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Caesalpinia spinosa - (Molina) Kuntze

Common Name Spiny Holdback, Tara
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 9-11
Known Hazards The high tannin content of the pods may be lethal if consumed in large quantities by animals[ 303 ].
Habitats Forests and semi desert areas of the Interandine region, along the higher, cooler, inner slopes of both Cordilleras of Ecuador[ 303 ].
Range S. America - Argentina, northern Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Caesalpinia spinosa Spiny Holdback, Tara
Caesalpinia spinosa Spiny Holdback, Tara
mauroguanandi flickr


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Found in South America, Spiny Holdback, Caesalpinia spinosa, is a spiny, evergreen tree up to 8m tall and 5 m wide. It has an erect and slender trunk and it is rich in tannins. Seedpods yield a powder that is used as eyewash. The seed?s endosperm is a source of gum used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food. Common names: Spiny Holdback, Tailin, Vainilla, Tallo, Tara.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Caesalpinia spinosa is an evergreen Tree growing to 6 m (19ft) by 6 m (19ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Caesalpinia pectinata Cav. Caesalpinia tara Ruiz & Pav. Caesalpinia tinctoria (Kunth) Benth. Caesalp


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses:

The endosperm of the seed (22% of the total seed weight) yields a gum of commercial value. It is a white to yellowish powder and consists chiefly of galactomannan-type polysaccharides. The gum is used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in the food industry[ 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.

The powder contained within the seedpods is used as an eyewash[ 303 , 434 ]. An infusions of the pods is used in Peru for inflamed tonsils or washing wounds; it is also used for fevers, colds and stomach aches.


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Other Uses

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Agroforestry Uses: The plant is sometimes grown as a live fence in Peru[303. Other Uses: The pods contain around 50% tannin, about twice as much as sumac (Rhus spp)[ 303 , 434 ]. An excellent source of environmentally friendly tannins (tara tannins) most commonly used in the manufacture of automotive and furniture leathers. The high content of hydrolysable tan has made it interesting for the extraction of gallic acid and ink manufacturing[ 303 ]. Sticks of the wood are split up finely; urine is poured over the pieces of wood, which are then set out in the sun. Urine is repeatedly poured over them, until they are well soaked. After airing, the sticks are boiled in water, together with red tiri (Stereoxylon resinosum) and woollen or cotton fabrics. The dye produced is a purplish red[ 630 ]. The dried fruit is boiled with a bit of soot and woollens soaked in iron sulphate or vitriol without acid. The fabric produced will be dyed a beautiful clove colour[ 630 ]. A gum is obtained from the seed. It is used in the food industry[ 303 ]. The wood is durable[ 303 ]. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds. Grown as an ornamental plant because of its large colorful flowers and pods.

Special Uses


Cultivation details

A plant of higher elevations in the Andean mountains, it has been cultivated from the warm temperate to the very dry and seasonally wet tropics. It can grow in areas where the mean annual temperatures are within the range 14° - 28°c, and the mean annual rainfall is in the range 660 - 1,730mm[ 303 ]. Succeeds in full sun and partial sun[ 423 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.8 - 7.5[ 303 ]. A fast-growing plant[ 423 ]. Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen[ 755 ].


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Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and benefits from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination[ 303 ]. 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. Direct sow outdoors in fall . Seed Collecting: Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds. Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Spiny Holdback, Caesalpinia spinosa. Common names: Spiny Holdback, Tailin, Vainilla, Tallo, Tara.

Found In

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

Found In: Australia, Cuba, Ecuador, 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.

None Known

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Caesalpinia decapetalaMysore Thorn, ShooflyShrub3.0 7-10  LMHNM022
Caesalpinia digynaTeri pods, UdakiryakaShrub10.0 10-12 FLMHNM022
Caesalpinia echinataPau Brasil, Brazil Wood, Indian SavinTree12.0 10-12 MLMHSNM024
Caesalpinia gilliesiiBird Of Paradise, Bird-of-paradise shrubShrub5.0 7-10  LMHNM01 
Caesalpinia sappanSappanwood. Rainbow woodTree7.0 10-12 FLMHNDM123

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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(Molina) Kuntze

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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