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Parkinsonia aculeata - L.

Common Name Jerusalem Thorn
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards The leaves are reported to contain hydrocyanic acid and to be toxic[303 ].
Habitats Semi-desert vegetation, mainly in desert valleys and desert grassland zones, at elevations up to 1,300 metres in the subtropics and up to 2,400 metres in the tropics[418 ].
Range S. America - Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Parkinsonia aculeata Jerusalem Thorn
Parkinsonia aculeata Jerusalem Thorn / Stan Shebs


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Parkinsonia aculeata is an evergreen Tree growing to 7.5 m (24ft) by 7.5 m (24ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Birds.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (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 tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Parkinsonia thornberi M.E.Jones


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

Seed[303 , 418 ]. Fruit - raw[303 ]. The pulp inside the seedpodhas a sweet flavour, containing up to 60% sugars[303 ].


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.

Leaf, fruit and stem decoctions are taken orally and applied externally to treat fever, atony and malaria[303 , 774 ]. The decoction is also said to be abortifacient[303 ]. Flower and leaf extractions in alcohol are applied as a poultice to treat rheumatism[303 ].


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Other Uses

Agroforestry Uses: The tree is used for erosion control and reforestation in sandy, arid areas[303 , 418 ]. It is a useful plant for the reclamation of wastelands, gullied areas and mining spoil[303 ]. It provides a large amount of leaf litter that can be applied as a mulch to the soil[303 ]. The plant forms impenetrable hedges and makes an effective windbreak[303 , 774 ]. Other Uses: The heartwood is light brown; it is clearly demarcated from the thick band of yellowish sapwood[303 , 331 ]. The wood is close-grained, moderately heavy, hard, very compact and of high durability. Where available in sufficient size it is used for general carpentry, otherwise it is used for light poles and posts[303. 331, 419 ]. The wood burns well and makes a good fuel, it is also used to make charcoal[303 , 418 , 419 ]. Fodder (pods and leaves) .

Special Uses

Carbon Farming


Cultivation details

Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Pod  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Standard  Staple Crop: Protein

A plant of the semi-arid tropics and subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 2,400 metres in the tropics. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 24 - 32°c, but can tolerate 16 - 36°c[418 ]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -4°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 300 - 700mm, but tolerates 200 - 1,000mm[418 ]. Requires a sunny position[303 , 418 , 419 ]. Succeeds in well-drained, sandy to loamy soils[418 ]. Tolerant of poor, gravely or sandy soils[774 ]. Plants can tolerate moderate levels of salt in the soil[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5, tolerating 6 - 8.5[418 ]. Plants can withstand droughts of up to 9 months[418 ]. The tree reproduces so easily that it can escape from controlled cultivation and become a weed[418 ]. It forms impenetrable thorny thickets that compete with and exclude native species[305 ]. The tree is fast-growing but short-lived[418 ]. It can reach a height of 2.5 metres within 2 years from seed[419 ]. Young fertilized plants can grow up to 1 metre annually[418 ]. The branches of wild plants are often hollow and inhabited by ants[331 ]. 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

  • 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.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Staple Crop: Protein  (16+ percent protein, 0-15 percent oil). Annuals include beans, chickpeas, lentils, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Perennials include perennial beans, nuts, leaf protein concentrates, and edible milks.


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Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and benefits from scarification before sowing to speed up 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. Sow the seed in a sunny position in a nursery seedbed or in individual containers. A high germination rate can be expected, with the seed sprouting within 8 - 16 days[419 ]. The plants should be ready to plant out 8 - 10 months later[419 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Adanti, Balati kikar, Barbados flower fence, Cemaraan, Cina cina, Espinillo, Garabato, Geed walaayo, Kim tuoc chi, Kunto-barbariae, Mexican palo verde, Muk-bee, Mya-sein, Myinsa-goni, Okwato, Palo verde, Pardeshi baval, Parkinsonia, Ram baval, Ratamah, Ratta-maa, Retamo rojo, Retma, Sima tumma, Vilayati babul, Vilayati kikar, horse bean, horse-bean, horsebean, jelly bean tree, Jerusalem thorn, Mexican paloverde, palo verde, retaima, sessaban

Found In

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

Afghanistan, Africa, Angola, Antilles, Asia, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil*, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central Africa, Central America, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, East Africa, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guiana, Guianas, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesser Antilles, Libya, Marquesas, Martinique, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, North Africa, North America, Pacific, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Sahel, SE Asia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Uruguay, USA*, Venezuela, Vietnam

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.

The tree reproduces so easily that it can escape from controlled cultivation and become a weed[418 ]. P. aculeata is a major invasive species in Australia, as it is listed as a Weed of National Significance and is ranked as Australia's worst weed. It is also a major problem in parts of tropical Africa, Hawaii, and other Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

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.


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

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