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Cajanus cajan - (L.) Millsp.

Common Name Pigeon Pea, Puerto Rico Bean, Gandul, Dhal, Congo Pea
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Not known in a truly wild situation. It is , however, sometimes found in grassy habitats in savannahs, shrubland and waste land[ 404 ].
Range E. Asia - India.
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
Cajanus cajan Pigeon Pea, Puerto Rico Bean, Gandul, Dhal, Congo Pea

Cajanus cajan Pigeon Pea, Puerto Rico Bean, Gandul, Dhal, Congo Pea


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A woody shrub that reaches only up to 4 m high upon maturity, Pigeon Pea or Cajanus cajan is grown in the tropics and subtropics for various uses. It is short-lived and believed to be one of the earliest of cultivated plants. It has deep tap roots hence it can tolerate drought and poor soil conditions. Edible parts of pigeon pea are the seeds, seedpods, leaves, and young shoots. Pigeon pea is as well known for its medicinal uses. Leaves are used as treatment of coughs, bronchitis, diarrhoea, haemorrhages, sores, and wounds. Diabetes and sore throats can likewise be treated using other plant parts of pigeon pea. Pigeon pea is planted as green manure. The stems are used as material in making baskets and in thatching. The wood is used in light construction.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Cajanus cajan is an evergreen Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cajanus indicus Spreng. Cytisus cajan L.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed  Seedpod  Shoots
Edible Uses:

Seed - cooked. Very young seeds can be cooked and eaten like peas, going well in rice dishes[ 46 , 301 ]. Mature seeds are dried and added to soups and stews[ 46 , 300 ]. Small but flavourful[ 298 ]. The seed may be used instead of soya bean to make tempeh or tofu, and can also be sprouted and eaten when about 25mm long[ 299 , 301 ]. The seed is usually round or oval and up to 8mm in diameter[ 300 ]. Seedpods - cooked[ 300 ]. The unripe pods are eaten in curries[ 301 ]. The pods are up to 10cm long and 14mm wide[ 200 ]. Leaves and young shoots - cooked and used as a vegetable[ 298 , 300 ]. A strong, spicy odour, with a new flavour that is not agreeable to everyone[ 298 ]. A good source of protein[ 298 ]. The leaves contain up to 9% protein[ 301 ]. The leaves quickly become fibrous[ 298 ]. Widely cultivated in all tropical and semitropical regions. An important legume crop of rainfed agriculture in the semiarid tropics. The Indian subcontinent, eastern Africa and Central America are the World's three main pigeon pea-producing regions. Pigeon peas are cultivated in more than 25 countries, either as a sole crop or intermixed with cereals, such as sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), or maize (Zea mays), or with other legumes, such as peanuts (Arachis hypogaea).

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Anthelmintic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antitussive  Deodorant  Diuretic  Expectorant  Laxative  Mouthwash  
Pectoral  Sedative  Skin  Vulnerary

The roots are anthelmintic, sedative, expectorant and vulnerary[ 272 ]. An infusion of the leaves is used as a treatment for pulmonary conditions such as coughs and bronchitis[ 348 ]. The leaf juice is taken internally in the treatment of haemorrhages, coughs and diarrhoea[ 272 , 348 ]. An infusion of the leaves, combined with Dactyloctenium aegyptium, is used to accelerate childbirth[ 348 ]. Young leaves are chewed to treat boils on the tongue[ 272 ]. A decoction is used for washing ulcers[ 348 ]. The boiled leaves are applied to sores and wounds to hasten cicatrization[ 348 ]. Young shoots and the green seedpods are used to make a good pectoral infusion[ 348 ]. An infusion of the flowers and leaves is diuretic and is used as a diabetes remedy[ 348 ]. An infusion of the flowers is pectoral[ 348 ]. A decoction of the plant is diuretic and laxative[ 200 ]. It is used in the treatment of sore throats[ 200 ]. An infusion of the seeds is diuretic[ 348 ]. A flour made from the seeds is resolutive[ 348 ]. Leaf contains cholesterol[ 348 ]. The root bark contains numerous flavones including cajaflavanone and cajanone, and triterpenes[ 348 ]. The root contains cajanone, an antimicrobial agent[ 348 ]. An enzyme called 'urease' can be extracted from the plant. It has medicinal applications[ 320 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Broom  Companion  Deodorant  Essential  Fodder  Fuel  Green manure  Hedge  Plant support  Roofing  Shelterbelt  Soil reclamation  Soil stabilization  Thatching  Wood

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Agroforestry Uses: A good green manure crop[ 46 , 200 ]. The plant has an extensive root system and is often grown to bind soil[ 200 , 320 ]. It is also grown to provide shelter from the wind[ 320 ]. It is also grown as a shade crop, cover crop, or as support for vanilla[ 299 ]. Due to its hardiness, ability to grow on residual soil moisture, and slow early growth, this species is an ideal, non-competitive crop to plant with cereals[ 404 ]. For hedgerow intercropping, the hedges should be cut at height of 50 - 100cm when the grain crop is fully mature. The hedges can be cut 2 - 3 times a year in areas where the dry season lasts 4 - 6 months. At pod maturity, the branches are cut at about 50cm. Higher levels of pruning can result in higher and unacceptable levels of plant mortality[ 303 ]. The root system is reported to break plough pans, thus improving soil structure, encouraging infiltration, minimizing sedimentation and smothering weeds. Leaf fall at maturity adds to the organic matter in the soil and provides additional nitrogen. It seems to have special mechanisms to extract phosphorus from black Vertisol soils[ 303 ]. The plant improves the soil through its extensive root system, nitrogen fixation and the mulch provided by the fallen leaves. Other Uses The stems are of use in basketry and thatching[ 200 ]. The plants are often used as brooms[ 272 ]. An essential oil can be collected by the steam distillation of the leaves and other aerial organs. It contains a mixture of compounds including the terpenoid alpha - copaene[ 404 ]. The macerated leaves are used as a deodorant[ 348 ]. The wood is used in light construction such as in roofing, wattling on carts, tubular wickerwork lining for wells and baskets[ 303 ]. The dried stalks and branches are used for fuel[ 320 ]. The sticks are an important household fuel in many areas. The heat value, with 1,450 kJ per 100g, is about half as high as the same weight of coal[ 303 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Hedge  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Insect  Global Crop as Annual  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  New Perennial Crop  Other Systems: Homegarden  Other Systems: Perennial fallow  Staple Crop: Protein

Grows well in lowland tropical areas up to an elevation of 1,500 metres, though some forms can still do well up to 2,000 metres[ 300 ]. Plants generally prefer a rainfall in the region of 500 - 1,000mm per year, though there are some cultivars that are adapted to wet, humid tropics so long as the soil is well drained[ 300 ]. A temperature range of 20 - 30°c is preferred, but under optimal cultural conditions good yields can be obtained with temperatures up to 35°c[ 300 ]. Grows best in a sunny position[ 320 ]. Succeeds in a wide range of soils that are well-drained[ 300 ]. Plants produce deep tap roots, they can succeed in poor soils and are extremely drought resistant once established[ 298 , 300 ]. Dislikes very acid soils, growing best in a pH range of 5.5 - 6.5[ 300 ]. A short-lived, woody plant, dying after 1 - 5 years[ 404 ]. Harvesting of dwarf varieties can commence 5 months after sowing (8 - 12 months for taller varieties) and continue for several months[ 300 ]. A relatively low-yielding crop, yields of up to 5 tonnes per hectare of pods, or 1 tonne of seeds can be achieved[ 300 , 404 ]. In perennial crops, 2 - 10 tonnes per hectare a year of woody stalks can be harvested for fuel[ 404 ]. There are two main forms of this plant, and many named varieties of each[ 46 , 300 , 301 ]. Var. Flavus DC. Is a moderate height plant that is early maturing, it is often grown as an annual in India[ 300 ]. The green pods normally contain 3 seeds[ 300 ]. Var. Bicolor DC. Is a taller plant that is later to mature and is usually grown as a perennial[ 300 ]. The dark coloured pods contain 4 - 5 seeds[ 300 ]. Short-duration dwarf cultivars are usually daylength neutral, but the taller growing cultivars are usually short-day plants that will not readily flower if day length is 12 hours or more[ 300 ]. A good companion plant, it is often grown in association with other crops[ 300 ]. 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[ 200 ]. The crop is cultivated on marginal land by resource-poor farmers, who commonly grow traditional medium- and long-duration (5-11 months) landraces.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Integrates annual crops with rows of perennials.
  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • 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: Insect  Plants grown for useful fodder insects.
  • Global Crop as Annual  These crops are already grown or traded around the world. The annual value of each is more than $1 billion US.
  • 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.
  • New Perennial Crop  Most new crops were important wild plants until recently, although some are the result of hybridization. They have been developed in the last few, decades. What they have in common is that they are currently cultivated by farmers.
  • Other Systems: Homegarden  Tropical multistrata agroforestry (multi-story combinations of trees, crops, domestic animals in the homestead).
  • Other Systems: Perennial fallow  Land that is plowed and tilled but left unseeded during a growing season.
  • 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.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ during the wet season, placing the seed 2 - 3 cm deep in the soil[ 300 ]. Two seeds are often planted per station, thinning to the best plant[ 300 ]. The seeds germinate at temperatures of 19 - 43°c, but most rapidly at 20 - 30°c. Emergence is complete 2 - 3 weeks after sowing. Vegetative development starts slowly, but after 2 - 3 months growth accelerates[ 299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Pigeon Pea or Cajanus cajan. Common Names: no-eye pea. tropical green pea. gungo pea in Jamaica. gandule bean. gandul / guandu in Latin America. ch’charo in Latin America. "kumanda yvyra'i" Guaran’ name in Paraguay. arveja in Ecuador. mgb_mgb_. gungo pea / gunga pea / Congo pea in Africa. mzimbili mussa in Tanzania. nandolo in Malawi. fio-fio. mbaazi in Kenya. kadyos in Philippines. quinchoncho in Venezuela. "mbaazi" in Tanzania. tubarika in Sanskrit. togari bele in Kannada. thuvaram paruppu in Tamil. thuvara parippu in Malayalam. tuver' in Gujarati. toor Dal in Marathi. toor dal or arhar dal. orhor dal in Bengali. rohor dail in Assamese. rahar daal in Nepali. harada dali in the Odia language. kandi bedalu in Telugu. behliang in the Zomi/Mizo language. Towar or Tovar or Tover ki dal.

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Found In

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

Found In: Afghanistan, Africa, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua-Barbuda, Asia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, Central America, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, C™te d'Ivoire, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guinea, GuinŽe, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Himalayas, Honduras, India*, Indochina, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Marianas, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Montserrat, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, North Africa, North America, Northeastern India, Oman, Pacific, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Reunion, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, SE Asia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tahiti, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe .

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

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


(L.) Millsp.

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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