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Acacia karroo


Deciduous shrub or small tree with robust thorns, and small bright yellow spherical flower heads.

Scientific nameAcacia karroo Hayne

Common names: sweet thorn, karroo thorn, mimosa thorn

FamilyFabaceae (Leguminosae)

Status in Portugal: invasive species (listed in the Decreto-Lei nº 92/2019, 10 july)

Risk Assessment score: 22 | Value obtained according to a protocol adapted from the Australian Weed Risk Assessment (Pheloung et al. 1999), by Morais et al. (2017), according to which values above 13 mean that the species has risk of having invasive behavior in the Portuguese territory | Updated on 30/09/2017.

Synonymy: Acacia dekindtiana A. Chev., A. eburnea sensu auct., A. horrida auct., non Willd., A. inconflagrabilis Gerstner, A. karroo Hayne, A. natalitia E. Meyer

Last update: 30/06/2021


How to recognise it

Shrub or tree up to 15 m high, with a rhytidome with longitudinal ridges.

Leavesdeciduousbipinnate with 2-7 pairs of pinnae, which in turn have 5-15 pairs of leaflets, of 4-8 x 2-3 mm; thorny stipules, with 5-100 mm, whitish.

Flowers: bright yellow, grouped in globular flower heads com 15-18 mm diameter, groups of 4-6.

Fruits: brownish-grey podscompressed, curved sickle-shaped, and slightly constricted between the seeds.

Flowering: June to September.


Similar species

There are other species of the Acacia genus with thorny stipules that show some similarity, but have not yet been found in Portugal.


Characteristics that aid invasion

It reproduces by seed, producing many seeds. An adult tree produces up to 19000 seeds each year, which may be viable for 7 years in the ground. Germination is stimulated by fire.


Native distribution area

South Africa to Zambia and Angola.


Distribution in Portugal

Mainland Portugal (Beira Litoral, Estremadura, Baixo Alentejo, Algarve).



Geographic areas where there are records of Acacia karroo


Other places where the species is invasive

Europe (Spain), South Africa, some regions of Australia.


Introduction reasons

For ornamental purposes and to form hedges.


Preferential invasion environments

Coastal dunes.

It is found dispersed along roadsides, but as yet in only a few locations in this country.

It tolerates adverse conditions like frost, drought, fire, strong winds and salt spray.

In the native distribution area it grows from 0-1800 m, from sand to silt soils, and in locations where there is some available water in the soil.


Even though it’s legally considered as being an invasive in Portugal, its distribution is still limited in our country.

Impacts on ecossystems

It can potentially form dense thickets, inhibiting the development of native vegetation.

It produces a lot of nitrogen-rich litter, which promotes soil change.


Economic impacts

It has potential expensive control measures.


Other impacts

The robust thorny stipules cause injuries, inhibit the presence of animals and hamper control operations.


Controlling an invasive species demands a well-planned management, which includes the determination of the invaded area, identifying the causes of invasion, assessing the impacts, defining the intervention priorities, selecting the adequate control methodologies and their application. Afterwards it is fundamental to monitor the efficiency of the methodologies and recuperation of the intervened area as to perform, whenever necessary, the follow-up control.

The control methodologies used for Acacia karroo include:


Physical control

Hand pulling: preferential methodology for seedlings and small plants. When in more compacted substrates, pulling must be made during the rainy season as to facilitate the removal of the root system.

Cutting: preferential methodology for adult plants. Cut the trunk as close to the ground as possible by using manual and/or mechanical equipment. It should be done before seed maturation.


Prescribed fire

It may be strategically used to favour germination of the seed bank, e.g., after the control of adult individuals (with the adequate management of the resulting biomass) and the subsequent elimination of seedlings. This method provides an advantageous reduction of the seed bank, both by destroying part of the seeds or by stimulating the germination of the remainders.

Visit the webpage How to Control for additional and more detailed information about the correct application of these methodologies.

Department of Environment and Heritage (2003) Weed management guide – karroo thorn (Acacia karroo). Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra, 6pp.



Department of Primary Industries (2014) Karoo and giraffe thorn. Available: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/agriculture-and-food/pests-diseases-and-weeds/weeds/state-prohibited-weeds/karoo-and-giraffe-thorn [Retrieved 03/03/2014].





Dufour-Dror J-M (2012) Alien invasive plants in Israel. The Middle East Nature Conservation Promotion Association, Ahva, Jerusalem, 213pp.





Marchante E, Freitas H, Marchante H (2008) Guia prático para a identificação de plantas invasoras de Portugal Continental. Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, Coimbra, 183pp.