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Facaceae / Mimosoideae, Pithecellobium dulce, guamuchil, Madras Thorn, Manilla Tamarind

March 1, 2013

The first two photos below are of Pithecellobium dulce, taken on the central Pacific coast of Mexico. The tree is native Central and S. America, grows up to 15 meters (50 ft) and is commonly referred to as Madras Thorn, or Manilla Tamarind. Despite its origins in the Americas, it is popular throughout Asia for its xerophytic nature and for the edibility of its spongy, white aril, which can be eaten out of hand, directly off the tree, and made into a variety of beverages. In terms of texture they are similar to some Inga species. The seeds can also be eaten, roasted or fresh.

This is a great drought tolerant, nitrogen-fixing tree. However, due to the species’ adaptability, production of abundant seeds and ability to provide its own nitrogen, unless managed properly it can take over and inhibit the establishment of other plants / trees.

The wood is strong and hard, but brittle and therefore difficult to work. The bark is high in tannin and provides a yellow dye. The resin, a adhesive, reddish brown gum, exudes from the sap and has a number of uses. Livestock and wild animals forage on the seed pods and leaves. The flowers are a popular bee forage.

Medicinally: In Haiti a decoction of the root and bark are taken to treat diarrhoea; fruit pulp is eaten to stop blood flow (in case of heamoptysis). The seed juice is inhaled into the nostril against chest congestion and seeds are smashed and ingested to treat internal ulcers. The leaves, when applied as plaster, is reported to alleviate pain caused by venereal sores. When crushed and taken with salt leaves are said to cure indigestion, however in excessive quantities can also produce abortion. The root bark is taken to cure dysentery. The bark is used medicinally as a ferbrifuge.

Portuguese traders are thought to have introduced P. dulce was introduced  to Indonesia. Spaniards brought it to the Philippines. It has now naturalized through the tropical world.

The last three photos are of Pithecellobium, but i’m not sure if its dulce, the leaves appear quite different.

The tree is easily propagated from seed.

If you’re interested, here are photos/info I’ve posted on other members of the Fabaceae family.

Fabaceae, pithecellobium dulce, leaf

Fabaceae, pithecellobium dulce

Flower below.

P. dulce flower

Photo of leaf and fruit/seedpod.

P. dulce leaf / fruit

Fruit/seedpod below. Another pespective

P. dulce fruit

  1. March 1, 2013 10:08:46 pm

    I always enjoy your tree studies/photos. They add much needed info to my plant awareness and knowledge. Thanks! 🙂

    • March 1, 2013 10:08:58 pm

      Thank you for reading and following this site for all this time. I primarily write these posts for readers like you, who I know are enjoying and benefiting from them.

  2. Pulkit Cohli permalink
    March 1, 2013 10:08:02 pm

    I would like to ask a question.. I agree with your statement that P.dulce is not suitable for agriculture unless managed properly. But would the statement hold true for reforestation in deserted areas? I think if we use it in that sense, they can be used to restore fertility in deserts..

    • March 2, 2013 10:08:55 pm


      Thanks for visiting the site and for the comment. You make a good point. Species such as P. dulce hold huge potential for dry-land reforestation. Their drought tolerance and nitrogen fixing abilities make them good contenders (with the added benefit of edible/medicinal properties). After all, in most cases trees are better then no trees. I think the best application for this species in reforestation / agroforestry is as a pioneer, nitrogen fixing tree to restore soil fertility, create shade, and biomass. Inter-planted with a wider diversity of longer-lived multi-purpose species, C. alata can gradually be pruned-back and managed to enable succession.

      • Pulkit Cohli permalink
        March 9, 2013 10:08:54 pm

        Thanks for your answer.. It was a great help 🙂 Will keep reading your posts for more interesting plant species..

        • March 10, 2013 10:08:55 pm

          Thank you for reading and commenting. Please come back!

  3. March 2, 2013 10:08:48 am

    Excellent share Spencer. Thorns to boot for habitat as well. What’s not to like about this tree? Cheers for the links as well 🙂

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