Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Cassia fistula
(Indian laburnum)

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Datasheet

Cassia fistula (Indian laburnum)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cassia fistula
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Indian laburnum
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. fistula is a normally evergreen, ornamental tree listed as an ‘agricultural weed’, ‘casual alien’, ‘cultivation escape’, ‘environmental weed’, ‘garden thug’, ‘naturalised’, and ‘weed’ in the Global Compendiu...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Natural stand
TitleTree habit
CaptionNatural stand
CopyrightSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
Natural stand
Tree habitNatural standSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
TitleFlowering ornamental tree
Caption
CopyrightSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
Flowering ornamental treeSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
TitleFlowering tree
Caption
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Flowering tree©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleFoliage
Caption
Copyright©K.M. Siddiqui
Foliage©K.M. Siddiqui
TitleFlowering branch
Caption
CopyrightSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
Flowering branchSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
TitleInflorescence
Caption
CopyrightSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
InflorescenceSubhash Kuriakose/KFRI
1. leaves
2. flowers
3. fruits 
5. seeds
TitleLine drawing
Caption1. leaves 2. flowers 3. fruits 5. seeds
CopyrightM.S. Muktesh Kumar and Subash Kuriakose/KFRI
1. leaves
2. flowers
3. fruits 
5. seeds
Line drawing1. leaves 2. flowers 3. fruits 5. seedsM.S. Muktesh Kumar and Subash Kuriakose/KFRI

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cassia fistula L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Indian laburnum

Other Scientific Names

  • Bactyrilobium fistula (L.) Willd.
  • Cassia bonplandiana DC.
  • Cassia excelsa Kunth
  • Cassia fistuloides Collad.
  • Cassia rhombifolia Roxb.
  • Cathartocarpus excelsus G.Don
  • Cathartocarpus fistuloides (Collad.) G.Don
  • Cathartocarpus fistulus (L.) Pers.
  • Cathartocarpus rhombifolius G.Don

International Common Names

  • English: cassia stick tree; golden pipe tree; golden rain; golden shower; pudding-pipe tree; purging cassia; purging fistula
  • Spanish: canafistola (Honduras); canafistula; canafistula mansa; canapistola (Spain); chácara; chorizo; cigarro; guayaba cimarrona
  • French: baton casse; canéficier; casse doux; casse espagnole; casse fistuleuse; cassie fistuleuse; cassier commun; cytise Indien; douche d'or
  • Chinese: la chang shu

Local Common Names

  • Bangladesh: bandarlathi; desi asal; shonalu; shondal; sonali; suvarnaka
  • Bolivia: lluvia de oro
  • China: kakke
  • Cuba: cana fistula; cana fistula cimarrona; canafistola; canafistola cimarrona; canafistola exotica; canandonga
  • Dominican Republic: canafistol; canafistula de purgante; canafistula mansa; canafistula purgante; chácara; guayaba cimarrona
  • Germany: Fistul-kassie; Kassie, Röhren-; Mannabaum, Indischer; Rohrenkassie
  • Haiti: baton casse; casse; casse espagnole
  • India: amaltas; bharva; garmala; girimalah; kakke; kanikonna; konna; konni; pela; rajataru; sundali; suvarnaka
  • Italy: cassia in bastoni
  • Lesser Antilles: canéfice; canéficier; casse casse-habitant; cassia stick tree; kas
  • Malaysia: bereksa; rajah kayu; tengguli
  • Philippines: ibabau; Kana-pistula; kanya pistula; Lapad-lapad; lombayong
  • Saudi Arabia: arabadha
  • Sri Lanka: aehaela-gaha; ahalla; Ahalla-gass; konnai; sarak-konne; tiru kontai
  • Thailand: chaiyaphruek; khuun
  • Vietnam: bo-cap nuóc

EPPO code

  • CASFI (Cassia fistula)

Trade name

  • Indian laburnum
  • rajbrikh

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. fistula is a normally evergreen, ornamental tree listed as an ‘agricultural weed’, ‘casual alien’, ‘cultivation escape’, ‘environmental weed’, ‘garden thug’, ‘naturalised’, and ‘weed’ in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). The species is considered to have been native to Southeast Asia and was introduced by man throughout the Old and New World tropics for uses in medicine, fuel, timber, and tanning (Duke, 1983; Bosch, 2007; PIER, 2014). C. fistula reproduces naturally by seeds, although it can also be propagated vegetatively through cuttings and layerings (Bosch, 2007). The species is known to be a cultivation escape in Costa Rica, Guyana, and French Guiana (Boggan et al., 1997), and is naturalized in many parts of the tropics including the West Indies, Mexico, Ecuador, Belize, and parts of Micronesia (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Randall, 2012; ICRAF, 2014). Although currently considered to be a weed with low risk of invasiveness, the species is known to be invasive in Queensland, Australia (Randall, 2012; PIER, 2014).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
  •                                 Genus: Cassia
  •                                     Species: Cassia fistula

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Until the beginning of the 1980s the Cassia genus was considered to be a very large genus of over 500 species. Bentham (1871) wrote that three groups within the Cassia genus were so distinct from one another that any species can always be unequivocally allocated to one of them; some main distinctions included fruit structure, stamen structure and arrangement, and nodulation (Lock, 1988). However. it was not until 1982 that Irwin and Barneby formally separated Cassia into three genera: Cassia L. emend. Gaertner, Senna Miller, and Chamaecrista Moench. Cassia now has only 20-30 species, whereas Senna and Chamaecrista comprise about equal numbers of species (about 260 and 270, respectively) (Irwin and Barneby, 1982; Toruan-Purba, 1999; Lock and Ford, 2004). These three genera are now largely accepted and together make up the subtribe Cassinae. Members of Cassia sens. strict. are mostly trees with relatively cylindrical and indehiscent fruits, and three large sigmoidally-curved filaments, many having showy flowers (Lock and Simpson, 1991; Lock and Ford, 2004). Cassia and Senna differ principally in stamen organization and in arid areas of Australia, taxonomic distinctions between and within the three genera are blurred by polyploidy, hybridization and apoximis (Lewis et al, 2005). In 1988, Lock presented new names and combinations for the Cassinae species in Africa, noting that “if Cassia were to continue to be used in its broad sense in Africa, there would be several species which would be consistently given different names in different continents” (Lock, 1988).

Cassia fistula is the type species of the Cassia genus. It was described first by Linneaus in 1737 and again in 1747, and confirmed by DeWitt in 1955 (Irwin and Barneby, 1982).The name C. fistula is thought to originate from the ancient Greek name kassia or casia, for an aromatic and fragrant plant, as the species has a long history of herbal use; the pith of its long, woody pods yields a purgative medicine. This species is distinct from the ‘true cassia’ of commerce, Cinnamomumaromaticum Nees (Lauraceae), although Linnaeus used ‘cassia’ in the generic sense to include various plants with similar medicinal uses (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2014).

Synonyms Cassia rhombifolia Roxb. and Cathartocarpus rhombifolium G. Don were both published independently in 1832.

Description

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Tree up to 20 m, usually glabrous. Leaves large, several-foliolate; petiole about 5 cm. long, eglandular; rachis usually 2-4 dm. long, like the petiole; stipules small, caducous; leaflets normally 4-8 pairs,  8-20×  8 cm, ovate to lanceolate, acute apically, very obtuse basally, puberulent to glabrous above, lightly pubescent below; petiolules up to 1 cm. long. Inflorescence a large, graceful, pendent, many-flowered raceme; pedicels slender, usually 3-4 cm. long. Flowers large, showy, yellow; sepals 5, (usually about 6 mm. long), ovate or oblong, puberulent; petals 5,  about 2 cm. long or longer, ovate-orbicular, short-clawed, venose; stamens 3-morphic, the 3 lowermost almost 3 cm. long, the anthers ovate-oblong, 4-5 mm. long, glabrous, dehiscent apically and basally; the 4 median stamens about 1 cm. long, the anther ovate-oblong, sagittate, about 4 mm. long, dehiscent from the basal lobes (and apical pores); 3 uppermost stamens shorter and smaller, somewhat unequal, the anthers similar to the median ones; ovary slender, lightly pubescent. Legume reportedly cylindric, about 50 cm. long, indehiscent, with horizontal seeds [Flora of Panama, 2014].

Plant Type

Top of page Perennial
Seed propagated
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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C. fistula is generally regarded as originating in India and Sri Lanka (Bosch, 2007), with the native range possibly extending to other parts of south or southeast Asia (Champion and Seth, 1968; Troup and Joshi, 1983). Some differences were found regarding the species’ uncertain native origins. C. fistula is listed as native in Indonesia (Bali, Java, Lesser Sunda Islands, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Sumatra) and peninsular Malaysia according to ILDIS (2014) but introduced according to Lock and Ford (2004); Hanelt et al. (2001) suggests it is ‘possibly’ native to Indonesia. It is sometimes reported as native to Myanmar as well as to Sri Lanka and India, although Lock and Ford (2004) excludes Myanmar in the native origin.

In India, C. fistula is a very widespread forest tree, usually occurring in the sub-Himalayan tract and outer Himalayas, from the Indus eastwards to Assam, and common throughout the Gangetic Valley, central India, Deccan and South India. In Maharashtra State, the species occurs as a scattered tree in the Deccan and Konkan forests.

The species now has a pantropical distribution. It is now widespread in East Africa and several of the Indian Ocean islands (Bosch, 2007). In the West Indies, C. fistula is naturalized in Puerto Rico and parts of the Virgin Islands, and is occasionally cultivated on St. John (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 1996; Liogier and Martorell, 2000). It is a common introduced species to other parts of the West Indies including the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Hispanola, Margarita, and Trinidad (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012). The species is also cultivated on Nuku Hiva Island, Marquesas, in the Pacific (Wagner et al., 2014). 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

BangladeshPresent Planted FAO, 2014; ILDIS, 2014
BhutanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Brunei DarussalamPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
CambodiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ChinaPresent Planted PIER, 2014
-Hong KongPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
East TimorPresentIntroducedLock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
IndiaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresent Planted ILDIS, 2014
-Andhra PradeshPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-Arunachal PradeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-AssamPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-BiharPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-ChandigarhPresent Planted
-Dadra and Nagar HaveliPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-DelhiPresent Planted ILDIS, 2014
-DiuPresent Natural
-GoaPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-GujaratPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-HaryanaPresentPlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2014
-Himachal PradeshPresentPlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2014
-Indian PunjabPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-Jammu and KashmirPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-KarnatakaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-KeralaPresentPlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2014
-Madhya PradeshPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-MaharashtraPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-ManipurPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-MeghalayaPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-MizoramPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-NagalandPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-OdishaPresent Natural
-RajasthanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-SikkimPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
-Tamil NaduPresentPlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2014
-TripuraPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-West BengalPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
IndonesiaPresent Natural Hanelt et al., 2001; Lock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
-JavaPresent Natural Lock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
-KalimantanPresent Natural Lock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
-MoluccasPresent Natural Lock and Ford, 2004
-Nusa TenggaraLock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
-SulawesiLock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
-SumatraPresent Natural Lock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
IranPresentIntroducedLock and Simpson, 1991; ILDIS, 2014
IraqPresentIntroducedLock and Simpson, 1991; ILDIS, 2014
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentNativeILDIS, 2014Ryukyu Is
LaosPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MalaysiaPresent Natural
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresent Natural Lock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
-SabahPresent Natural
-SarawakPresent Natural
MaldivesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MyanmarPresent Natural FAO, 2014
NepalPresent Natural FAO, 2014
PakistanPresentIntroducedFlora of Pakistan, 2014
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedMerrill, 1923; Lock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
SingaporeIntroducedLock and Ford, 2004; Chong et al., 2009
Sri LankaPresent Natural Lock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014
TaiwanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ThailandPresent Natural ILDIS, 2014
VietnamPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014

Africa

AngolaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
EgyptPresentIntroducedICRAF, 2014
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
GhanaPresentIntroducedICRAF, 2014
KenyaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MadagascarPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPuy et al., 2002
MalawiPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MauritiusPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MozambiquePresentIntroducedGrace et al., 2012
RéunionPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
Rodriguez IslandPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
SeychellesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
South AfricaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedGrace et al., 2012; ILDIS, 2014
UgandaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedGrace et al., 2012; ILDIS, 2014

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedFlora Mesoamericana, 2014; ILDIS, 2014
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
BelizePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Tortola
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
Costa RicaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
CubaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
DominicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
GrenadaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
MartiniquePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
PanamaPresentIntroducedFlora of Panama, 2014; ILDIS, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014St. Vincent
Sint EustatiusPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Trinidad
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez, 1996; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012St John, St Thomas

South America

ArgentinaPresent Planted ILDIS, 2014
BoliviaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedBolivia Checklist, 2014Santa Cruz
BrazilIntroducedBotsaris, 2007; Grace et al., 2012
ColombiaIntroducedILDIS, 2014; Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014
EcuadorPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014; Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014
French GuianaPresentIntroducedBoggan et al., 1997; Funk et al., 2007; ILDIS, 2014
GuyanaPresentIntroducedBoggan et al., 1997; Funk et al., 2007; ILDIS, 2014
PeruPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
SurinamePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
Cook IslandsPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014'Atiu I, Mangaia I
FijiPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
French PolynesiaILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014; Wagner and Lorence, 2014
GuamPresentIntroduced
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014Pohnpei, Kosrae
NauruPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
New CaledoniaPresent only under cover/indoorsIntroducedPIER, 2014Ile Grande Terre
NiuePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014Babeldaob I
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedLock and Ford, 2004; ILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
Solomon IslandsPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014
TongaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedPIER, 2014Wallis I

History of Introduction and Spread

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According to an early description by Griffith (1847), C. fistula was perceived to be native to Egypt and the East Indies, and had been used as a medicine since ancient times by Arab and Greek physicians. Bosch (2007) reports the species may originate from India, Sri Lanka and perhaps Myanmar, but certainly from tropical Asia, and the species is now pantropical and widespread in Southeast Asia and the Pacific and East Africa, along with several Indian Ocean islands. The species has been traded internationally, for example with Europe, for its uses in medicine as well as locally for tanning and timber (Duke, 1983; Bosch, 2007).

Date of introduction to the West Indies is obscure, but the species was included in Macfadyen’s Flora of Jamaica (Macfadyen, 1837), in which it was described as a non-indigenous “native of the East Indies, introduced to the warmer parts of America, where it is now naturalized”; Griffith confirmed ten years later that the species was present and naturalized in the West Indies and South America (Griffith, 1847). The species was reportedly present in the Isthmus of Panama by 1851 (Seemann, 1851). It was present in Puerto Rico by 1881, as it was included in Bello’s flora of the island (Bello Espinosa, 1881) and was reported as a wild-growing species in an 1898 USDA publication on trade in Puerto Rico (Hitchcock, 1898). According to Volume 4 of Urban’s work on the Antilles, by April 1911 the species was reported to occur in Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, St. Croix, St. Bathelemy, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Vincent, Bequia, Trinidad, and Margarita (Urban, 1898-1928). However, the species appears to have been introduced to the Dutch West Indies sometime after 1914, as it was not included in Boldingh’s work on this region (Boldingh, 1914).

Risk of Introduction

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Risk of introduction for C. fistula is low to moderate, and further evaluation is needed. The species received a ‘low risk’ of potential invasiveness score of 3 in its PIER Risk Assessment, but the species is classified as an agricultural and environmental weed and garden thug in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012), and is an identified invasive species in Queensland, Australia (PIER, 2014). Traits that lower its risk of invasiveness include its slow maturity rate, as the species generally takes 8-10 years from sowing to flower, and its demonstrated difficulty in spreading seeds without intentional human cultivation and mammal dispersal; its own pods are indehiscent and the seeds are not easily spread by water or wind, instead often falling to the ground still encased within the pods (Bosch, 2007). Also, the species is very susceptible to attack by various insects and fungi (Duke, 1983). However, C. fistula also possesses traits that warrant further research and monitoring of the species, as it is known to be weedy in some tropical areas including Jamaica and central America (Holm et al, 1979; Randall, 2012). The species produces seeds profusely with up to 100 seeds per fruit, adapts to a wide range of soil types and nutrition conditions, and is a favoured plant crop for medicine, food, fuelwood, and timber, which has led to its widespread use and cultivation across both the Old and New Tropics (Duke, 1983).

Habitat

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Members of the Cassia genus occur in a wide range of habitats including rain forest (on terra firma), riverine and gallery forest (including flooded riverbanks and várzea), seasonally dry forest, woodland, wooded grassland (savanna and cerrado), dry scrub, thickets and coastal areas (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2014). C. fistula in its native range is usually found in dry, deciduous forest and low altitudes (Bosch, 2007), and generally occurs at elevations between sea level and 1300 m. The species is capable of growing on volcanic soils as well as dry, shallow mountain slopes (Duke, 1983; Bosch, 2007; FAO, 2014). In Puerto Rico the species can be found growing on roadsides, hillsides, and in pastures (Liogier and Martorell, 2000), while in Peru it is a cultivated introduction, occurring in forests and riversides (Peru Checklist, 2014). In Nicaragua the species is widely planted in parks, gardens, and urban areas (Flora of Nicaragua, 2014), and in India it is usually found in deciduous forest.

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Natural
Coastal areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome count for C. fistula is 2n=24, 26, 28 (Duke, 1983; IPCN Chromosome Reports, 2014).

Physiology and Phenology

C. fistula is generally an evergreen tree, although in certain parts of India it remains leafless for a very short period in the dry pre-monsoon summer (Troup and Joshi, 1983). The new leaves normally appear during March-July in India. The flowers appear mainly from April to July, although some trees flower as late as October, especially during dry years. The long cylindrical pods develop rapidly and reach their full length by October and they ripen during December-March. The ripe pods start falling during May.

Associations

C. fistula is among those legumes that do not have root nodule-forming capability for nitrogen-fixing symbiosis with bacteria. According to Duke (1983), root hairs are uncommon in this species, and when present they are sparse and thick walled. Simple phenolic compounds, tannins, quinones and derivatives occur in the overlapping cortical root cells, and it is assumed that these cell layers present a physicochemical barrier because of their role in thwarting nematode gall formation (Allen and Allen, 1981; Duke, 1983).

Environmental Requirements

C. fistula is a hardy tree with a wide range of environmental tolerances. The species is reported to tolerate mild drought, slopes, and soil types ranging from acidic to alkaline (pH 5.5 to 8.7) as well as shallow and nutrient-depleted soils soils and dry, shallow mountain slopes (Duke, 1983; FAO, 2014). The species thrives on volcanic, granite, sandstone and lateritic soils, and can grow in calcareous, sandy, and loamy soils. It can also tolerate some shading, but is susceptible to frost (Davison, 2004; Bosch, 2007). The species requires a long time to mature, generally 8-10 years from sowing to flowering, does not compete well with weeds, and is vulnerable to attack by certain insects and predators (see Natural Enemies section) (Duke, 1983; Bosch, 2007). The species grows best in areas which have an average annual rainfall within the range 750 to 1900 mm.

In Antioquia, Colombia the species occurs in premontane humid forest, tropical humid to very-humid forest, and tropical dry forest climate zones, at altitudes of 0-1500 m (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014). In Bolivia the species occurs in rain forests at low altitudes of 0-1000 m (Bolivia Checklist, 2014), while in Ecuador it can grow in coastal areas at altitudes of 0-500 m (Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 -10 0 1200

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0 17
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 18 29
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 30 43
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 7 24

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration45number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall5003000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Summer

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • shallow

Notes on Natural Enemies

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An extensive list of fungi, parasitic plants and insects has been reported as natural enemies of C. fistula (Brown, 1968; Duke, 1983). According to Bosch (2007), however, no diseases and pests of C. fistula have been recorded in tropical Africa. In Asia, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides [Glomeralla cingulata] causes brown pinhead spot disease in Malaysia, and in the Philippines the psyllid Heteropsylla cubana is known to predate upon the plant (Bosch, 2007).

When grown in plantations, pests of the tree include Catopsilia pomona, Catopsilia pomona form crocale, C. pyranthe, Indarbela quadrinotata, Zeuzera coffeae, Nephopterix rhodobasalis , Eurema blanda and Xyleutes persona. Of these, only the last two are serious pests.

E. blanda feeds gregariously on young plants in nurseries and young plantations. This insect may be ubiquitous on C. fistula in some localities. It often migrates in large swarms (Beeson, 1941; Mathur and Singh, 1954-61).

X. persona is commonly known as the beehole borer. The larvae bore into the woody stems of young living saplings and in the living branches of bushes of several species. Moths emerge irregularly throughout the year from February to October. This species is recorded from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. fistula has spread largely by intentional and more rarely accidental human introduction, as it is an economic plant valued for its hard, durable wood, its use in tanning, as well as its medicinal properties, which have been known and utilized since ancient times. The species can be propagated by seed and vegetatively through cuttings and layering, but relies primarily on human and animal dispersal as its pods and seeds are not adapted for self-propelling, water or wind dispersal (Duke, 1983; Bosch, 2007; PIER, 2014).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Breeding and propagationWidely cultivated as an ornamental in urban and garden areas Yes Yes Bosch, 2007; Duke, 1983; Hanelt et al., 2001; PIER, 2014
Digestion and excretionSeeds survive digestion Yes Yes PIER, 2014
Garden waste disposalWidely cultivated as an ornamental in urban and garden areas Yes Yes Bosch, 2007; Duke, 1983; Hanelt et al., 2001
Horticulture Yes Yes Bosch, 2007; Duke, 1983; Hanelt et al., 2001
Medicinal use Yes Yes Duke, 1983; Griffith, 1847
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes Bosch, 2007; Duke, 1983; Hanelt et al., 2001

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Containers and packaging - woodSpecies extensively used for wood and timber products, primarily locally Yes Yes Bosch, 2007; Duke, 1983
Debris and waste associated with human activities Yes Bosch, 2007; Duke, 1983; Hanelt et al., 2001
Soil, sand and gravel Yes Yes Bosch, 2007; Duke, 1983; Hanelt et al., 2001; PIER, 2014

Wood Packaging

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Wood Packaging liable to carry the pest in trade/transportTimber typeUsed as packing
Solid wood packing material with bark Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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C. fistula has been valued for medicinal, ornamental and timber purposes, resulting in its widespread cultivation in tropical regions of America, Africa, and Asia. It has also been reported to help revegetate overgrazed lands (Troup and Joshi, 1983), but is not nitrogen-fixation capable. 

Environmental Impact

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C. fistula has been reported to be invasive to Queensland, Australia, and given its wide distribution range could have a negative environmental impact. Although considered a species with low risk of introduction (PIER, 2014), the species possesses several traits that pose threat to native flora, including profuse production of seeds which can remain viable for more than a year, vegetative propogation by cutting and layering, and a hardy environmental tolerance for a wide range of soil types and climate zones (Duke, 1983; Bosch, 2007; ICRAF, 2014; PIER, 2014). More research is needed on the species’ invasiveness and its potential negative impact on the environment.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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C. fistula has been widely planted as a handsome ornamental tree, and reported as a firewood source in Mexico. The drug "cassia fistula", a mild laxative, is obtained from the sweetish pulp around the seed. The plants are reportedly used in folk remedies for tumors of the abdomen, glands, liver, stomach, and throat, cancer, carcinomata, and impostumes (abscesses) of the uterus (Duke, 1983). In Brazil, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the species is used to treat malaria (Botsaris, 2006; Grace et al., 2012). Pharmacological studies have demonstrated that C. fistula possesses significant antimicrobial activities and properties, supporting such folkloric use in disease treatment and traditional medicines (Kumar et al., 2006).

The bark is used as tanning material, often in conjunction with avaram, in India, Pakistan and other places (Kumar et al., 2006; Flora of Pakistan, 2014). Wood ash of the species is used as mordant in dyeing in Pakistan, and in Bengal the pulp of pods is used to flavour tobacco (Flora of Pakistan, 2014).

Since the species is not browsed by domestic animals, it has been reportedly suitable for revegetating land that has become degraded through overgrazing (Troup and Joshi, 1983).

In Hong Kong and across Asian countries, the plant is widely cultivated as an ornamental and timber plant, and the roots, bark, seeds, leaves and pulp from ripe pods are used medicinally (Wu, 2001; PIER, 2014). The flowers are used in religious ceremonies in India and Bangladesh, and the flowers and buds are also eaten as food.

The species provides a useful timber which is widely used on a local scale within its natural distribution as well as in tropical America. The wood is heavy to very heavy, hard and strong (Rawat and Rawat, 1960). The wood is used for many products and tools including wheels and shafts of carts, turnery, tool handles, ploughs, harrows and rollers (Troup, 1913), house building posts, rice pounders, bows, for boat spars, and bed plates for machinery; also for tent poles and tent pegs, toys and carvings (Rao and Purkayastha, 1972), for making high-grade charcoal (Troup, 1913) and for boat building, furniture, pick-axe and axe handles, mallet heads, railway keys and similar articles where strength and toughness are primary considerations (Pearson and Brown, 1981); however, the limited availability of the species means that it is not widely traded on a commercial scale. 

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Revegetation
  • Soil improvement

Fuels

  • Charcoal
  • Fuelwood

General

  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Bark products
  • Carved material
  • Dye/tanning
  • Gum/resin
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Pesticide
  • Poisonous to mammals
  • Tanstuffs
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Propagation material

Wood Products

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Boats

Charcoal

Roundwood

  • Building poles
  • Piles
  • Posts

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Beams
  • Engineering structures
  • For heavy construction
  • For light construction

Wood-based materials

  • Particleboard

Woodware

  • Industrial and domestic woodware
  • Tool handles
  • Toys
  • Turnery
  • Wood carvings

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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C. fistula and C. afrofistula had been much confused in previous literature, but were separated by Brennan in 1958. The yellow flowers and foliage of C. fistula closely resemble those of C. afrofistula (leaves with few (3-70) pairs of large, ovate leaflets), but differs in its pendulous inflorescences and broader pods (15-24 mm diameter), and also in its generally larger leaflets (reaching up to 150 x 80 mm) (Puy et al., 2002). 

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Recommended areas for further research include a review of the species’ invasiveness and potential negative impact on the environment, particularly in countries where it has already been identified as naturalized and weedy, and on methods of detection, diagnosis and control.

References

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13/05/2014 Updated by:

Marianne Jennifer Datiles, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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