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Why are Acacias so named?

E Charles Nelson tippitiwitchet at zetnet.co.uk
Thu Apr 2 02:09:22 EST 1998

The message <dd-0104981611140001 at modem64.win2.elite.net>
  from  dd at gondwana.org (David Deutsch) contains these words: 

> In article <6fu2lf$3sp$1 at gnamma.connect.com.au>, "plantwest"
> <nreese at nrg.com.au> wrote:

> > the name acacia comes from the greek word for thorn - this is because
> > African acacias have thorns on their trunks. I have not seen any Asutralian
> > acacias with thorns though.

> Hmmm I always thought the name came from the fact that they only
> accasionally had thorns...

> David Deutsch

The name Acacia is of ancient origin and is derived from akis, a 
sharp point; Dioscorides used the name. Its use as a generic name in 
the modern (Linnaean) sense derives from its publication by Philip 
Miller for those Old World species including the one known to the 
Greeks. Miller, of course, did not know any of the Australian species 
as they had yet to be "discovered".

The fact that not all Australian species have thorns is therefore 
irrelevant to the origin and derivation of the name. And moreover, 
there is  a case for distinguishing the Australian species as a 
separate genus for which the name Racosperma has been published. This 
is a controversial proposal, and is certainly not yet widely accepted.

Charles Nelson

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