Scientific & Common Names:
Acacia farnesiana, commonly known as casha bush or needle bush
The native range is uncertain. While the point of origin is Mexico and Central America, the species has a pantropical distribution incorporating northern Australia and southern Asia.
This very intimidating thorn-covered bush is seen almost everywhere on St. Croix. The species grows to a height of up to 26 feet and has a lifespan of about 25 to 50 years. Its leaves are numerous, each about an inch long and blunt tipped. The casha bush also holds tiny spherical yellow flowers and a nearly cylindrical legume pod, 4 to 5 inches long. The stem is thin and woody, usually contorted and covered with whitish thorns an inch or more long on mature stems. Be careful when hiking, as the casha thorns can do some damage to exposed knees, legs, and feet.
The seeds are not toxic to humans and are a valuable food source for people throughout the plant’s range. The leaves are used as a tamarind flavoring for chutneys and the pods are roasted to be used in sweet and sour dishes. The flowers are processed through distillation to produce a perfume called Cassie, which is widely used in the perfume industry in Europe. A black pigment is extracted from the bark and fruit and used in inks and dyes. The wood of the cashsa bush is very hard making it an excellent tree for making charcoal.
The bark and the flowers are the parts of the tree most used in traditional medicine. Casha bush has been used to treat malaria, and the extract from the tree bark and leaves has shown some efficacy against the malarial pathogen in animal models . The roots and bark of the tree are used to treat diarrhea and diseases of the skin. The tree’s leaves can also be rubbed on the skin to treat skin diseases.