Samanea saman (Jacq.) Merrill

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Leguminosae

Synonyms

Mimosa saman Jacq.; Pithecellobium saman (Jacq.) Benth.; Enterolobium saman (Jacq.) Prain.; Inga saman Willd.; Calliandra saman Greseb.

Common names

Rain tree, saman, samaan, algarrobo, monkey pod (Hawaii); French tamarind, guango (Jamaica).

Description

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).

Distribution

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.

Main reference

Adams (1972).

General features

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.