Tamarindus indica L.

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Author: Le Houérou

Common names

Tamarind, Dakkar. The name of the capital city of Senegal, Dakar, has been coined after the local Wolof vernacular name of T. indica : "dakkar".


Large tree up to 30 high and 1 m in bole diameter. Short bole and high, deep-seated, large crown. Deciduous in semi-arid regions, evergreen in sub-humid and humid. Bark grey, stongly fissurated and scaly. Slash roseate, yellow at the rim. Leaves alternate, paripinnate. Rachis 7-12 cm long with 9-12 or 20-40 pairs of leaflets, the latter rounded at the base, 6 x 18 mm, opposite. Flowers few, yellowish, with red stripes in small, terminal, glabrous racemes, clustered by 5-10 together at the ends of the branchlets, 3-5 cm long. Pod 7.5 to 15 x 2.5 cm, three- to ten-seeded. Flowering in December-January. Individual trees may grow very old and remain productive beyond 200 years of age.


In the Sahel, it is often associated with the baobab (Adansonia digitata), which has similar site requirements. Often used in backyard plantations, squares (palaver-tree), for its thick shade and large canopy. The tamarind is little compatible with other plants which, owing to its powerful root system, and dark shadow it tends to eliminate.


Minimum rainfall is 400 mm MAR, but grows also under 1500 mm in the monsoon regions. A marked, relatively long dry season seems needed for fruit maturing ; the tamarind does not penetrate into the rain forest zones. Being a deep rooted phreatophyte in the semi-arid bioclimates it is very resistant to storms, to fogs and to slight saline spray in coastal districts.


Unassuming in terms of soil requirements, but with a preference, however, for deep alluvial soils. Water logging conditions, swamps and often flooded areas should be avoided.


Originally from Madagascar, East Africa and India, today widely distributed throughout the semi-arid and sub-humid tropics of Asia and Africa, also cultivated in Florida, Australia, Central and South America. Occurs up to 1,500 m of elevation asl in mountanous areas (e.g. Ethiopia's Blue Nile valley).

Crop management

The first crop of fruits occurs between the 8 th and the 12 th year after planting. Annual yields of 150 to 2,000 kg per tree have been reported, from well managed groves.


The tamarind was already known in ancient Egypt. Most regenerations seem natural. Seeds transported by birds and wildlife germinate readily under the shade of another tree, such as baobab and on termite mounds. Seedlings are browsed by livestock. Germination rates are high when taken from fresh pods; germination from dried out pods is poor, however ; germination may then be enhanced by treating with boiling water.; there are 2,000 to 2,500 seeds per kg. Seeds remain viable for many years. Multiplication in nursery requires shading until the plantlets reach some 35 cm in height. Vegetative propagation from cuttings is feasible (but not easy), grafting, however, is routinely utilized and useful for multiplying elite trees with outstanding production and/or fruit quality.

Products & uses

Tamarind is one of the most used trees in the Sahel. Its utilization as a fruit producer requires care and following of a certain number of rules, such as :

  • The fruits should be left to mature on the tree for a good quality product, there are various methods of processing and storage, depending on the end-product which is sought e.g. jam, beverage, dressing sauces (chutneys), condiments, syrups, ice-creams etc., or eaten fresh.
  • Seeds have various uses, icluding human food and livestock feed.
  • Flowers are nectariferous providing abundant and high quality honey.
  • Wood : sapwood is white to yellowish sometimes with red streaks. The heartwood is brown to purple-brown, occasionally with black stripes in the older trees, wood is hard heavy (d=0.93 g cm-3); difficult to work blunting the working tools, but with good strength and binding ability; it is used for making many tools and ustensils, liable to splitting when drying. Fuel and charcoal is of high quality.
  • Medicinal applications are innumerable. Fruit is used as a mild laxative, for intestinal ailments, biliary disorders, cardiac ailments, scurvy, throat infection, as anti-poisoning, against leprosy combined with other products, pounded bark against skin infection and dressing of wounds, gall bladder disorders, haemorrhoids etc.
  • Amenity plantations, along roads, river banks, village squares and backyards.

Nutritional Quality and Animal Production

Leaves and twigs are browsed by stock containing ca 14 % CP on a dry matter basis ; and a NE of ca 6.7 Mj / kg DM..



Aubréville 1950 ; Brenan 1957b ; Brenan 1958 ; Dalziel 1955 ; Catinot 1967 ; Giffard 1974aBerhaut 1975 ; Hutchinson et al. 1958 ; Dale & Greenway 1961 ; Baumer 1975 ; Baumer 1995NAS 1979 ; Wickens 1980 ;   Le Houérou 1980a ; Le Houérou 1980c ; Le Houérou 1980d ; Baumer 1983 ; Geerling 1982/88 ; Von Maydell 1983/86 ; Burkill 1995.