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Prosopis tamarugo - F.Phil.

Common Name Tamarugo
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Arid salt flats, sometimes with salt incrustation of 10 - 60cm thickness at the surface and the water table at a depth of 20 metres[418 ].
Range S. America - northern Chile.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Prosopis tamarugo Tamarugo

Hans Peter Möller - Flickr
Prosopis tamarugo Tamarugo
Pablo Trincado - Flickr


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Prosopis tamarugo is a very drought and salt tolerant tree. It participates in hydraulic redistribution moving water from deeper levels to the upper and also reversing the process in times of severe drought. Often found in areas where there is no rain for years at a time; however, at night there is a high relative humidity and the trees absorb moisture through the leaves. The trees will grow on saline soils that do not allow for other trees.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prosopis tamarugo is a deciduous Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 10 m (32ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


No synonyms are recorded for this name.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seedpod
Edible Uses:

The pods can be leached and used for food[418 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

None known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Agroforestry Uses: The tree is being planted in large numbers in northern Chile in a reforestation project - it is the only tree that can grow in such a harsh, arid climate[491 ]. Nitrogen. Other Uses: The wood is very heavy and very hard - making it difficult to work with[303 ]. It is used for furniture, and construction[418 ]. The wood is used for fuel and making charcoal[418 ].Fodder: Pod, Bank. At Pampa del Tamarugal, a silvopastoral system with small ruminants was established. The mature fruit and dry leaves of tamarugo fall on the soil and can be used as fodder for goats, sheep and cows.The leaves and the fruits of tamarugo, around 7000–9000 sheep and goats can survive in an original desert region. In fact, a 14–22 years old tree can produce 20–70 kg of fodder per year.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Pod  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Regional Crop

The plant occurs naturally in arid areas of the tropics, within the latitudinal range 18 - 21°S, at elevations from 1,000 - 2,500 metres[418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 18 - 32°c, but can tolerate 8 - 36°c[418 ]. Dormant plants can be killed by temperatures of -12°c or lower, though fresh young growth can be killed at -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 150 - 250mm, but tolerates 100 - 300mm[418 ]. It is often found in areas where there is no rain for years at a time; however, at night there is a high relative humidity and the trees absorb moisture through the leaves[418 ]. Requires a sunny position. Succeeds on salty, salty-sandy or clay-loam soils, sometimes with a 40cm salt encrustation at the surface[303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 7 - 8, tolerating 6.5 - 8.5[418 ]. Established plants are very drought resistant, able to go for 12 months or more without rain[418 ]. Under less harsh conditions that the plant experiences in its native environment, the plant might spread uncontrollably and become a serious weed[418 ]. Trees can reach 10 metres in height within 15 years, even under harsh conditions[418 ]. The tree coppices well, regenerating rapidly when cut back[303 , 418 ]. Annual wood production potential is 2 - 4 cubic metres per hectare[418 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[755 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Fodder: Pod  Fodder plants with pods.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • 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.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here


Native Plant Search

Search over 900 plants ideal for food forests and permaculture gardens. Filter to search native plants to your area. The plants selected are the plants in our book 'Plants For Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens, as well as plants chosen for our forthcoming related books for Tropical/Hot Wet Climates and Mediterranean/Hot Dry Climates. Native Plant Search

Found In

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

Chile*, South America

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.

Under less harsh conditions that the plant experiences in its native environment, the plant might spread uncontrollably and become a serious weed[418 ].

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : Status: Lower Risk/conservation dependent

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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.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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