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close this bookNitrogen Fixing Trees Highlights (Winrock, 1990-1997, 100 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcacia koa - Hawaii's most valued native tree
View the documentAcacia leucophloea - shade and fodder for livestock in arid environments
View the documentAlnus acuminata: valuable timber tree for tropical highlands
View the documentAlbizia saman: pasture improvement, shade, timber and more
View the documentCasuarina junghuhniana: a highly adaptable tropical casuarina
View the documentEnterolobium cyclocarpum: the ear pod tree for fasture, fodder and wood
View the documentErythrina variegata: more than a pretty tree
View the documentInga edulis: a tree for acid soils in the humid tropics
View the documentPithecellobium dulce - sweet and thorny
View the documentPterocarpus indicus - the majestic n-fixing tree
View the documentRobinia pseudoacacia: temperate legume tree with worldwide potential
View the documentAcacia nilotica - pioneer for dry lands
View the documentAcacia saligna - for dryland fodder and soil stabilization
View the documentAcacia senegal: gum tree with promise for agroforestry
View the documentAcacia seyal - multipurpose tree of the Sahara desert
View the documentAcacia tortilis: fodder tree for desert sands
View the documentAlnus nepalensis: a multipurpose tree for the tropical highlands
View the documentCasuarina equisetifolia: an old-timer with a new future
View the documentCasuarina glauca: a hardy tree with many attributes
View the documentChamaecytisus palmensis: hardy, productive fodder shrub
View the documentDalbergia latifolia: the high-valued Indian rosewood
View the documentDalbergia melanoxylon: valuable wood from a neglected tree
View the documentErythrina edulis: multipurpose tree for the tropical highlands
View the documentErythrina sandwicensis - unique Hawaiian NFT
View the documentHippophaƫ rhamnoides: an NFT valued for centuries
View the documentLeucaena diversifolia - fast growing highland NFT species
View the documentLeucaena: an important multipurpose tree
View the documentOlneya tesota - a potential food crop for hot arid zones
View the documentHoney mesquite: a multipurpose tree for arid lands
View the documentPongamia pinnata - a nitrogen fixing tree for oilseed
View the documentGuazuma ulmifolia: widely adapted tree for fodder and moreli
View the documentFaidherbia albida - inverted phenology supports dryzone agroforestry
View the documentGleditsia triacanthos - honeylocust, widely adapted temperate zone fodder tree
View the documentAndira inermis: more than a beautiful ornamental tree
View the documentErythrina poeppigiana: shade tree gains new perspectives
View the documentAlbizia procera - white siris for reforestation and agroforestry
View the documentAlbizia odoratissima - tea shade tree
View the documentAdenanthera pavonina: an underutlized tree of the humid tropics
View the documentAcacia mangium: an important multipurpose tree for the tropic lowlands
View the documentAcacia auiculiformis - a multipurpose tropical wattle
View the documentPentaclethra microphylla: a multipurpose tree from Africa lwith potential for agroforestry in the tropics
View the documentMyroxylon balsam and much more
View the documentOugeinia dalbergioides: a multipurpose tree for sub-tropical and tropical mountain regions
View the documentProsopis alba and prosopis chilensis: subtropical semiarid fuel and fodder trees
View the documentSesbania sesban: widely distributed multipurpose NFT
View the documentProsopis cineraria: a multipurpose tree for arid areas
View the documentJuliflorae acacias: new food source for the sahel
View the documentSesbania grandiflora: NFT for beauty, food, fodder and soil improvement
View the documentAcacia aneura - a desert fodder tree

Adenanthera pavonina: an underutlized tree of the humid tropics

Adenanthera pavonina (L.) (family Leguminosae, subfamily Mimosoideae) has long been an important tree in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Cultivated in home gardens and often protected in forest clearings and village common areas, this useful tree provides quality fuelwood, wood for furniture, food, and shade for economic crops like coffee and spices. The tree has been planted extensively throughout the tropics as- an ornamental and has become naturalized in many countries. The scientific name is derived from a combination of the Greek aden, "a gland," and anthers, "anther"; alluding to the aCircassianbeananthers being tipped with a deciduous gland The tree is known by a host of common names, including red-bead tree, red sandalwood, and Circassian-bean in English; raktakambal (India); saga (Malaysia); lope (Samoa and Tonga); coralitos, peronias, and jumble-bead (Caribbean).


A medium- to large-sized deciduous tree, A. pavonina ranges in height from 6-15 m with diameters up to 45 cm, depending upon location. The tree is generally erect, having dark brown to grayish bark, and a spreading crown. Multiple stems are common, as are slightly buttressed trunks in older trees. The leaves are bipinnate with 2-6 opposite pairs of pinnae, each having 8-21 leaflets on short stalks. The alternate leaflets, 2.02.5 crn wide and 3 cm long, are oval-oblong with an asymmetric base and a blunt apex, being a dull green color on top and a bluegreen beneath. The leaves yellow with age.

Flowers are borne in narrow spike-like racemes, 12-15 cm long, at branch ends. They are small creamy-yellow in color, and fragrant. Each flower is star-shaped with five petals, connate at the base' and having 10 prominent stamens bearing anthers tipped with minute glands.

The curved pods are long and narrow, 15-22 cm by 2 cm, with slight constrictions between seeds, and dark brown in color turning black upon ripening. The leathery pods curve and twist upon dehiscence to reveal the 8-12 showy seeds characteristic of this species. The hard-coated seeds, 7.5-9.0 mm in diameter, are lens-shaped, vivid scarlet in color, and adhere to the pods. The ripened pods remain on the tree for long periods and may persist until the following spring. There are reportedly 1600 seeds per pound (Little and Wadsworth 1964).


This species is common throughout the lowland tropics up to 300-400 m. Adenanthera pavonina is a secondary forest tree favoring precipitation ranging between 3000-5000 mm for optimal growth. Found on a variety of soils from deep, welldrained to shallow and rocky, this tree prefers neutral to slightly acidic soils. Initial seedling growth is slow, but rapid height and diameter increment occur from the second year onward. The tree is susceptible to breakage in high winds, with the majority of damage occurring in the crown. Rapid resprouting and growth following storm damage has been recorded in the Samoan Islands (Adkins 1994).


Adenanthera pavonina is endemic to Southeast China and India, with first reports being recorded in India The tree has been introduced throughout the humid tropics. It has become naturalized in Malaysia, Western and Eastern Africa and most island nations of both the Pacific and the Caribbean.


There are historical accounts from Southeast Asia and Africa of using all parts of tree for traditional medicines (Burkill1966, Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). Adenanthera pavonina is extensively cultivated as an ornamental for planting along roadsides and in common areas. The fast growth and spreading crown of light, feathery foliage offer attractive shade. Interplanted field and tree crops (spices, coffee, coconuts), along field borders as part of a windbreak or in plantation, A. pavonina is a valuable agroforestry species (Adkins 1994, Clark and Thaman 1993).

Adenathera pavonina

Wood Products.

Adenanthera pavonina is esteemed for fuelwood in the Pacific Islands, often being sold in local markets. The wood bums readily producing significant heat, and is used in both above- and below-ground ovens. Good sized fuelwood, larger than 11 cm in diameter, can be produced in five years. The wood is hard and durable having red-colored heartwood with light-gray sapwood. It is close-and evengrained, making it useful for constructing furniture, cabinets, and decorative wood products (Benthall 1946, Clark and Thaman 1993). It is also valued for home building.


Known as "food trees" in Melanesia and Polynesia, the seeds of this tree are roasted over a fire and eaten by children and adults alike. Nutritional studies have shown one quarter of the seed weight to be oil with a high percentage of protein, and a fatty acid composition favoring high digestibility for both humans and livestock (Balogun and Fetuga 1985, Burkill 1966). Historically, the seeds were used as weight measures for jewelry and goldsmithing due to their small variation in weight (Benthall 1946, Burkill 1966). The bright red seeds are still used today in fashioning necklaces and decorative ornaments.


The small leaves breakdown easily making for good use as a green manure. As a supplemental source of fodder, the leaves are fairly high in digestible crude protein (1722%), but low in mineral content (Rajaguru 1990).


The tree is cultivated from seed. The seed coat is extremely hard and requires scarification if even germination is to occur. Untreated seeds can be stored up to 18 months without losing viability (Basu and Chakraverty 1986). Manual scarification, immersing the seeds in boiling water for one minute, or treatment with sulfuric acid has shown to significantly increase germination percentage. Following treatment, seed can be directly sown in the field or in a nursery. Germination occurs within 7-10 days with young seedlings obtaining a height of 8-15 cm in approximately three months. Seedling maturity occurs two to three months later at 20-30 cm in height. Nursery stock transplants well.

Growth is initially slow, but increase rapidly after the first year. Following the first year of establishment, average annual growth rates of 2.3-2.6 cm in diameter and 2.0-2.3 m height have been recorded in American Samoa (Adkins 1994). Trees planted 1 x 2 m apart for windbreaks, and at a spacing of 2 x 2 m in plantations can be thinned in three to five years to provide fuelwood and construction materials. As a shade tree, spacing varies from 5-10 m depending on the companion crop and site. The trees resprout easily allowing for coppice management with good survival.

Despite an inability to suppress weeds, the seedlings are rather hardy and can survive with minimal maintenance. Adenanthera pavonina is compatible with most tropical field and tree crops, allowing for their usage in integrated production systems.


Although Allen and Allen (1981) indicate the inability of A. pavonina to nodulate, this legume is generally considered to be nitrogen-fixing. Sparse, fast growing, brown nodules with isolates confirmed to be Rhizobium have been observed by Lim and Ng (1977). The author observed root nodules, both in old nursery stock and in the field, during research conducted in American Samoa. Norani (1983) confirmed the presence of VA mycorrhiza on the roots of nursery stock.


Despite its susceptibility to crown damage in high winds, the ability to recover is remarkable. No insect or disease problems have been reported.


Additional investigation concerning the nitrogen-fixing ability on native and naturalized populations is required. Continued research on fuelwood production and fodder usage is necessary.


Adkins, R v-C. 1994. The role of agroforestry in the sustainability of South Pacific Islands Species Trials in American Samoa. MS. Thesis, Utah State University. Logan, Utah 133 p.

Allen, O.N. and E.K Allen 1981. The Leguminosae: a source book of characteristics, uses, and nodulation. University of WisconsinPress. Madison, Wisconsin. 812 p.

Balogun, A M. and B.L. Fetuga. 1985. Fatty acid composition of seed oils of some members of the Leguminosae Family. Food Chemistry, 17(3): 175-82.

Basu, D. and R.K. Chakraverty. 1986. Dormancy, viability and germination of Adenanthera pavonina seeds. Acta Botanica Indica, 14 (1): 68-72.

Benthall, A P. 1946. Trees of Calcutta and its neighborhood. Thacker Spink and Co. Calcutta. 513 p.

Burkill, I.H. 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay peninsula, 2 ea., Volume 1, A-H Government of Malaysia and Singapore. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 1240 p.

Clark, W.C. and R.R.Thaman (eds). 1993. Agroforestry in the Pacific Islands: Systems for sustainability. United Nations University Press. Tokyo, Japan. 279 p.

Lim, G. and H.L.. Ng. 1977. Root nodules of some tropical legumes in Singapore. Plant and Soil, 46: 317-27.

Little, E.L. Jr. and F.H. Wadsworth. 1964. Common trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Agriculture Handbook No. 249. USDA Forest Service. Washington, D.C. 14446 p.

Norani, A. 1983. A preliminary survey on modulation and VA mycorrhiza in legume roots. Malaysian Forester, 46: 171-74.

Rajaguru, A S.B. 1990. Availability and use of shrubs and tree fodders in Sri Lanka In: Devendra, C. (ed). Shrubs and tree fodders for farm animals. International Development Research Centre. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada pp: 237-43.

Watt, J.M. and M.G. Breyer-Brandwijk. 1962. The medicinal and poisonous plants of southern and eastern Africa, 2 ed. E &; S

FACT 96-03 June 1996