Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Vachellia farnesiana, (=Acacia farnesiana), Sweet Acacia

Sweet Acacia has yellow or orangish-yellow flowers, they are very showy and fragrant; 1 to 6 hanging (2 to 3 inches; 5 to 7.7 cm) globose heads emerge from axils. Vachellia farnesiana, (=Acacia farnesiana) Sweet Acacia is a small tree or shrub with a handsome multi-trunk that is brown and often with drooping branches. These thick branches form dense thickets, armed with sharp 1 inch (2.54 cm) thorns or spines. Vachellia farnesiana, (=Acacia farnesiana) Sweet Acacia blooms from January, February, March April to November and grows in elevations from 2,500 to 4,000 feet (762-1,219 m). Vachellia farnesiana, (=Acacia farnesiana) Sweet Acacia is found in variable soil conditions including sandy, sandy loam, caliche, alkaline soil and desert canyons. It is drought tolerant. Vachellia farnesiana, (=Acacia farnesiana) Sweet Acacia has attractive flowers and the flowers, and their plants may be visited or used by butterflies, moths, flies. Vachellia farnesiana, (=Acacia farnesiana)

Scientific Name: Vachellia farnesiana, (=Acacia farnesiana)
Common Name: Sweet Acacia

Also Called: Aroma, Aroma Amarilla, Cassia, Coastal Scrub Wattle, Desert Acacia, Ellington Curse, Huisache, Kandaroma, Klu, Klu Bush, Mealy Acacia, Mealy Wattle, Needle Bush, Perfume Acacia, Popinac, Texas Huisache, Western Sweet Acacia (Spanish: Huizache, Vinorama)

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae Family

Synonyms: (Acacia farnesianna, Acacia minuta, Acacia minuta subsp. densiflora, Acacia smallii, Mimosa farnesiana, Pithecellobium minutum, Vachellia densiflor)

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: Up to 20 feet (6 m) high or more, spread also to 20 feet (6 m).

Growth Form: Small tree or shrub, handsome, multi-trunk, brown; drooping branches, forms thickets; armed with sharp 1 inch (2.54 cm) thorns or spines; aromatic; plants ferny or feathery in appearance; may form dense thickets; bark smooth, olive green maturing toward bray brown, becoming furrowed and scaly.

Leaves: Light green, or gray-green; semi-deciduous; alternate; the leaves are attractive, finely divided (bipinnately) compound, ferny or feathery.

Flower Color: Yellow or orange-yellow; flowers very showy, fragrant; 1 to 6 hanging (2 to 3 inches; 5 to 7.7 cm) globose heads emerge from axils; fruit is a 1 to 3 inch ( cm) woody dark brown elongated rounded pod.

Flowering Season: January, February, March April to November

Elevation: 2,500 to 4,000 feet (762-1,219 m).

Habitat Preferences: Variable soil conditions from sandy, sandy loam, caliche and alkaline soils; grows in desert canyons and is drought tolerant.

Recorded Range: In the United States Sweet Acacia is found in the southern border states from California east to Georgia including AL, AZ, CA, FL, LA, MS, NM and TX. It is also native throughout Baja California, most of Mexico south through Central America. Vachellia farnesiana is also native to northern Australia and southern Asia; widely cultivated. Note: this species exact native range is not clear although its point of origin is Mexico and Central America. In Arizona, Sweet Acacia is found in the central southern and southeast parts of the state.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Vachellia farnesiana.

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown
Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: Unknown

International Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: 1The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, (CABI), and 2The Invasive Species Compendium (ISC) has identified Vachellia farnesiana as “. . . an aggressive colonizer and is regarded as an invasive weed both in parts of its native range and where introduced, notably in Australia, the USA, and some Pacific and Caribbean islands. A. farnesiana is mostly a weed of pastures and able to form dense thorny thickets, which may cause injury to livestock and may shade out native fodder species”.

1The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), Wallingford, Oxfordshire, England; The US Department of Agriculture is a lead partner with CABI.

2The Invasive Species Compendium (ISC) is an encyclopedic resource that brings together a wide range of different types of science-based information to support decision-making in invasive species management worldwide.

Wetland Indicator: In North America Vachellia farnesiana has the following wetland designations: Arid West, FACU Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, FACU Great Plains, FACU Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, FACU
FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands

Threatened/Endangered Information: Unknown

Genus Information: In North America there are 34 species for Vachellia. Worldwide, The Plant List includes 32 accepted species names and a further 37 scientific names of infraspecific rank for Vachellia

The genus Vachellia was published in 1834 by Robert Wight, (1796-1872) and George Arnott Walker (1799-1868).

In the Southwestern United States: Arizona has 3 species of Vachellia, California has 1 species, Nevada has 0 species, New Mexico has 4 species, Texas has 6 species, Utah has 0 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

There is 1 variety in Vachellia farnesiana:
Vachellia farnesiana, var. pinetorum, Pineland Acacia

Comments: Sweet Acacia is rare in Arizona and limited in distribution. Populations occur in central and southern parts of the state in Maricopa County and the Baboquivari Mountains, Pima Arizona and near Ruby, Santa Cruz County, Arizona. It has an exceptional fragrance, is drought tolerant and a popular desert landscape plant in the southwest. The fragrant flowers are widely used in the perfume industry in Europe. The perfume is call "cassie" and described as "delicious".

Also see in Southwest Desert Flora also see similar species; Whitethorn Acacia, Vachellia constricta and Catclaw Acacia, Senegalia greggii.

Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock
Sweet Acacia, Vachellia farnesiana, provides an important food and shelter source for several animals and insects.

Deer and Javelina and likely rodents eat the seed pods; many species of mammals and birds use this species for both nesting and cover by all species.

Beneficial Value to Butterflies, Honey Bees and Insects
Sweet Acacia, Vachellia farnesiana, has attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants may be visited or used by butterflies, moths, flies.

Insects are known to feed on the nectar from its flowers.

The genus “Vachellia” (Vachel'lia:) is named after the Rev. George Harvey Vachell (1798-1839); born in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, and graduated from Cambridge University in 1821.

The genus Vachellia was published in 1834 by Robert Wight, (1796-1872) and George Arnott Walker (1799-1868).

The species epithet farnesiana (farnesia'na:) was named by Tobias Aldini in 1625. The name "farnesiana" was taken by Aldini because of the plants that he identified from the Farnese Gardens in Rome. However, the original seeds of this species were collected in Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) and germinated in 1611. Aldini included an illustration of the plant which Linnaeus used as a basis for his taxon Mimosa farnesiana in 1753 and later, in 1806 Carl Ludwig Willdenow moved this taxon to the genus Acacia. Ultimately the genus was moved to its current name Vachellia.


Profile posted; 07/22/2015, updated 03/01/2021
References and additional information:
Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, Arizona Flora, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; accessed 02/19/2021.
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet;; accessed 02/23/2021.
Native Plant Information Network, NPIN. Published on the Internet; accessed 02/25/2021. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
"Sweet Acacia (Acacia farnesiana)". Native Plants of South Texas. Texas AgriLife Research and Extension; accessed 02/25/2021.
Koeser, A.K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; accessed 03/01/2021.
Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; accessed 03/01/2021.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Vachellia farnesiana', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 February 2021, 19:19 UTC, [accessed 25 February 2021]
Jepson Online, Kearney and Peebles 1979; Editor: AHazelton 2016, draft not fully edited; from SEINet Field Guide, on-line; accessed 02/25/2021.
Seiler, John; Jensen, Edward; Niemiera, Alex; and Peterson, John, Virginia Tech; Dept of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Sweet Acacia Fabaceae Vachellia farnesiana; on-line accessed 03/01/2021
Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
Etymology:Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 01/04/2021 - 03/01/2021)
IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved 01 March 2021].