The genus acacia is home to a group of over 1,200 tree and shrub species that are originally native to Australia and North Africa. This genus is actually part of the pea family (fabaceae), and certain acacia species have fossilized records dating back to 20 million years ago!
Acacia trees are also known by several other names, like the wattle or the Asian walnut. The term “wattle” comes from an old teutonic word dating back to 700 CE, which means “to weave”. This is in reference to the use of the tree’s branches and sticks for weaving or forming fences, roofs, and other structural features.
The wood of the tree is characterized by open and wide modulating grains with distinctive knots. The wood is resistant to mold, water, and fire. Acacia timber has been used traditionally by aboriginal Australians for hundreds of years, and still has many uses today.
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History & Habitat of the Acacia
Acacia species have been around for a long time. Their genetic makeup is pretty much identical to the charcoal deposits recovered from over 20 million years ago. These charcoal deposits show that acacia species evolved to exist in fire-prone areas very long ago.
The acacia tree is also mentioned in the Book of Exodus, where it states that solid acacia wood was used to construct the Tabernacle and Ark of Covenant. This is because even back then, it was commonly known that acacia wood is considered to be almost impossible to destroy.
We know today that 20 million years ago, there was a large increase of acacia species. This is because in their natural growing range (Australia and North Africa) there were no significant bodies of water or mountain ranges to stop their spread.
Because of their resistance to fire, acacia forests began to over take dry and open forests, and continued to spread into all terrestrial habitats. They can be found growing in nearly any biome, from alpine locations, to grasslands, woodlands, rainforests, deserts, and even coastal dunes.
Uses of the Acacia
Acacia wood is highly coveted. This is because of its beautiful appearance of wood grain, and resistance to wear and decay. According to the wood database, it is considered as a hardwood. It’s actually 23% harder than oak, which is known for being incredibly strong!
Acacia wood furniture is one of the most popular uses for acacia wood. This is because it enables the creation of wood furniture that can stand the test of time, and remain beautiful – more so than other wood types.
Make sure to keep your eye out for an acacia wood product, as they come in many forms. Acacia wood will also make a sturdy and attractive cutting board, a unique countertop or dining table, and it can be used for a hardwood floor or flooring material. Engineered wood will often be used for wood flooring, where as more raw wood can be used for acacia furniture.
More traditionally, the Australian aboriginal community have used the acacia tree in different ways. It is custom to utilize all of the parts of a living thing if you take its life, and so many parts of the acacia tree can be utilized.
An acacia tree will flower in the summer, and will subsequently produce seeds. These acacia seeds are actually edible, and they can be harvested. They are most commonly ground up into a flour, which can be eaten as a paste (less so in modernity) and baked into breads and cakes.
Additionally, acacia trees excrete something called acacia gum (it also can be heard under the name of gum Arabic or acacia Senegal gum). Acacia gum is edible by animals and humans, and has the same properties given to glue or a binder.
Acacia gum is often used as a thickening agent in confectionary, and is also a very important ingredient when making soft drink syrups and hard gummy candies. Gumdrops, marshmallows, and M&M’s all use acacia gum as an ingredient!
Types of Acacia Wood
As mentioned above, there are hundreds of species of acacia, but it would take way too long to cover them all. In this article we will list the most common types of acacia wood, which are the most popularly used in carpentry, home improvement, artistry, and art made from solid wood.
1. Acacia Koa
Common Name: Hawaiian koa
Native Area: Hawaii
Tree Size: 65-100 ft tall
Acacia koa is one of the most expensive and most coveted woods in the world. It is one of the hardest domestic varieties of wood with a Janka hardness of 1,790. This is much harder than maple – one of the hardest varieties – which stands at 1,450.
Acacia koa has a coarse, broad-grained pattern that exhibits a wavy pattern. It has a beautiful color which is similar to mahogany and features reddish brown, amber, and medium gold tones. Most koa wood is mixed with a combination of these colors in an undulating ribbon formation.
The interlocked, curly pattern of the grain can be difficult to cut without damaging the wood, but when finished, command a high prize by specialty woodcrafters. Although you may have to give special order to get hardwood flooring for koa, you can find plenty of stunning furniture made from this wood. The wood stains and finishes well, to top off all of its desirable features.
Hawaiians have utilized the wonders of the Hawaiian koa for centuries. The wood has gone into the creation of canoes, surfboards, spear handles, and wooden instruments, like the ukulele.
2. Acacia Melanoxylon
Common Name: Australian Blackwood, acacia Blackwood, Tasmanian Blackwood
Native Area: South Eastern Australia and Tasmania
Tree Size: 65-100 ft tall
The Australian Blackwood is considered to be the less-expensive alternative to the Hawaiian koa. Unlike what its name indicates, it is not a dark colored wood species.
The color of acacia melanoxylon varies quite a bit, and can range from medium-gold to a reddish brown tone, that is similar to the koa. The growth rings are marked by contrasting rings of colors and boards made from the wood have ribbon-like streaks of color.
The Australian Blackwood ranks at 1,160 on the Janka scale and has wavy or straight grain that has few interlocking patterns.
Although the wood can resist decay, it is vulnerable to insect attack and it is not appropriate for outdoor use without a sealant. The wood turns, stains, finishes and glues well and is popularly used to make furniture, veneers, cabinets, gun stocks, and specialty wooden objects.
3. Acacia Acuminata
Common Name: Raspberry jam, jam wattle
Native Area: Western Australia
Tree Size: 10-23 ft tall
Acacia Acuminata is known as raspberry jam because the strong fragrance of its freshly cut wood resembles raspberry jam! That must be an attractive feature to carpenters. Like most other acacia species, it can be found grow prosperously all over Australia.
The heartwood of acacia acuminata is a beautiful reddish-brown in color, while its sapwood is a lighter yellow. Raspberry jam acacia has a Janka hardness of 3,100 which makes it a very hard wood. The grain is fine and uniform all over. It takes stain very well, and can be used for both indoor furniture and outdoor furniture.
This wood is commonly used to create fence posts, shelter-belts, shades, turned objects, and specialty wooden objects. It is the most favorite amongst carpenters, as its toughness can make it rather difficult to work with.
4. Acacia Auriculiformis
Common Name: Earpod wattle, auri, earleaf acacia, northern black wattle
Native Area: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia
Tree Size: 95 ft
Acacia Auriculiformis is also called earpod wattle because of the fruit that the tree bears, which is an ear-shaped pod. The tree is of medium size and medium strength. It has a Janka hardness of 1,710.
The heartwood of earpod wattle is light brown to dark red in color and features a relatively durable and straight and fine grain with an attractive figure. It isn’t particularly attractive, and is therefore avoided when it comes to furniture and other fine wood pieces.
The wood finishes well and is commonly used in the making of toys, coins, carom, chess pieces, and handicrafts. It is also used to make some types of furniture, tools handles, and joinery and may also be used in construction work if thick trees are available.
The most important use found for the wood of acacia auriculiformis is in the pulpwood industry. This is common with wood that isn’t very durable, isn’t very resistant to decay, and is not particularly attractive.
5. Acacia Mangium
Common Name: hickory wattle, mangium, forest mangrove, black wattle
Native Area: Northeastern Queensland, Papua, Western Province of Papau, Eastern Maluku Islands
Tree Size: 65 to 98 ft
Acacia Mangium has heartwood featuring a shimmery brownish-yellow color and is of medium texture with a close-grain pattern. It gains the nickname hickory wattle, because of the similarity of color and texture to hickory wood.
It has a Janka hardness of 1,110 lbf that makes it suitable for a wide range of home improvement projects. It is moreso used for larger projects, rather than fine carpentry projects.
Since the wood is very hard, heavy, and strong and resistant to both warping and cracking, it can be dried to make flooring, doors, windows and furniture. After polishing, the timber becomes a super smooth and glossy solid wood, which is why it is exported to make parquet flooring tiles and other specialty works.
6. Acacia Baileyana
Common Name: Bailey’s acacia, Cootamundra wattle
Native Area: Southern New South Wales in Australia, naturalized in Victoria
Tree Size: 20 to 30 ft tall
Bailey’s acacia or the Cootamundra is a small tree which is prized for ornamental purposes in several parts of Australia. It is not as commonly used for its wood, as the tree exhibits a beautiful shape and even more beautiful yellow flowers.
It is more common to use the tree for its wood once its life cycle begins to reach a close, though at that point, the wood isn’t as high quality. Additionally, these trees easily escape cultivation, and are now considered as an invasive species where they have been introduced. So chop them down when you can!
Cootamundra wattle has a Janka hardness of 1,710, with a uniform texture and interlocked grain. Though it has decent natural luster, it is neither durable nor resistant to insects. The heartwood is a charming light pink color with a slightly lighter sapwood, though there is no distinct edge separating them.
This small tree had many uses and was often used to revitalize areas such as road verge and mines. Australian aborigines used the wood to build shields, spears and other weapons, and the bark was used for tannins.
7. Acacia Cambagei
Common Name: Stinking wattle, purple gidgee
Native Area: Australia
Tree Size: 20 to 40 ft tall
Acacia Cambagei has a heartwood which ranges in color from a medium to a rich dark reddish brown color with deep chocolate brown streaks. The sapwood is considerably lighter with a distinct yellow color. The difference between the heartwood and sapwood creates an attractive contrast.
With a Janka hardness of 4,270 lbf, the timber is extremely hard, heavy and close-grained. It also frequently features an interlocking pattern and sometimes a curly figuring known as “ringed gidgee.”
The wood is resistant decay, by water, or termites and other insects. For this reason, it is popularly used to make fence posts. Because of its extremely high density, it is also an excellent source of fuelwood and charcoal, as it burns with an intense heart and produces high ash content.
8. Acacia Peuce
Common Name: Waddywood, waddi
Native Area: Central Australia
Tree Size: 49 to 59 ft tall
Acacia peuce has heartwood of deep purplish-brown with dark, almost black streaks. It is sharply demarked form its sapwood which features a light yellow color. The grain of waddywood is both uniform and straight, and the wood boasts a medium texture.
Since it has a Janka hardness of 4,630 lbf, the wood is extremely hard and difficult to cut with hand or machine tools. However, the final product is finished well and is extremely durable. Though not the favorite of carpenters because of its difficult workability, the customer will always be happy.
Acacia peuce is used to make fence posts because of its resistance to decay, it’s popular with turned objects, and can be fun for carving and other small decorative items. Aboriginal Australians use its wood to make clubs called waddi, hence the common name of the tree.
9. Acacia Dealbata
Common Name: Silver wattle, blue wattle, mimosa
Native Area: New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory
Tree Size: Up to 100 ft tall
Acacia dealbata is one of the larger species of acacia trees and has won an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
The wood of the tree has a distinctive and beautiful light golden-brown honey color with a pinkish tint, which features an even, porous texture and straight grain. The sawn timber often exhibits a striking striped pattern, thanks to its distinctive growth rings. It often shows striking patterns like tiger stripes and birds-eye.
The wood is of medium density and can be worked easily by hand or by machine. It can be sawn, bored and cut into plane boards without damaging the wood. It is recommended that you pre-drill the wood before nailing, for risk of splitting the medium-dense wood.
Silver wattle is one of the most preferred woods by furniture designers and interior decorators, since it is used as an alternative to the Blackwood. The wood bends easily and glues and finishes well. When polished, it displays a lustrous and smooth surface.
The wood is a good choice for interior applications, including decorative furniture or art pieces, wood furniture, wood flooring, and is strong enough to be used for architectural and structural work.
10. Acacia Tortilis
Common Name: Umbrella thorn acacia
Native Area: Savannah and Sahel of Africa, including Sudan and Somalia
Tree Size: Up to 69 ft tall
Also known as Vachellia tortilis, the growth pattern of the tree forms a canopy that is shaped like an umbrella, hence the common name of this beautiful tree. It felt important to include this acacia wood species, not because it is popular in modernity, but because it has historical significance.
It is one of the few timber species of the Arabian Desert and is believed to be the one which was used to create the Biblical Ark of the Covenant. This wood was chosen because it is said that the wood is so durable, that it is impossible to destroy.
It is also said that umbrella thorn acacia wood was used by the Israelites in the Old Testament to build tabernacles, and the furniture within them. The wood was also used to create decorations, tools, and weaponry.
11. Acacia Confusa
Common Name: Small leaf acacia, acacia petit feuille, small Phillipine acacia, formosa acacia, formosan koa
Native Area: South-east Asia
Tree Size: Up to 49 ft tall
Acacia confuse was once a very popular wood to use for creating support beams for underground mines. This is because it is very dense and durable (with a Janka hardness of 1,460 lbf). For the same reason it is great for support beams, it is not the favorite of carpenters, because it is very challenging to work with.
When used in parts of Asia, it was commonly used as fuelwood or to turn into charcoal. It was the distributed to certain parts of North America, where it was marketed as an option for wood flooring.
Once the tree was cultivated there, the wood was commonly used to create musical insruments, bathtubs (because of its water resistance) and furniture.
Small leaf acacia wood has a heartwood color of either chocolate-brown or rusty red, and a distinctly different sapwood color ranging to off-white to golden yellow. It is harder than both oak and maple combined!
Advantages of Using Acacia Wood
Acacia wood comes with several benefits:
- Versatile color: The large variety of species means you can enjoy a range of gorgeous color from light honey gold tones to rich mahogany browns.
- Stunning Patterns: Although some people prefer a smooth and plain surface for their floors, there are many who love the patterns and knots that come with acacia wood. These can form beautiful distinctive figures like tiger stripes and birds eyes; lending unique character to your house.
- Options: Acacia flooring is available in solid, laminate or engineered planks widths with more details like hand-carved or hand-scraped finishes.
- Durability: Since acacia wood is harder than oak and maple, it means the floor can last for 50 to 100 years, depending on how thick the wood is. It can also be polished and refinished several times without losing its original luster.
- Water, mold, and insect-resistant: Most species of acacia are water and mold-resistant and many hardwood varieties are resistant to termites and other insects.
- Sustainability: Since acacia grows very quickly (indeed, some varieties are considered as invasive species) this is a very sustainable and eco-friendly option for home improvement. Its production also produces fewer emissions than other woods, and is significant in its carbon capture.
Applications of Acacia Wood
Because of the large variety of colors, grains, texture, density and plank width of the wood, you can find Acacia flooring and furniture in the style that you prefer.
Choosing acacia wood will give character and a touch of rustic and eclectic-ness to your home, choose a wood with contrasting light and dark colors in the grain as well as knots and patterns. This wood is unique, and it guaranteed to have an incomparable effect.
Since the color of the wood is quite warm, it is guaranteed to cheer up a space and give a welcoming air to any one of your rooms – whether the application be through hardwood flooring, an accept countertop, or decorative items.
The beautiful warm ambers and dark mahogany colors also compliment other warm and earthy colors like red, browns, maroon, beige and even some green. Furniture and textile in white, black and grey tones also bring out the beautiful golds and reds in the wood.
The great thing about the wood is that it instantly grabs attention without being too overwhelming. To make your home even more beautiful, you can use acacia wood to create a striking staircase, featuring a gorgeous geometry of colors and patterns.
If you are not able to afford an entire staircase made of acacia wood, consider adding a simple banister to set off the design.
When it is time to renovate your home, acacia should be your preferred wood. Although it is a very coveted wood, it is so versatile and comes in so many colors and patterns that it keeps your home looking unique.