Acacia trees are a distinct species with more than 1,000 members worldwide, more than 900 of which are native to Australia; these trees are characterized by thorns and pinnate leaves, and belong to one of five subspecies. Acacia trees are hardy and strong; they are used for medicine, as food and for creating furniture, floors and accessories in homes.
Acacia trees belong to the genus Acacia. They grow in tropical and subtropical regions, and are found in locations as widespread as sub-Saharan Africa, Israel and the Middle East, the United States and Australia. These trees have leathery leaves and hardwood timber, which is especially valued in the blackwood species.
In Australia, acacia trees are referred to as "wattles." They are an important part of the economy, as they make homes, furniture and essential oils. Australians celebrate the springtime blossoming of wattles each year with Wattle Day, paying homage to the national flower, which comes from the Acacia family.
Acacia is harmless to humans, which makes it popular as a food source for curries, soups, omelets and stir-fry dishes in Laos, Thailand and Burma. Some species produce a thick gum, which is used in many foods, candy and drinks. In ancient Egypt, people also added this gum to paints. Acacia gum is also processed to make packaged candy, and was once used to treat certain cattle illnesses. Acacia trees and shrubs are used in religious ceremonies and rituals, and are also popular ornamental items.