Microscopy: Technical Information Sheet

ACACIA CATECHU

Cutch Acacia catechu (L. f.) Willd. Leguminosae (Mimosoideae)

The genus Acacia contains about 1,200 species native to the tropics.

Other Common Names: Acacia de la India, acacia des Indes, acacia indiana, baga, black catechu, black cutch, cachu, catechu, catechu tree, cathecu, cutch, cutch-tree, Indian acacia, Indische acacia, indisk akacia, kaderi, kagli, kair, karan-galli, kath, khaderi, khair, khair-babul, khoira, khoiru, kjair, koir, lal khair, mgenda, mgunga, nya, red cutch, sandra, sha, shaji, shemi, si-siat-nua, tun-sa-se.

Distribution: Cutch is native to central and east Africa, southern Asia, Bhutan, Burma China (Guangdong, Guangxi Yunnan and southern Zhejiang), India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

The Tree: A moderate sized deciduous tree with rough, dark gray-brown bark. It is one of the hosts for lac insects.

The Wood: The wood of Acacia catechu is light to dark red, darkening upon exposure. It is smooth and lustrous, taking a fine polish, with a coarse texture and close, straight grain. It is strong, very hard, heavy and durable. It is difficult to work, due to its hardness and extractive content. It has a high specific gravity of 0.98, with a weight of 61 pounds per cubic foot.

Uses: Cutch is a multipurpose tree, whose wood extractives are used for tanning, dyeing (khaki), treating fishing nets and sails, medicinally (keersal – a pale crystalline deposit) and as a masticatory with pan or betel-leaf (kath). A pale yellow mucilaginous gum exudes from the tree, yielding one of the best substitutes for true gum arabic.

The wood is used for structural work, house-posts, wells, agricultural implements, rice pestles, cane crushers, oil mills, clod crushers, hookah stems, bows, spear handles, tools and tool handles, sword handles, rolling pins, flutes, furniture, boats, firewood and charcoal for goldsmiths and wheel teeth and spokes.

Toxicity: Dermatitis from dyed uniforms known as Khaki probably resulted from fabric finishes or chromate rather than from the dye itself although effects of the dye could not be excluded. [Mitchell & Rook, 1979]

References Used & Additional Reading:

1. Corkhill, T. The complete dictionary of wood. New York: Stein and Day; 1979.

2. Dastur, J. F. Useful plants of India and Pakistan. Bombay, India: D.B. Taraporevala Sons & Co. Ltd.; 1949.

3. GRIN. GRIN/NPGS Taxonomy information. Acacia catechu (L. f.) Willd. http//www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?803:Germplasm Resources Information Network; 1998.

4. Kribs, D. A. Commercial foreign woods on the American market. New York: Dover Publications; 1968.

5. Mabberley, D. J. The plant-book, a portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1987.

6. Mitchell, J. and Rook, A. Botanical Dermatology: Plants and Plant Products Injurious to the Skin. Vancouver: Greengrass Ltd.; 1979.