sudan and in some parts of East Africa, having different names according to the respective region and its language.
The main characteristic of the tree is that its branches develop apart from each other, contrary to the situation when other trees’ branches usually seem to converge.
This situation has caused the conventional wisdom in Sudan to liken relatives who prefer to live apart from each other to the branches of the laoat tree. “These relatives are similar to the branches of the laoat tree. They never come closer to each other except in case of a death in the family,” so they put it because the laoat tree branches never meet until when they are cut, bound together and then burned to obtain charcoal.
But the laoat tree is not always that unfriendly. It has a lot of health and economic benefits.
Researcher Ahmed Ali Mustafa of Omdurman Islamic University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Botany said laoat is a somewhat obconical shrub which grows up to about 5 metres high. The branches often radiate from the base in all directions. The branchlets tend to be straight and are grey-white, with grey-white spines with brown tips, 0.5 to 1.5 cm long. The pinnae are in 3 to 12 pairs, with leaflets in 5 to 15 pairs, about 0.3 cm long. The flowers are off-white in globose heads, and are very fragrant. Pods are 5 to 10 cm long, 1.25 cm broad and pale yellow, pointed at both ends. The seeds are olive-green, with five to ten in a pod. It has an offensive smell when bruised or cut.
Acacia oerfota grows mainly on alluvial silt soils. It is found in north-east Africa from Egypt to Kenya, and also in Iraq and Iran. The tree grows wild in most of the Sudan’s states, with all of its parts having a health or economic value one way or another.
Botanist Ali said the bark extract is said to have medicinal value among the Borana of Ethiopia, where it is boiled with other stuffs for colds. The Samburu of Kenya use it for "women's stomach pain, hepatitis, fever and gonorrhea". The bark is peeled, soaked in water and drunk as tea.
In Sudan the seeds are used for colds and pharyngitis, tooth cavity, leather tanning. The bark is used by the locals as a cure for snake bites. The branches and trunk are used as firewood or burned into charcoal.
The laoat gum is more sticky than that of the hashab trees that help rank Sudan the World’s major natural gum producer (80%).
By that definition the laoat tree is more convenient for many industries such as pharmaceuticals, paints, dyes, photography, paper processing and matches sticks.
The laoat gum can also be consumed as a food supplement, due to its high nutritional value.
Laoat emulsions are also used in the treatment of diarrhea and colds.
Also according to Dr. Ali, the laoat emulsion can help with blood vessels problems.
All these characteristic qualify the laoat tree for opening a lot of investment avenues for the country, concluded Dr. Ali in a statement to Sudanow.
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