Mimosa saman Jacq.; Pithecellobium saman (Jacq.) Benth.; Enterolobium
saman (Jacq.) Prain.; Inga saman Willd.; Calliandra saman Greseb.
Rain tree, saman, samaan, algarrobo, monkey pod (Hawaii); French
tamarind, guango (Jamaica).
A tree up to 25 m high with a stout trunk, to 1.5 m in diameter,
and large spreading canopy. Low, spreading branches, more or less deciduous.
Leaves with two to four pairs of pinnae. Leaflets obtuse, ovate-oblong
or roundish, oblique, pubescent, up to 4 cm long. Inflorescence one or
two together on peduncles 5 to 9 cm long; flowers in heads on short pedicels.
Calyx 6 mm long, greenish. Corolla yellow or red, 10 to 12 mm long, stamens
silky, pale crimson. Pods fleshy, 10 to 25 x 15 to 18 mm, straight, more
or less flat, black when ripe. Seeds 16 to 20, rounded, truncate at one
end, pointed at the other, dark reddish brown with a paler ring at each
side, 10 to 11 x 5 to 6 mm (Adams, 1972).
Native to Latin America from Nicaragua to Brazil, but particularly
Venezuela. S. saman was introduced to the West Indies, where it is now
widely cultivated and has escaped and is often naturalized. It has been
widely introduced elsewhere, for example Sri Lanka, where it is planted
as an avenue tree.
S. saman has a wide range of useful products, the pod in particular
producing an edible pulp. When ripe, the pulp is sweet and sugary. It can
also be dried and ground into a meal for animal feed. The timber is strong
and hard, with a rich, dark colour, and makes good furniture. It is also
valuable as a shade tree in pastures, stimulating grass growth. It is an
admirable street tree. The leaves fold together on the approach of rain.