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Samanea saman - (Jacq.) Merr.

Common Name Rain Tree, False Powder Puff, Monkey Pod
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Habitats Dry lowland grassland, coastal bushland and forest[307 ].
Range Northern S. America - Colombia, Venezuela; north through Central America to Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Samanea saman Rain Tree, False Powder Puff, Monkey Pod

Samanea saman Rain Tree, False Powder Puff, Monkey Pod
Forest & Kim Starr wikimedia.org


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Commonly found in Northern South America, Samanea saman or Rain Tree is a multi-purpose tree often cultivated for its timber and as food, medicine, and gums among others. It has a spreading and low type of dense and dome-shaped crown, and a short and usually crooked bole that can be up to 200cm in diameter. It grows up to 30-60m tall. Due to its dense canopy, rain tree is planted in plantations as shade tree for coffee, cacao, and other crops. Medicinally, the plant is used in the treatment of diarrhea, stomach pain, and sore throat. It is also used as a laxative. The pods can be eaten and the pulp can be made into drink.The bark is a source of gums and resins. Pods can be ground up and converted to alcohol as an energy source. The wood is light in weight but highly durable. It is used for carvings, furniture, panelling, boat building, interior trim, crafts, boxes, veneers, and general construction. Also kniwn as Albizia saman.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Samanea saman is a deciduous Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 30 m (98ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry moist or wet soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acacia propinqua A. Rich. Albizia saman (Jacq.) F. Muell. Calliandra saman (Jacq.) Griseb. Enterolob


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seedpod
Edible Uses: Drink  Gum

Children eat the pods, which contain a brownish, sticky, liquorice-like, sweet-flavoured pulp[303 , 307 ]. A lemon-like fruit drink is also made from the pulp[269 , 303 ]. The pods are more or less straight with conspicuously thickened edges, 12 - 20cm long, 1 - 2cm wide and 1.2cm thick[303 ]. The tree yields a gum of inferior quality which could be used as a poor man's substitute for gum arabic[269 ]. Carbon farming - Staple Crop: balanced carb.

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.
Antidiarrhoeal  Laxative  Stomachic

A decoction of the inner bark and fresh leaves is used as a treatment for diarrhoea[303 ]. A brew of small sections of the bark is taken to treat stomach-ache[303 ]. A crude aqueous or alcoholic extract of the leaves is observed to have an inhibiting effect on Mycobacterium tuberculosis[303 ]. The alkaloid fraction of the leaves is effective on the CNS and PNS[269 ]. An infusion of the leaves is used as a laxative[269 ]. The fruit decoction is used as a CNS-sedative[269 ]. The seeds are chewed for treating a sore throat[269 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Alcohol  Charcoal  Containers  Fencing  Fodder  Fuel  Gum  Resin  Wood

Street tree. Public open space. Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: The tree is grown to provide shade for other crops, including cocoa, coffee, tea and peppers[303 , 404 ]. The dome-shaped, low crown provides a very strong shade even at low sun positions[325 ]. The leaves fold up during rain, allowing more moisture to reach the crops below[325 ]. Other Uses The bark is an abundant source of gums and resins[303 , 320 ]. The tree yields a gum of inferior quality which could be used as a poor man's substitute for gum arabic[269 ]. Pods can be ground up and converted to alcohol as an energy source[269 ]. Yields of 1,150 litres of absolute alcohol can be obtained per year from 1 hectare[269 ]. The heartwood is brown when freshly cut, turning golden-brown upon exposure; the thin layer of sapwood is a cream colour. The wood is light in weight; soft but strong; durable to very durable. It takes a high polish but is often very cross-grained, making it difficult to work except when green. With its rich dark-and-light pattern, the wood is highly prized for carvings, furniture and panelling. The wood shrinks so little that products may be carved out of green wood without fear of splitting or warping as the wood dries[303 , 404 ]. In Hawaii, bowls and other craft products made from the wood are in such high demand that the local wood supply is supplemented by imports from Indonesia and the Philippines[303 ]. A moderately durable wood, it is also used in boat building[303 ]. The wood is very durable against rot and termites[307 ]. The beautiful, high-quality wood is used for interior trim, crafts, boxes, veneer, plywood and general construction[303 ]. The fact that S. Saman wood produces 5,200 - 5,600 kcal/kg when it burns, and that it regrows vigorously after lopping or pollarding, makes it a valuable source of high-quality firewood and charcoal[303 ]. However, where there is a strong market for wood carvings, the wood is considered too valuable to be used as fuel[303 ]. Carbon Farming - Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, crop shade, living trellis. Fodder: pod, bank, insect.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Agroforestry Services: Living trellis  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Bank  Fodder: Insect  Fodder: Pod  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Balanced carb

A plant of the lowland, humid tropics, growing from sea level to an elevation of 1,300 metres[303 ]. It prefers a mean annual temperature in the range 20 - 35c, being liable to damage if temperatures ever drop below 8c. It tolerates a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 3,000mm[303 ]. In areas of high rainfall the tree has a tendency to be shallow-rooted, but is deep rooted when grown in drier areas[303 ]. Prefers a position in full sun[307 ]. A fairly easy tree to grow, tolerant of a range of conditions, it grows on light or heavy soils and tolerates infertile or waterlogged conditions[303 ]. Normally found on neutral to moderately acid soils, it can grow on soil with pH as low as 4.6[303 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[307 ]. Yields of up to 275 kilos of pods per year can be obtained from trees 15 years old[269 ]. The trees provide a microclimate effect for the plants growing under their canopies. At night and on cloudy days, branches hang down and the leaves fold down and inward, allowing rain to fall directly on the ground and promoting cooling through exposing the ground[303 ]. In the morning the leaves unfold and resume a horizontal position, giving full shade and helping to preserve moisture[303 ]. The species is used as a shade for tea, coffee, cocoa, nutmeg and vanilla, and provides shade for pasture and grazing animals[303 ]. The tree responds to pruning and coppices well, regrowing rapidly when lopped or pollarded[303 ]. The tree is listed as undesirable in environmentally sensitive areas of Australia[307 ]. 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 Spring/Early Summer Mid Summer. Bloom Color: Pale Pink Pink White/Near White (red, pink). Spacing: 30-40 ft. (9-12 m) over 40 ft. (12 m). Carbon farming - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Living trellis  Plants to physically support other crops.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • 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.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • 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.
  • Staple Crop: Balanced carb  (0-15 percent protein, 0-15 percent oil, with at least one over 5 percent). The carbohydrates are from either starch or sugar. Annuals include maize, wheat, rice, and potato. Perennials include chestnuts, carob, perennial fruits, nuts, cereals, pseudocereals, woody pods, and acorns.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - stores well at ambient temperatures[325 ]. Fresh seed that is still moist usually germinates freely without pre-treatment[325 ]. Once the seedcoat has dried and hardened it needs to be treated to allow the ingress of moisture. This can be dome by carefully making a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the seed) or soaking larger quantities of seed in hot water for 3 minutes. In either case, the seed is then soaked for 12 - 24 hours in warm water before sowing[325 ]. Treated seed usually germinates quickly, in 6 - 8 days under optimal conditions[325 ]. Cuttings.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Akasya, Akasya, Belati siris, Bodu gas, Campano, Carabeli, Cenizaro, Chaam-churii, Cong, Cow tamarind, Filiganga, French tamarind, Genixaro, Gouannegoul, Gumorni spanis, Hujan-hujan, Jahmjuree, Kasia kula, Kayu hujan, Marmar, Mohemohe, Monkey Pod, 'ohai, Pukul lima, Reethigas, Saman, Sirsa, Tamaligi, Tamalini, Thinbaw-kokko, Trong-kon-mames, Vaivai ni vavalangi.

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Found In

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

Africa, Andamans, Antigua-Barbuda, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central America, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guianas, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Marianas, Marquesas, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, New Caledonia, Nigeria, Northeastern India, North America, Pacific, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Reunion, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, SE Asia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South America*, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Sudan, Suriname, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tobago, Togo, Tonga, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Yap, Zambia.

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.


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(Jacq.) Merr.

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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