Sicklebush Quick Facts
Africa, Indian subcontinent and North Australia and introduced to the Caribbean and parts of Southeast Asia
Green when young turning to dark-brown as they mature
Curled, twisted, sickle shaped and leathery indehiscent pod
Bitter, astringent, acrid, pungent
Beneficial for dysentery, headaches, toothaches, elephantiasis, snakebites and scorpion stings, leprosy, syphilis, coughs, epilepsy, gonorrhea, boils, and sore eyes
The generic name Dichrostachys means ‘two-colored spike’, referring to its two-colored inflorescence, from the Ancient Greek δί- (di-, ‘twice’), χροός (khroos, ‘color’), and στάχυς (stakhus, ‘ear of grain’). The specific name cinerea is from the Greek ‘konis’ and Latin ‘cineres’, referring to the grey hairs on the subspecies confined to India. The species is most commonly known as the ‘sickle bush’ derived from the curved shape of the pods. The plant is covered with spines and is occasionally suckering and thicket-forming. It is a true multi-purpose tree, providing food, medicines, fuel and various commodities. Bark, roots, and leaves are used in the treatment of dysentery, headaches, toothaches, elephantiasis, snakebites and scorpion stings, leprosy, syphilis, coughs, epilepsy, gonorrhea, boils, and sore eyes. It has a strong capacity for natural regeneration and used in soil conservation. Bark produces strong fiber used as twine. Debarked roots are used for racks and baskets. The wood is used as walking sticks, handles, spears, and tool handles.
|Scientific Name||Dichrostachys cinerea|
|Native||Africa, Indian subcontinent and North Australia and introduced to the Caribbean and parts of Southeast Asia. In Africa it occurs in all regions except the rain forest belt, from Cape Verde eastward to Somalia and southward to Namibia and northern South Africa. In Ethiopia, the species is common in the Nechisar National Park|
|Common Names||Chinese lantern tree, Kalahari Christmas tree, Saint Domingue, Sen Domeng, acacia Saint Domingue, aroma, marabú, marabou-thorn, sickle bush, Bell mimosa, Chinese lantern, sickle pod, Princess Earrings, mazabu, Arzik, Bilatri, Bortuli, Chipangala, Evagia, Ithalala, Khairi, Kolai, Kunlai, Mkingiri, Moselesele, Muvilisya, Muwanika, N’talala, Odatare, Segum-kati, Sekelbos, Veltura, Vidattalai, Vurtuli, ami ogwu, dundu, kara, sickle bush, virtuli|
|Name in Other Languages||Afrikaans: Sekelbos, Kleinblaarsekelbos
Arabic: Hajujum ramadiun (حجوجم رمادي), hurgam, kaddad, kadada, hurgan, heghem, hegam, um Kedad,kadad
Assamese: Beerbrikshya (বীৰবৃক্ষ)
Bambara: Giliki, Ntirigi
Bemba: Kansalonsalo, katenge
Burkina Faso: Agarof, kurkur
Cape Verde: Espinho cachupa, spinho cachupa
Chinese: Dài ér chá (代儿茶)
Cuba: Marabu, marabú
English: Aroma, Marabou-thorn, Sicklebush, Chinese lantern, Ugagu, Princess Earrings, Bell Mimosa, Chinese Lantern Tree, Kalahari Christmas Tree, marabou, ashy babool
French: Mimosa clochette, acacia saint domingue, dichrostachys cendré, kéké, acacia de Saint-Domingue
Gujarati: Kellumtaro, Mordundiyan, marud (મરૂઢ), mordhundhayu (મોરઢુંઢયુ), veltur (વેલતુર)
Hindi: Bilatri, marult, odatare, segum-kati, vadatalla, veltu, veltura, vidattalai, vurtuli, wadu, velantara, virataru, kunali, khairi, kheri (खेरी), kunali (कुणाली), shami (शमी), velati (वेलाटी), virataru (वीरतरु)
Kachchhi: Kini kheradi (કીની ખેરડી)
Indonesian: Epung, pung, pereng
Kannada: Odavinaha, Vaduvarada gida, edatari (ಎಡತರಿ), shami (ಶಮಿ), vadavina (ವದವಿನ), vaduvarada mara (ವಡುವಾರದ ಮರ)
Konkani: Sigam kamti (सिगम कांटी)
Malayalam: Veṭatala (വെടതല), vīravr̥kṣaṁ (വീരവൃക്ഷം), vitattal, veeravriksham (വീരവൃക്ഷം)
Marathi: durangi babhul (दुरंगी बाभूळ), sigam kati (सिगम काटी)
Mali: Giliki, ntirigi
Portuguese: Marabu, espinho cachupa, spinho cachupa
Rajasthani: goya khair (गोया खैर)
Sanskrit: Bahuvaraka (बहुवारक), dirghamula (दीर्घमूल), mahakapittha (महाकपित्थ), virataru (वीरतरु), viravriksha (वीरवृक्ष)
Senegal: Bourri, m’buuri, ntirigi, patroulahi, seb, sinke
Shona: Mumhangara, Mupangara, Muruka, Musekera
South Africa: Kalahari Christmas tree; sekelbos; tassels for the chief’s hat
Spanish: Aroma, Marabú
Sudanese: Peu’eung, kakada
Swedish: Mkulagembe, mkingiri, msigino, mvunja shoka
Tamil: Vidatalai, veluturu, veduttalam, vidattalai chettu, anai-t-ter (ஆனைத்தேர்) varittula (வரித்துலா), vetuttalam (வெடுத்தலாம்), vira-taru (வீரதரு), vitatterai (விடத்தேரை)
Telugu: Lathuga, Nellajammi, venuturu, veluturuchettu (వెలుతురుఛెట్టు)
Tulu: Shami (ಶಮಿ)
Wolof: Seb, sinke, Sëng
|Plant Growth Habit||Highly variable thorny, deciduous or semi deciduous shrub or small tree|
|Growing Climates||Usually on poor, occasionally clayey soils, in brushwood, thickets, hedges, teak forest and grassland to elevations of 1,700 meters. Often forms widespread thickets by means of root suckers|
|Soil||Succeeds in a range of soils from clays, through loams to sandy soils. Requires a well-drained soil. Succeeds in poor soils|
|Plant Size||1 – 8 meters tall, with occasional specimens to 12 meters with a rounded crown, 3 m wide|
|Stem||stems are often twisted and twined together|
|Bark||Bark on young branches is green and densely to sparsely puberulous, and on the older branches is dark-grey brown and longitudinally fissured. The branches have strong alternate lateral shoots to 8 cm long appearing as thorns that may have leaves at the base.|
|Leaf||Alternate, bipinnately compound leaves similar to those of the acacia and is up to 20 cm long|
|Flower||Impressive bisexual and sessile flowers are borne in leaf axils and are actinomorphic. They are scented and found in pendulous, cylindrical bicolored spikes up to 8 cm long|
|Fruit Shape & Size||Curled, twisted, sickle shaped and leathery indehiscent pod|
|Fruit Color||Green when young turning to dark-brown as they mature|
|Seed||Flattened, glossy brown, compressed, ovoid to ellipsoid seeds, about 4-6 mm long and 3-45 mm wide is released when the pod decays on the ground.|
|Propagation||By Seed, suckers|
|Taste||Bitter, astringent, acrid, pungent|
|Plant Parts Used||Roots, shoots, stem bark, heart wood|
Sicklebush is a highly variable thorny, deciduous or semi deciduous shrub or small tree that normally grows about 1 – 8 meters tall with occasional specimens to 12 meters with a rounded crown about 3 m wide. The crown is often umbrella shaped, sparse, flattish and rather untidy. Trunk may be twisted and is less than 23 cm wide. When mature it may become deeply fissured and dark grey-brown. The plant is found growing in poor, occasionally clayey soils, in brushwood, thickets, hedges, teak forest and grassland to elevations of 1,700 meters. It often forms widespread thickets by means of root suckers. The plant succeeds in a range of soils from clays, through loams to sandy soils. It requires a well-drained soil and also succeeds in poor soils. It requires little water and full sun. Mature plants can withstand moderate frost, but young plants must be protected from frost. It grows fairly quickly and requires frequent pruning to keep it neat. Due to its size and very thorny nature, it is not suited to small gardens.
Bark surface is nearly smooth to rough or deeply fissured, dark grey to greyish brown, peeling off in strips, inner bark is thick, fibrous, yellowish white; crown open, with spreading branches; lateral twigs with sharp spines at apex, short-hairy. Prominent light Lenticels are present. Lateral Branches tend to occur near the base and are spinescent (having or becoming spiny) and the single Spines are almost alternatively arranged and are not in pairs. Each spine is up to 8 cm long and ends in a sharp point that may be slightly recurved.
This deciduous tree has alternate, bipinnately compound leaves similar to those of the acacia and is up to 20 cm long. They may appear in a bundle on dwarf spur branches or are clustered on the spines. There may be up to 41 pairs of olive-green leaflets. The leaflets may be slightly glossy above and dull below. They are small up to 12 mm long and 3mm wide and obovate or lanceolate. Leaves close up soon after picking and are best observed on the tree. The hairy rachis has long, protruding thin glands between some of the pairs of pinnae. These glands end in a pinhead-like tip. The petiole has no gland and is up to 5 cm long.
The impressive bisexual and sessile flowers are borne in leaf axils and are actinomorphic. They are scented and found in pendulous, cylindrical bicolored spikes up to 8 cm long. The flowers closest to the stem are infertile, pinkish-mauve or white and have protruding staminodes. Color may vary even on the same tree. Flowers at the end of the hanging spike are bisexual and bright yellow. This arrangement clearly indicates the distinctive difference between itself and the acacias. Calyx is bell-shaped and has 5 Sepal lobes which end tooth-like. Bell-shaped corolla has 5 non-overlapping petal lobes. There are 10 yellow stamens in bisexual flowers and these occur in 2 whorls of 5 each. These extend slightly beyond the petals. Anthers have stalked glands. There is a single Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma). Flowering normally takes place from September to June in Indonesia and October to February in South Africa.
Fertile flowers are followed by curled, twisted, sickle shaped and leathery indehiscent pod. Each spike produces a mass of flat, coiled pods. They are distinctive clustered together with many other pods. Fruits are initially green turning to dark brown, hard and up to 10 cm long and 1.5 cm wide before falling. Each pod consists of up to 4 black smooth seeds. Some seeds may have more than 1 embryo. The flattened, glossy brown, compressed, ovoid to ellipsoid seeds, about 4-6 mm long and 3-45 mm wide is released when the pod decays on the ground.
The plant is native to Africa, Indian subcontinent and North Australia and introduced to the Caribbean and parts of Southeast Asia. In Ethiopia, the species is common in the Nechisar National Park. The tree was brought to the Caribbean in the 19th century. In Cuba, where it is known as El Marabú or Marabou weed, it has become a serious invasive species problem, occupying close to five million acres (20,000 km²) of agricultural land. Plans are underway to exploit it as a source of biomass for renewable power generation.
Traditional uses and benefits of Sicklebush
- Bark, roots, and lea ves are used in the treatment of dysentery, headaches, toothaches, elephantiasis, snakebites and scorpion stings, leprosy, syphilis, coughs, epilepsy, gonorrhea, boils, and sore eyes.
- Decoction of the root has been used as a contraceptive for women, as laxative, and for massage of fractures.
- Bark is astringent and vermifuge.
- The root is anthelmintic, purgative and strongly diuretic.
- Pounded roots and leaves are used to treat epilepsy.
- Roots or the leaves can be chewed and placed on the sites of snakebites and scorpion stings.
- The leaves are diuretic and laxative.
- When applied externally, they are believed to produce a local anesthesia.
- They are used in treating gonorrhea, boils, sore eyes and toothaches.
- Powder from the leaves is used in the massage of fractures.
- Chloroform extract of the leaves has been shown to possess antibacterial and analgesic activities.
- Saponin extract of the leaves has been demonstrated to possess anti-inflammatory activity.
- An aqueous extract of the leaves has been shown to possess analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities.
- Crushed or pulped roots are taken in milk as a diuretic, mild purgative and anthelmintic in West Africa.
- Powdered roots are used in East and southern Africa to treat nose bleeding, hernia and kwashiorkor.
- In many parts of Africa, root decoctions or infusions are applied externally to skin abscesses, as mouth-wash and anodyne, and to treat syphilis and leprosy sores, edema and rheumatism.
- They are taken in the treatment of abdominal disorders, diarrhea, malaria, liver disorders, catarrh, coughs, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, edema, blennorrhoea, orchitis, venereal diseases, epilepsy, snake bites, scorpion stings, pains, anemia, gynecological disorders and infertility, and they are administered to women in childbirth.
- In India root juice is used to treat paralysis and root extracts are applied against renal troubles including kidney stones, diseases of vagina and uterus, and painful joints.
- In tropical Africa pounded or powdered bark is used in the treatment of elephantiasis, infantile complaints and snake bites, and to induce abortion.
- Bark decoctions or infusions are used externally against sores, wounds and gingivitis, and are taken to treat dysentery, stomach-ache, venereal diseases, coughs, chest complaints, urethral discharge and as anthelmintic.
- Leaves are applied as a poultice for treating abscesses, boils, burns, toothache, headache and edema.
- Powdered leaves are used to treat wounds and as anodyne.
- Leaf juice is applied externally to wounds, sores, skin complaints, sore eyes and scorpion stings, and to treat abdominal pain.
- It is taken against blennorrhoea and as diuretic.
- Leaf decoctions or infusions are taken to treat malaria, stomach complaints, indigestion, diarrhea, catarrh, pneumonia, asthma, rheumatism, arthritis, venereal diseases, snakebites and infertility.
- In India bruised tender shoots are applied to the eyes to treat ophthalmia.
- Powdered seeds are administered in the treatment of scabies.
Ayurvedic Health benefits of Sicklebush
- Headache: A lotion made from the leaves and bark is used to rinse out the mouth and to soak a cloth which is bound around the head to soothe headaches.
- Snakebite: Snakebites, scorpion stings and insect stings are treated with the leaf and bark – the leaf is chewed well and then applied and bound over the area. .
- Stomach pain: The leaf can be chewed to ease colic and heartburn and can be made into a tea to remedy stomach ailments and diarrhea.
- Wounds: A lotion made from the leaves and bark is used as a wound cleanser and healer. Dried powdered bark is sprinkled onto the wound to promote healing.
- Skin: Dried powdered bark is directly applied to skin eruptions, sores, blisters and abscesses for both man and animal.
- It has a strong capacity for natural regeneration and used in soil conservation.
- Leaves are used as green manure.
- Bark produces strong fiber used as twine.
- Debarked roots are used for racks and baskets.
- Wood is medium heavy to very heavy, hard, and durable and is used as walking sticks, handles, spears, and tool handles.
- Plant is widely used for sand dune stabilization and soil conservation.
- In India, it is recommended for shallow soils, arid western and sub humid alluvial plains and highly degraded calcareous wastelands.
- The leaves, rich in nutrients, are frequently used as a green manure.
- In the Sahel, particularly along riverbanks, it is said to improve soils. It is a very effective hedge or barrier.
- Enclosures made with the plant prevent livestock and other animals from gaining entry to vegetable gardens, cash crops etc.
- Plants can be an indicator of overgrazing in low rainfall areas.
- Bark yields a strong fiber that can be used for various applications such as twine.
- Debarked roots are used for strong plaiting work such as for racks and baskets.
- Gum obtained from the plant is of low quality.
- Fencing posts can easily last for up to 50 years.
- Because the tree often grows many small trunks, it produces wood that is ideal in size for carrying in a head load.
- This plant is fire-retardant suitable for growing in containers.
- It has a number of land and environmental uses for example in agroforestry, soil improvement, revegetation, land reclamation, soil conservation, erosion control, hedging and live fencing.
- It has been used for the stabilization of sand dunes and in soil conservation.
- It is also used to improve soils, for example along the riverbanks in the Sahel.
- Non-wood uses include gums, lac, fodder, dyestuffs, bark products, fibers, honey and medicinal products.
- Debarked roots are used for strong weaving work such as baskets and racks, and bark fibers for various applications.
- Leaves and seeds are edible but are commonly sought after by livestock and are considered very nutritious.
- Wood is most commonly used as a fuel or for making charcoal.