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About 1,300; see List of Acacia species
Acacia is a genus of shrub or tree are belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian Acacias are not.
Acacias are heavily defended against herbivores. Different species have different combinations of defences:
- Thorns (except Australia)
- Chemicals: bitter tannins and psychoactive alkaloids are common in Acacias. Some species have up to 40% tannins in their bark
- Ants: in Africa and Central Americs, symbiosis with ants can deter all sizes of enemy, from elephants to caterpillars and stem-boring beetles. Some species of ants will also fight off competing plants around the acacia, cutting off the offending plant's leaves with their jaws and ultimately killing it. Other associated ant species appear to do nothing to benefit their hosts.
Products from the Acacia have often been used for medicinal purposes.