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Parkia biglobosa - (Jacq.) R.Br. ex G.Don

Common Name African Locust Bean
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The bark and pods contain substances toxic to fish - the alkaloid parkine that occurs in the pods and bark may be responsible[303 ].
Habitats Particularly found on areas such as farm woodland which are subject to semi-permanent cultivation, also open woodlands on savannahs, rocky slopes, stony ridges etc[303 ].
Range Western central and northeastern tropical Africa.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Parkia biglobosa African Locust Bean

Parkia biglobosa African Locust Bean


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Parkia biglobosa or commonly known as African Locust Bean is a deciduous tree growing up to 20m in height and 130cm in bole diameter. The crown is umbrella-shaped, dense, and spreading. The bole is straight and cylindrical and the bark is thick and dark gray-brown. It has a deep taproot and lateral roots which spread up to 10m. It is primarily grown for its edible pods, commonly referred to as locust beans, that contain sweet and yellow pulp and up to 30 highly valued seeds each pod. The pulp can be eaten fresh or processed into desserts or drinks. The seeds, on the other hand, are made into spices or condiments known as ?dawadawa?. It has high content of protein, lipids, and vitamin B2. The leaves, though not commonly eaten, are also edible. The plant has medicinal value as well. Various plant parts are used in the treatment of toothache, ear problems, bronchitis, pneumonia, skin infection, sores, fever, malaria, sore eyes, burns, hemorrhoids, etc. Aside from food and medicine, different tree parts have a wide range of other uses. The pods and roots yield fibers which can be used as sponges or as strings for musical instruments. Boiled pods are used to dye pottery black. The twigs and bark are used to clean the teeth. The wood is easy to work and used to make agricultural implements, boxes and crates, furniture, etc.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Parkia biglobosa is a deciduous Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bats, Bees, Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Inga biglobosa (Jacq.) Willd. Mimosa biglobosa Jacq. Parkia africana R.Br. Parkia clappertoniana Kea

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Drink

The pods contain a sweet, yellow, farinaceous pulp surrounding the seeds[46 , 301 ]. This pulp can be eaten fresh or made into sweetmeats and drinks[299 , 301 , 303 ]. It contains up to 29% crude protein and up to 60% saccharose, is rich in vitamin C and high in oil content[303 , 317 ]. The pulp also yields a flour that is much used in parts of Africa[301 , 317 ]. The pink brown to dark brown pods are about 45cm long and 2cm wide[418 ]. Seeds are fermented to make dawadawa, a black, strong-smelling, tasty food high in protein. Dried fermented seeds keep for more than a year in traditional earthenware pots without refrigeration, and small amounts are crumbled during cooking into traditional soups and stews that are usually eaten with sorghum- or millet-based dumplings and porridges. Because of the savoury taste and the high protein and fat values of the seed, it is sometimes described as a meat or cheese substitute, but it is not usually eaten in large amounts. Dawadawa is rich in protein, lipids and vitamin B2. Parinari curatellifolia is deficient in the amino acids methionine, cystine and tryptophan, but fermented beans are rich in lysine. The fat in the beans is nutritionally useful (approximately 60% is unsaturated)[299 , 303 ]. The seeds contain antinutritional factors and have to be processed before use as food. Boiled and fermented seeds contain 35% proteins, 29% lipids, 16% carbohydrates and have good organoleptic properties and a positive effect on intestinal flora[299 ]. A coffee substitute is prepared from the parched seeds[299 , 301 , 303 ]. The seeds are roasted and ground into a powder for use as a coffee substitute[317 ]. Young pods are sometimes roasted on embers and eaten[303 ]. Leaves are edible but not commonly eaten[303 ]. They are sometimes eaten as a vegetable, usually after boiling and then mixed with other foods such as cereal flour[299 ]. Young flower buds are added to mixed salads[299 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Analgesic  Anticoagulant  Antidiarrhoeal  Antidote  Antihaemorrhoidal  Antiinflammatory  Antiseptic  Diuretic  
Febrifuge  Hypotensive  Leprosy  Malaria  Mouthwash  Ophthalmic  Purgative  
Skin  Vitamin C

The bark is used as a mouthwash, vapour inhalant for toothache, or for ear complaints. It is macerated in baths for leprosy and used for bronchitis, pneumonia, skin infections, sores, ulcers, bilharzia, washes for fever, malaria, diarrhoea, violent colic and vomiting, sterility, venereal diseases, guinea worm, oedema and rickets, and as a poison antidote[303 ]. Leaves are used in lotions for sore eyes, burns, haemorrhoids and toothache[303 ]. Seed is taken for tension, and pulp for fevers, as a diuretic and as a mild purgative[303 ]. Roots are used in a lotion for sore eyes[303 ]. An alcoholic extract of crude seeds showed anti-hypertensive activity and contractile effect on smooth muscles of the intestine, and increased the tonus and mobility of the uterus[299 ]. Ichthyotoxic and molluscicidal activities have been recorded for the seeds due to the presence of saponins[299 ]. The bark, leaves and pod husks are rich in tannins, which in general have anti-diarrhoeal activities[299 ]. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities have been demonstrated for the bark extracts[299 ]. The aglycone flavonoids in the leaves have spasmolytic activity on smooth muscles, and also vasodilatory and antiseptic effects[299 ]. Coumarin derivatives in leaf extracts have anticoagulant activity[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Containers  Dye  Fibre  Fodder  Fuel  Furniture  Insecticide  Mordant  Musical  Potash  Shelterbelt  Soap making  Soil conditioner  Tannin  Teeth  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: A useful windbreak and shade tree[303 ]. Soils under the tree are improved by its leaf fall[299 , 303 ]. It is common practice to grow several crops such as maize, cassava, yams, sorghum and millet under the canopy[303 ]. Other Uses Pods and roots contain fibres and are used as sponges and as strings for musical instruments[299 , 303 ]. Twigs are used to clean the teeth. The bark stains the mouth red and also contains saponins that clean the teeth[303 ]. A mucilage obtained from part of the fruit is made into a fluid and used for hardening earth floors and to give a black glaze in pottery[303 ]. The fruit pods are used to produce an insecticide powder, which is added to water and sprayed on crops[325 ]. The husks of pods, mixed with indigo, improve the lustre of dye products[303 ]. The boiled pods are used to dye pottery black[299 ]. The ash is applied as a mordant[299 ]. The seeds and bark are a source of tannins[303 , 317 ]. The wood ashes are used as a source of potash in making soap and indigo dye[317 ]. Wood is whitish, moderately heavy, 580-640 kg/cubic m when air seasoned, relatively hard and solid; it smells unpleasant when newly felled, but seasoning does not take long and only occasionally causes shape distortion; easily worked by hand or power tools; nails, glues, varnishes and paints well; mainly useful as a light structural timber, for example, for vehicle bodies, agricultural implements, boxes, crates and barrels, furniture, mortars and pestles, bowls, planks and carvings[299 , 303 ]. The branches are sometimes lopped for firewood[299 , 303 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Pod  Management: Standard  Other Systems: Parkland  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

Adapted to a wide ecological range, African locust bean is found naturally in the drier lowland tropics at elevations below 600 metres[325 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 28 - 40°c, but can tolerate 8 - 44°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range mm, but tolerates mm[418 ]. It prefers a strongly seasonal climate with a dry season of 4 - 8 months[303 , 325 ]. Grows best in a sunny position[418 ]. Prefers well-drained, deep, sandy to loamy cultivated soils, but it is also found on shallow, skeletal soils and thick laterites[303 , 418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 4.5 - 5.5, tolerating 4 - 6[418 ]. The plant has a deep taproot system and an ability to restrict transpiration, this gives it the capacity to withstand drought conditions once it is established[303 ]. Young trees have a slow rate of growth[774 ]. Growth is comparatively fast: seedlings may reach a height of 1 metre within the first year, and young trees of superior provenances can reach 7 metres tall in 6-year-old plantations[299 ]. Trees start flowering at 5 - 7 years while still comparatively small. They reach their maximum height after 30 - 50 years, and can reach an age of 100 years[299 ]. Trees in some areas have two flowering periods each year[299 ]. The tree produces root suckers[774 ]. There are conflicting reports on whether or not this tree has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, so it is unclear as to whether this tree fixes atmospheric nitrogen[755 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Fodder: Pod  Fodder plants with pods.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Parkland  Africa - Trees scattered throughout cropland. An Irregular intercropping system.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and benefits from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. The plant forms two different types of seed in each pod, reddish-dark ones and black ones[303 ]. The reddish dark have thinner seed coats and germinate more easily and quickly, even without scarification[303 ]. Young plants quickly form a deep taproot so it is best to sow the seed in individual, deep containers. Usually about 75% of all the seeds will germinate[303 ]. Seedlings can be ready to plant in their permanent positions when they are 10 - 14 weeks old[774 ]. Cuttings of mature wood[303 ]. Grafting.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

African Locust Bean, African locust, Anjambane, Biaie, Buiai, Canhando, Caroubier-africain, Daudawa, Dodoli, Dondo, 'Dorawa, Dorowa, Dours, Dowa, Dso, Duaga, Em-bando, Faroba, Farroba, Farrobe, Fernleaf Nitta-tree, Gante, Kolgo, Mehante, Mimosa-poupre, N'andu, Nando, Nere, Neri, Netch, Nete, Netto, Nitta tree, Nitta-Nut, Nutta-Nut, Olele, Poroba, Runo, Ulele, Unhando, monkey cutlass tree, nerre, nette, netteh, ouli.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Benin; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Liberia; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Sao Tomé and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Togo, Africa, Asia, Australia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, East Africa, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mali, Martinique,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Jacq.) R.Br. ex G.Don

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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