Acacia is an ancient variety of tree and shrub that grows in the tropical to sub-tropical regions of the world and there are well over a thousand species. The majority of species are native to Australia and the remainder grow around the globe in warm-temperate areas including southern Europe, southern Asia, the Americas and in certain parts of Africa.
Acacia wood is mostly valued for making furniture, however, due to its robust nature, lustrous finish and variety of shades it is also great for use as flooring, being able to attain a high polish and stay level without warping. One of the most sought after acacia wood varieties is the Australian Blackwood, these trees can grow very large (up to 148 feet high) and their timber is used in highly decorative and expensive items such as fine musical instruments, ornamental pieces and wooden tools. Blackwood timber is also used in the boat-building industry for use in luxury vessels due to its beautiful appearance and sturdiness.
One of the non-Australian species of Acacia used very widely is the Red Acacia (Acacia seyal) which is native to northern and western Africa. This beautiful wood is used in the furniture and flooring industry but also has a more decorative purpose for use in ornamental items and certain ceremonial objects; in fact, historically it was valued so highly that it is thought to have been used to build Egyptian coffins and in the Bible the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be constructed from Red Acacia. It is also used in Africa for health purposes, red acacia wood is often burned as incense where the effect eases joint pain and it works to prevent fever.
The less costly varieties of acacia have an important role to play too, they are used widely throughout the world in the paper making industry for pulpwood and the shrub varieties are specifically grown for firewood in regions such as Africa. Acacia usually grows in abundance. All varieties contain a number of organic compounds that protect them from pests and diseases, and the non-Australian species all have spikes which help defend them from grazing animals – except giraffes who love acacia and have a tough enough mouth and tongue that the spikes don’t bother them!
So, the world over, Acacia wood is a highly prized, valuable and respected timber used for a number of applications over centuries of time. Its beautiful appearance, tough nature and fragrant incense allow it to be utilised by a host of people from the poor to the incredibly wealthy, a truly global product.