Acacia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia

Acacia (pronounced /əˈkeɪʃə/) is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described inAfrica by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. The plants tend to be thorny and pod-bearing, with sap and leaves typically bearing large amounts of tannins. The generic name derives from ακακία (akakia), the name given by early Greek botanist-physician Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90) to the medicinal tree A. nilotica in his book Materia Medica.[2] This name derives from the Greek word for its characteristic thorns, ακις (akis,thorn).[3] The species name nilotica was given by Linnaeus from this tree’s best-known range along the Nile river.

Acacias are also known as thorntreeswhistling thorns or wattles, including the yellow-fever acacia and umbrella acacias.

Until 2005, there were thought to be roughly 1300 species of acacia worldwide, about 960 of them native to Australia, with the remainder spread around the tropical to warm-temperate regions of both hemispheres, including EuropeAfrica, southern Asia, and the Americas. However, the genus was then divided into five, with the name Acacia retained for the Australian species, and most of the species outside Australia divided into Vachelliaand Senegalia.

Symbolism and ritual

The Acacia is used as a symbol in Freemasonry, to represent purity and endurance of the soul, and as funerary symbolism signifying resurrection and immortality. The tree gains its importance from the description of the burial of Hiram Abiff, the builder of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.

Several parts (mainly bark, root and resin) of Acacia are used to make incense for rituals. Acacia is used in incense mainly in India, Nepal, Tibet and China. Smoke from Acacia bark is thought to keep demons and ghosts away and to put the gods in a good mood. Roots and resin from Acacia are combined withrhododendronacoruscytisussalvia and some other components of incense. Both people and elephants like an alcoholic beverage made from acacia fruit.[14]According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the Acacia tree may be the “burning bush” (Exodus 3:2) which Moses encountered in the desert.[15] Also, when God gave Moses the instructions for building the Tabernacle, he said to “make an ark of acacia wood” and “make a table of acacia wood” (Exodus 25:10 & 23, Revised Standard Version)

In RussiaItaly and other countries it is customary to present women with yellow mimosas (among other flowers) on International Women’s Day (March 8). These “mimosas” are actually from Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle).

Alkaloids

As mentioned previously, Acacias contain a number of organic compounds that defend them from pests and grazing animals.[7] Many of these compounds arepsychoactive in humans. The alkaloids found in Acacias include dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and N-methyltryptamine(NMT). The plant leaves, stems and/or roots are sometimes made into a brew together with some MAOI-containing plant and consumed orally for healing, ceremonial or religious uses. Egyptian mythology has associated the acacia tree with characteristics of the tree of life (see the article on the Myth of Osiris and Isis).


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