Wild Plants of Pakistan








A moderate-sized, almost evergreen tree up to 12 – 18 m high and a girth of 1 m, with a spreading crown and feathery foliage, flowers bright yellow, fragrant, crowded in long-stalked globose heads, commonly known as Babul in Pakistan and India, flowering from March to November, and seeds are blackish brown, it is a native to Africa and the Indian subcontinent, it is common along streams, river-banks, and on uncultivated land; also in moist sandy to saline soil, propagates by seeds, trees commence to bear fruit at an early age, and seed annually,  it is widely distributed in W. Pakistan (Punjab, Sindh); India; Tanganyika.

The tree is gregarious and forms either pure stands or is dominant. It is a strong light-demander. Babul is one of the favourite timbers for native wheelwright work, being used for felloes, spokes, naves and axles for the bodies of carts, and also for shafts and yokes. It is also used for agricultural implements such as ploughs, harrows, also used to make well curbs, tent pegs, boat handles, walking-sticks etc. Leather made from Babul bark is firm and durable; the seeds of Babul are eaten roasted or raw in times of acute scarcity.

Gum produced by A. nilotica, is called Gum Arabic (is not the true gum Arabic which is obtained from Acacia Senegal. Good quality Babul gum is used in calico-printing and dyeing, as a sizing material for silk and cotton, and in the manufacture of paper.

Leaves are used for eye-diseases, bark is a source of tannin, and are used for asthma and skin diseases. Stem is used for tooth-brush and gums for burns; leaves and pods eaten by goats, a good soil binder and increases soil fertility through nitrogen fixation. Pods are reported to be effective in urinogenital disorders; the unripe pods are used to make ink, a decoction of the bark is used as a substitute for soap.


A small to moderate-sized tree, evergreen or nearly so, with an open crown, bark grey, reaching a height of 10 – 12 m and a girth of 1.0 – 1.5 m, sending its roots many feet into the ground; commonly known as Safed-Kikar, Kandi or Jand in Sindhi / Urdu whereas, Ghaf in Arabic. It is a native to arid portions of Western and South Asia, such as the Arabian and Thar Deserts. It is widely distributed in West Pakistan (Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan); India; Afghanistan; Persia and Arabia. It is the provincial tree of the Sindh province (wikipedia.org). Flowers are creamy white in pedunculate spikes, pods 12.5 – 25 cm long, bearing dull brown, oblong, compressed, 10 – 15 seeds, flowering from December to March.

Prosopis cineraria is extremely hardy and drought tolerant, growing in areas with as little as 75 mm annual rainfall, with dry seasons of eight months or more, it is tolerant of temperatures up to 50o C, it is found in alluvial and coarse, sandy, often alkaline soils where the pH may reach 9.8. Prosopis cineraria is a versatile species, providing fodder, fuel food, timber, and shade, as well as enhancing the fertility of the soil and sand dune stabilization, it is commonly used in dryland agroforestry in India and Pakistan. Yields of sorghum or millet increased when grown under P. cineraria, as a result of higher organic matter content, total nitrogen, available phosphorus, soluble calcium, and lower pH. The tree is a strong light demander.

The wood is suitable for interior construction work, such as columns, roofs, doors and windows and for wheels and hub of carts, agricultural implements, tool handles, small turnery articles and well-curbs. It is also a source of fuel and is used for making charcoal. Its wood is favoured for cooking and domestic heating. The wood ash which contains 31 % of soluble potassium salts may be used as a source of potash. The leaves are much lopped for fodder. They are also used for green manuring as it contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and Calcium.

The pods are used for fodder and the sweetish pulp around the seeds is eaten green or dry, raw or cooked. The bark has a sweetish taste. It is reported that during the severe famine of Rajputana in 1868 – 1869, many lives were saved by the use of bark as a source of food; it was ground into flour and made into cakes. The bark as well as the galls, formed on the leaves, used for tanning, the tree also exudes a gum, which resembles the mesquite gum, from the cut ends of branches.

The flowers are pounded and mixed with sugar, and eaten by women during pregnancy to safeguard them against miscarriage. The flowers are also valuable in honey production. The ashes are rubbed over the skin to remove hairs. The pods are considered to possess astringent, demulcent and pectoral properties. The bark is dry, acrid, bitter, with a sharp taste; cooling, anthelmintic, tonic; cures leprosy, dysentery, bronchitis, asthma, leucoderma, piles, tremors of the muscles, wandering of the mind and also utilized as a remedy for rheumatism.


A densely branched, spinous shrub or tree, up to 5 m (rarely more) high, leaves only on young twigs, commonly known as Karir or Karil in Sindhi / Urdu whereas, Caper-berry / Leafless Caper-Bush in English. It is one of the common shrubs of arid plains of Sindh, Baluchistan & Punjab, distributed in N. and Tropical Africa, Arabia, eastwards to India, flowers brick red to orange-red, flowering abundantly during the hot weather.

The plant usually grows in dry, exposed habitat, often on foothills, in wastelands; it is reported to be suitable for soils affected with saline irrigation water, and for stabilizing sand dunes. It can be used in landscape gardening, afforestation and reforestation in semi-desert and desert areas; it also provides assistance against soil erosion. The plant coppices well and produce root-suckers freely. The flower-buds and the unripe fruits are prickled, and also cooked and eaten as vegetable. They form an integral part of the diet of people in desert and semi-desert areas of the country. The protein content and mineral constituents of the fruits of Capparis decidua are comparatively much higher than common fruits like banana, grapes, guava and mango, and hence, they can be profitably utilized, especially in dry regions.

Fruits are reported to be a good source of nutrients for desert animals. The fleshy fruits are eaten by birds. The young twigs serve as a fodder for camels and goats. The wood is light yellow to pale brown, smooth, moderately hard and heavy and resistant to termites. It is suitable for making small beams, rafters, knees of boats, for oil mills, tool-handles, cart-wheels and axles, and to a small extent in making combs. A paste of the coal from the burnt wood is applied for muscular injuries. The wood also serves as a fuel. The plant is used for making huts and fences. It can also serve as wind-break especially in dry localities.

The fruits are astringent, and useful in cardiac troubles and biliousness. The root and bark contain 28 and 31 percent protein, respectively. The bark is anthelmintic and useful in cough, asthma and inflammations. The tender leaves are applied as a poultice on boils and swellings. They are chewed to relieve toothache. The stem bark is acrid, laxative and diaphoretic. It is given in remittent fevers and rheumatism. The decoction of aerial parts is reported to be given to animals for stomach disturbances.


A small thorny, deciduous tree with yellowish white bark and feathery crown, reaching a height of 3 – 6 m and a girth of 30 – 60 cm, old branches glaucous-grey, commonly known as Khair or Kumta in Sindhi / Urdu whereas, Gum Arabic tree / Gum senegal tree in English, it is a native to Sudan, it is widely distributed in West Pakistan (Sindh and Baluchistan); India; Arabia; and in Tropical Africa. Flowers white / creamy white, fragrant in axillary, its pods are straight, strap-shaped, bearing 5 - 6 seeds, flowering from August – December.

Acacia senegal is extremely hardy and resistant to drought, and is considered one of the main cash crops of the desert region. It tolerates high daily temperatures (mean maximum temperatures of up to 45oC or more), dry wind, and sandstorms. It prefers coarse-textured soils such as fossil dunes, but it will also grow on slightly loamy sands and skeletal soils such as Lithosols. The best sites have pH of 5 to 8.

It is grown in agroforestry systems especially in the Sudan in "gum gardens” for gum as well as to restore soil fertility and it also provides fuel and fodder. It is important for desertification control through sand dune stabilization and wind breaks. It yields the true gum arabic of commerce, which is also known as Senegal gum.

The principal use of gum arabic in confectionary as an emulsifier, for preserving flavours of soft drinks and spray-dried instant foods, and also in the manufacture of chewing gums. It is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a binding agent in the manufacture of cough pastilles and other medical preparations or as a coating for pills. Another major use of gum arabic is in the manufacture of adhesives for domestic and office use, for stamps and envelopes. It is also used in lithographic printing and to a small extent in sizing of paper and cloth, and in the textile industry for finishing silk and crepe. It has a variety of applications in the paint and ink industry and in cosmetics.

Gum arabic is a demulcent and emollient, used internally for intestinal troubles and externally to cover inflamed surfaces, such as burns and sores and nodular leprosy. The gum is also used for hair set and as a suspending agent. The wood takes beautiful polish and is used for weaver’s shuttles, fuel wood and charcoal.

The bark of the long flexible strands of the surface roots furnishes a fibre. It is used for cordage, well ropes, fishing nets, horse girths and foot ropes. The roots are said to be used for dysentery, gonorrhoea and nodular leprosy. The seeds are sometimes eaten as a vegetable. The leaves and fallen flowers are often collected for cattle fodder.

Books References:

i) Flora of Pakistan: Vol-34, Capparidaceae, S.M.H. Jafri.
ii) Flora of Pakistan: Vol-36, Mimosaceae, S.I. Ali.
iii) The Wealth of India, Raw Materials: Vol – 1-A (Revised Edition) @ 1985, National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, CSIR, New Delhi, India.
iv) The Wealth of India, Raw Materials: Vol – 3 (Ca – Ci) Revised, @ 1992, National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, CSIR, New Delhi, India.
v) The Wealth of India, Raw Materials: Vol – VIII: (Ph – Re), @ 1969, Reprinted in 2003, National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources, CSIR, New Delhi, India.
vI) The Useful Plants of India, Shri.K.Kashyapa (Retd.) & Shri Ramesh Chand, 1986, National Institute of Science Communication, Dr.K.S.Krishnan Marg, New Delhi.
vii) Kirtikar and Basu’s illustrated INDIAN MEDICINAL PLANTS (Their Usage in Ayurveda and Unani Medicines), Vol: 4, Edited by: K.S. MHASKAR, E. BLATTER & J.F. CAIUS, Published by Sunil Gupta for Sri Satguru Publications and Printed at Mudran Bharti, Delhi, India.

Internet References:

i) http://www.winrock.org/fnrm/factnet/factpub/FACTSH/A_senegal.html
ii) www.faculty.ksu.edu.sa
iii) www.herbsgujarat.tripod.com
iv) http://www.winrock.org/fnrm/factnet/factpub/FACTSH/P_cineraria.html