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Pithecellobium dulce - (Roxb.) Benth.

Common Name Manila Tamarind, Madras Thorn
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The bark contains irritating substances, which can cause eye infections[306 ]. (Danger: Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling )
Habitats Dry, brushy or thinly forested plains or hillsides, often in coastal thickets, at elevations from sea level to 500 metres[331 ].
Range S. America - Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela; C. America - Panama to Mexico; Caribbean.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Pithecellobium dulce Manila Tamarind, Madras Thorn

Pithecellobium dulce Manila Tamarind, Madras Thorn


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Pithecellobium dulce is a flowering species native to Mexico, Central America, and northern part of South America. It grows about 10 - 15 m in height with a spreading, rounded crown, spiny branches, and short, multiple boles. The leaves are bipinnate. The flowers are fragrant, greenish-white, and form into round dense heads. It is a tree of many uses - it is planted and grown as an ornamental and/or shade tree, for medicinal purposes, and for its fruits and seeds. Some medicinal properties that P. dulce have are for relief from convulsions, inflammations, and venereal sores. It also functions as remedy for diarrhea, dysentery, hemoptysis, chest congestion, and internal ulcers. Plant parts like fruits and seeds are edible. The flesh surrounding the seeds can be eaten raw, cooked, or made into drinks. The seeds can also be eaten raw or used as an ingredient in curries. Edible oil can be obtained from the seeds, which can also be used in making soap. Manila tamarind has symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria and is capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Due to this, it can be grown for reforestation and soil conservation. The bark is a source of yellow dye, tannin, and gum. Seeds and leaves are also sources of tannin. The wood is not of superior quality but can still be used in light construction and for poles.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Pithecellobium dulce is an evergreen Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 15 m (49ft) 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.
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 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


Acacia obliquifolia M.Martens & Galeotti Albizia dulcis (Roxb.) F.Muell. Feuilleea dulcis (Roxb.) Ku

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Drink  Gum  Oil

The pods contain a sweet, pulpy flesh that surrounds the seed[301 ]. This flesh can be eaten raw, boiled or made into a refreshing beverage that is suggestive of lemonade[301 , 303 , 331 ]. The pods are 10cm long by 1.5cm wide[200 ]. When mature, the pods split open at the lower suture exposing the edible pulp. For this reason the fruit does not keep long and has to be consumed within a few days[306 ]. Seeds - raw or eaten in curries[301 , 303 ]. An oil is obtained from the seed[301 , 303 ].

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.
Abortifacient  Antidiarrhoeal  Antiinflammatory  Dysentery  Febrifuge

The leaves can be used as a plaster to allay pain even from venereal sores, and can relieve convulsions. A paste made from the leaves is applied externally to treat muscular swellings caused by some inflammations[272 ]. The leaves together with salt can cure indigestion and, in larger doses, can also induce abortion[272 , 306 ]. The bark of the root is a good remedy for diarrhoea and dysentery[272 , 306 ]. The bark is used medicinally as a febrifuge[303 ]. The fruit pulp is taken orally to stop blood flow in case of haemoptysis[303 ]. The seed juice is inhaled into the nostrils against chest congestion and pulverised seeds are ingested for internal ulcers[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Dye  Fencing  Fodder  Fuel  Gum  Hedge  Oil  Shelterbelt  Soap making  Soil reclamation  Tannin  Wood

Agroforestry Uses: Since it can fix atmospheric nitrogen, and grow on waste and denuded lands, it is used to afforest and conserve poor soils[303 ]. With regular trimming, the tree makes a dense, almost impenetrable thorny hedge that keeps out livestock and forms useful shelter belts; for hedges, seeds may be sown in 2 rows of 15 x 30 cm[303 ]. When trimmed hard it makes an attractive if rather fierce hedge[200 ]. When grown in hedges it is commonly mixed with other species such as Ziziphus mauritiana and Azadirachta indica[404 ]. Other Uses A yellow dye is obtained from the bark[302 , 303 ]. The bark contains about 25% tannin[272 , 303 ]. The seeds and leaves are also sources of tannin[302 , 303 , 306 ]. The wounded bark exudes a mucilaginous reddish-brown gum somewhat like gum arabic[303 ]. The seeds contain about 20% of a greenish oil which, after refining and bleaching, can be used in the making of soap and can substitute kapok and ground nut seed oils[303 , 306 ]. The heartwood is yellowish or reddish-brown; the sapwood yellowish. The wood is strong and durable yet soft and flexible. It is moderately hard and usually straight grained. It weighs about 590 kg/m_, is easy to saw and finishes to a smooth surface. Not of a very high quality, though it can be used in construction and for posts. The short spines and irregular, crooked growth make it less attractive for wood uses[303 , 404 ]. Fast-growing and coppices vigorously but due to its smokiness and low calorific value (5 177-5 600 kcal/kg), this species is not of very high quality for fuel[303 ]. In parts of India, it is planted and harvested to fuel brick kilns[303 ].

Special Uses

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: Living fence  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Insect  Fodder: Pod  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Industrial Crop: Tannin  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop

The tree grows well at low and medium altitudes in both wet and dry areas of the tropics[306 ]. It can tolerate an annual rainfall as low as 140mm and as high as 2,200mm[303 ]. It will grow in areas where the average temperature ranges from 18 - 27.9°c[303 ]. An easily grown plant that can succeed in most soils, it prefers a well-drained soil in a sunny position[302 ]. Can also succeed in heavy clay soils[306 ]. The tree can grow on poor soils, on wastelands and even with its roots in brackish water[303 ]. Established plants are drought tolerant[302 , 331 ]. Tolerates a pH as high as 8.3[303 ]. Plants have escaped from cultivation and become naturalized as a weed in dry places in some areas of the tropics[302 ]. Commences flowering when only 1 - 2 metres tall[331 ]. Trees can reach a height of 12 - 15 metres in about 40 years. In favourable soil conditions, they may reach a height of 10 metres in only 5 - 6 years[303 ]. The trees coppice vigorously and produce root suckers upon injury to the roots[303 ]. Once planted in the field, the tree does not need any treatment other than occasional pruning[303 ]. There are some named varieties[301 ]. 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 ]. Flowering Time: Late Winter/Early Spring. Bloom Color: White/Near White Cream/Tan. Spacing: 20-30 ft. (6-9 m).

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: Living fence  Simply managed rows of shrubs and 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.
  • 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
  • Industrial Crop: Tannin  Occur generally in the roots, wood, bark, leaves, and fruit of many plants. Used in tanning leather, dyeing fabric, making ink, and medical applications.
  • 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.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - takes about 2 weeks to germinate[303 ]. No pre-treatment is required - soaking actually reduces germination and heating kills the seeds[303 ]. Best sown into nursery beds and planted out when about 12 months old[303 ]. Plants often self-seed, especially around the margins of cultivated fields where plentiful seeding can be found under mature trees[303 ]. Cuttings. Air layerng. Grafting.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ai-terak, Am'pul tuk, Ampil tuk, Asam belanda, Asam koranji, Asam kranji, Asam tjina, Asem londo, Bak kaam lian, Blackbead, Camachile, Chichbilai, Coorkapooly, Damortis, Dhekhani babul, Guamochil, Guayamochil, Jalebi, Jangal jalebi, Jangle jalebi, Jilapi phal, Kaam lian, Kamachile, Kamachili, Kamanchilis, Kamatsile, Karoenga, Kataiya, Keo tay, Khaam th'eed, Kikar, Kodukkaapuli, Korukkapuli, Kottamphuli, Kukafalli, Kway-tanyeng, Madrasthorn, Makham-thet, Manila tamarind, Mchongoma, Me keo, Mhakam-khong, Opiuma, Seemae hunase, Sima chinta, Simachinta, Sweet-inga, Vilayati babul, Vilayati chinch, Vilayati imli, camambilarinde, guamuchilillo, huamúchil, madras thorn, madras thorn,manila tamarind|pinikaral, madre de flecha, mangollano, manila tamarind, manila-tamarind, monkey pod, monkeypod, opiuma, pois sucré, roosta, sweet-inga.

NORTHERN AMERICA: Mexico, Baja, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Chiapas, Colima, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Puebla, Querétaro, Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave, Yucatán, SOUTHERN AMERICA: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela (west), Colombia (north & west),

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.

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


(Roxb.) Benth.

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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