Vachellia constricta

Accession Count: 4
Common Name: White Thorn Acacia, Mescat
Family Name: Fabaceae
Botanical Name: Vachellia constricta
Botanical Synonyms: Acacia constricta
Family Synonyms: Leguminosae
Sub Species:
Characteristics: White thorn acacia constricta is a shrub/small tree. It has alternate bipinnate leaves that are one to two  inches long. The pinnae are found in three to seven pairs per leaf with six to sixteen pairs of leaflets per pinna. There are two very small spines derived from stipules at each node. The bark on its trunk and branches is dark brown to black in color and maybe smooth or slightly rough. The bark on younger twigs is purple-gray to reddish. Its small yellow flowers grow in round, dense heads, and are very fragrant. The heads are one fourth to one third inches in diameter. Fruiting occurs from July through September. The pods are slender reddish brown about two to five inches long and up to one sixteenths inches wide, and are distinctively constricted between the seeds. It has white thorns that are about one and a half inch in length. A. constricta are deciduous, and drop their leaves during cold periods and periods of drought. Both winter and summer rains trigger flowering. The flowers are extremely sweet-scented and fill the desert air with fragrance on spring and summer nights. Both native and non-native bees use the fragrant flowers as a source of nectar. 

Compound: Aca con
Geographic Origin: Desert Southwest
Ecozone Origin: Nearctic
Biome Origin:
Natural History: The Vachellia genus (formerly known as Acacia) encompasses over 1300 species in Africa, Australia and America. Vachellia constricta otherwise known as the “Whitethorn Acacia” is native to desert regions of North America and Mexico. Its characteristic drought tolerant features allow it to thrive in dry desert soils (1). It is common for this plant to be found in washes and rocky hills where it can scavenge for the scarce water found in its surrounding environment. Its distribution spans through deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and other states of northern Mexico (2).
Cultivation Notes: V. constricta is found in the form of a large bush or small tree. It is often used as a barrier, or planted on a bank to control erosion. Optimal soil conditions for growth include loose, well-drained sandy to loamy soils. This plant thrives in full sun conditions. V. constricta exhibits drought tolerance, and prospers with minimum watering and succeeds in dry soils. This species is not commonly propagated through grafting or cuttings; instead it is fairly easily propagated through seeds (3). 
It is hardy down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, but will lose its leaves. When it blooms, it attracts bees with its aromatic flowers. 
V. constricta is not used for direct human consumption although it does have some indirect forms of consumption. For example, Native Americans of Arizona and New Mexico use the white thorn acacia fruits to make Pinole (3). Tea can be made from the flowers, which exhibits sedative properties. The roots of the plant also serve as a source for tea, which can be used to treat sore throats, coughing, and oral inflammations (4). Other uses for V. constricta include the use of its seeds to alleviate stomachaches and treat diarrhea. The leaves can also be ground into a powder to stop bleeding, relieve chafed skin and can even be used as an antimicrobial wash (4). This plant also forms a small part of the diet of some domestic and wild animals. Some birds (including quail) consume the seeds. Jack rabbits eat the foliage, and when food is scarce cattle eat the pods. Rodents gather seeds, catching and losing some, thus aiding in dispersal.

Height: 11 - 15 feet
Width: 11 - 15 feet
Growth Rate: Fast Growing
Grow Season: Spring
Flower Season: Spring
Color: Yellow
Function: Patio
Spread: Spreading
Allergen: Allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Toxic
Hardy: Hardy
Water Use: Low water Use


1. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 

2. Retrieved April 22, 2015.

3. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 

4. Retrieved April 22, 2015

5. Retrieved April 23, 2015.

6. Mielke, Judy. Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes. University of Texas Press, 1993.


Vachellia constricta