We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Prosopis africana - (Guill. & Perr.) Taub.

Common Name Pau Carvão. Mesquite. Iron tree
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The pounded dry fruits are suitable as a fish poison[418 ].
Habitats Frequently on fallow land, on sandy clayey soils over laterite[418 ]. Savannah land, especially in mesophytic woodland[491 ].
Range Tropical Africa - Senegal to Chad, Sudan and Uganda. Also in Saudi Arabia.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Prosopis africana Pau Carvão. Mesquite. Iron tree

Prosopis africana Pau Carvão. Mesquite. Iron tree
Wikimedia.org - Ji-Elle


Translate this page:


n the Serer creation myth, it is one of the sacred trees that grew not just first, but also within the primordial swamp on Earth.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Prosopis africana is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Coulteria africana Guill. & Perr. Prosopis lanceolata Benth. Prosopis oblonga Benth.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

The fermented seeds are used as a food condiment[418 , 774 ].

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.

The leaves are used in the treatment of headache and toothache as well as various other head ailments[418 ]. The leaves and bark are combined to treat rheumatism[418 ]. The bark is astringent. It is used in the treatment of skin diseases, caries and fevers[418 , 491 ]. The bark is used to make an eyewash[418 ]. The roots are diuretic[418 ]. They are used to treat gonorrhoea, tooth and stomach-ache, dysentery and bronchitis[418 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses


Agroforestry Uses: The tree is suitable for erosion control, shade and as an avenue tree[418 ]. It is planted to provide windbreaks, hedges and for soil conservation[325 ]. It can fix atmospheric nitrogen and the fallen leaves act as a green manure. It has great potential for parkland agroforestry systems and for improved agroforestry technologies in the Sahel, where it grows well in valleys and rocky soils[418 ]. Other Uses The bark and roots contain tannin[418 ]. The bark contains some 18% tannins[375 ]. A gum is obtained from the stems[303 ]. The ashes of the seedpods are used as a source of potash for soap making[303 ]. The sapwood is yellow, clearly demarcated from the red-brown heartwood, which becomes wine-red after drying[375 ]. The wood is hard; of medium to heavy density; with a fine grain; durable; resistant to termites[375 ]. It is hard to work as it blunts the tools, cannot be nailed without previous pre-drilling, but easy to carve, turn and glue[375 ]. The wood is used as timber for pestles, mortars, mallets, cudgels, furniture, joinery, sleepers in the construction of railway lines, boat building and axe handles[418 ]. It is sought for art and craft[375 ]. The wood is highly valued as a fuel and for charcoal making[375 , 418 , 491 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Pod  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Other Systems: Parkland  Regional Crop

A tree of semi-arid areas of the tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,000 metres. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature falls within the range 22 - 35°c, but can tolerate 18 - 40°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall of 300 - 500mm, tolerating 200 - 700mm[418 ]. Requires a well-drained soil and a sunny position[418 ]. Tolerant of most soil types[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, but tolerates 5 - 7.5[418 ]. The tree has a deep, fast-growing tap root[375 ]. Responds well to coppicing[375 ]. This is the only tropical African Prosopis species, occurring from Senegal to Ethiopia in the zone between the Sahel and savannah forests[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 ]. In it natural habitat, flowering occurs just prior to the rainy season. Seeds mature between February and March. Fodder: pod.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • 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.
  • 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.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - fresh, still moist seed does not require pre-treatment, butdried seeds need to be pre-soaked for 12 - 24 hours in warm water until the seed shows visible signs of swelling. If necessary, make a small incision in the seed coat (being sure not to damage the embryo) to allow the ingress of water. Sow the seeds in a nursery bed. Germination of around 85% of the seeds can take place within a week at 25°c[325 ]. Seedlings are ready for planting out when 14 - 18 weeks old[303 ]. Air dried seeds can remain viable for several years at room temperature[325 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Its common names include African mesquite, iron tree,iron wood, gele (Malinke) (traditional djembe wood) or somb tree. abu surung,abu suruj(Arabic); Hausa (kiriya); jaxan-jaxan,ir (Wolof). Bal-tencali, Buiengue, Bussagan, Cachem-cachao, Culengo, Culim-o, Djandjam-o, Djeiha, Karbon, Keseg-keseg, Ogea, Pau-carvao, Po-carvao, Po-de-carbom, Po-di-carvom, Quessem-quessem, Tchalem-ai, Tchela-tche-lengage, Tchela, Tchelangadje, Tchelem, Teacali-mand, Tentera,

Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, East Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, Sahel, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, West Africa

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.

None Known

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Prosopis albaWhite carob tree, Algarrobo blancoTree10.0 10-12 MLMHNDM323
Prosopis chilensisChilean algarrobo, Chilean mesquiteTree12.0 10-12 MLMNDM203
Prosopis cinerariaJandi, GhafTree6.5 10-12 MLMHNDM323
Prosopis glandulosaHoneypod mesquite. Glandular mesquiteTree7.0 8-11 FLMHNM324
Prosopis julifloraMesquite, Honey MesquiteTree10.0 7-12 FLMNDM324
Prosopis pallidaAlgarobaTree12.0 10-12 FLMHNDM222
Prosopis tamarugoTamarugoTree12.0 10-12 FLMHNDM103

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


(Guill. & Perr.) Taub.

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.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Prosopis africana  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.