Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Albizia saman
(rain tree)



Albizia saman (rain tree)


  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Samanea saman
  • Preferred Common Name
  • rain tree
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. saman possesses some of the characters of other species known to have become invasive, e.g. prolific seeding, livestock as effective dispersers of seed, nitrogen fixation and adaptation to a variety of soil...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Samanea saman (Jacq.) Merr.

Preferred Common Name

  • rain tree

Other Scientific Names

  • Albizia saman (Jacq.) F. Muell.
  • Calliandra saman (Jacq.) Griseb.
  • Enterolobium saman (Jacq.) Prain ex King
  • Feuilleea saman (Jacq.) Kuntze
  • Inga saman (Jacq.) Willd.
  • Microsphaeropsis pittospori
  • Mimosa saman Jacq.
  • Pithecellobium saman (Jacq.) Benth.
  • Zygia saman (Jacq.) A. Lyons

International Common Names

  • English: crow bean tree; monkey pod
  • Spanish: samán
  • French: abre de pluie

Local Common Names

  • : carreto; cenízaro; cenízero; dormilón; zarza; zorra
  • Bangladesh: rendi koroi
  • Colombia: campano; genízaro; samaguare
  • Cuba: algarrobo; algarrobo del pais
  • Dominican Republic: guannegoul
  • Germany: Regenbaum
  • Grenada: coco tamarind; cow tamarind
  • Guyana: French tamarind
  • Haiti: guannegoul; samán
  • India: belati-siris; guango; majhamaram; nidra-ganneru; thoongh moonjii
  • Indonesia: Dutch tamarind; kihujan; mungur; slubin; trembesi
  • Italy: albero delle pioggia
  • Jamaica: guango
  • Netherlands: regenboom
  • Peru: huacamayo chico
  • Puerto Rico: crow bean tree; dormilón; giant thibet; guango
  • Thailand: monkey pod
  • Trinidad and Tobago: coco tamarind; cow tamarind; samán guerra
  • United States Virgin Islands: giant thibet; licorice
  • Venezuela: campano; carabelí; coují; lara; uero

EPPO code

  • PIFSA (Albizia saman)

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. saman possesses some of the characters of other species known to have become invasive, e.g. prolific seeding, livestock as effective dispersers of seed, nitrogen fixation and adaptation to a variety of soil types. However, reference sources are somewhat conflicting as to the degree of naturalization and invasion, especially where it spreads on disturbed sites often in Pacific and Caribbean islands. It is also known to be present in Kenya and Malawi. Binggeli (1999) classified this species as only moderately invasive.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Mimosoideae
  •                                 Genus: Albizia
  •                                     Species: Albizia saman

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Generic delimitation within the tribe Ingeae of family Fabaceae, subfamily Mimosoideae has long been known to present particular difficulties. This has resulted in a tumultuous taxonomic history, extreme lack of nomenclatural stability, and successive transfers of species such as Samanea saman from genus to genus (Barneby and Grimes, 1996). S. saman has been placed in no fewer than nine different genera by different authors, making this a notoriously confusing species for foresters. It has often been referred to as Pithecellobium saman or Albizia saman in recent years. A new generic system for the Ingeae, including a detailed taxonomic account of Samanea, has recently been completed (Barneby and Grimes, 1996), clarifying the identity of Samanea saman and providing a more stable classification for the future.

Samanea is a small genus of three species. S. saman is, however, sharply defined and, in most features, a stable species. The silvicultural potential of the closely related S. tubulosa and S. inopinata remains unknown.


Top of page S. saman is a medium-sized or large tree of potentially great size, often reaching 25-30 m tall, occasionally 45 m, with a short stout bole to 2-3 m dbh and a wide, low, spreading crown, often twice as wide as the tree is high. It is a stately tree, with heavy, nearly horizontal branches and an umbrella-shaped crown. One notable old S. saman tree near Government House in Trinidad was recorded to shade approximately a hectare, and reach 50 m in height, a stem 2.6 m in diameter, with a crown diameter of 60 m (Allen and Allen, 1981; Raintree, 1987). The bark is grey-brown, rough and furrowed into ridges. A full botanical description is provided by Barneby and Grimes (1996). Leaves are large, 6-25 mm long x 3-8 cm wide, bipinnate, with 3-6 pairs of pinnae per leaf, 6-9 pairs of leaflets per pinna and large leaflets, 24-62 mm long x 10-25 mm wide. Leaflets are unequal in size, becoming larger towards the distal end of the pinnae. The new growth and leaf rachis are covered in short, velvety, tawny pubescence. The leaflets are rhombic-oblong or elliptic in shape, unequal at the base, dark olive-green, glabrous and slightly glossy above, dull grey-green and hairy below. The flowers are arranged in loose umbelliform heads, which develop in groups of 2-5 in the axils of leaves on actively growing shoots. The terminal or central flower on each head is sessile and enlarged compared to the peripheral flowers. The exposed and conspicuous stamen filaments are bright or pale pink and showy. The fruits are broadly linear, compressed pods, 10-22 cm long x 1.5-2.2 cm wide x 0.5-1 cm thick. They are green and fleshy when unripe, and turn dark blackish-brown when ripe. The thick mesocarp is filled with dry pitch-like, sweet, nutritious pulp. The pods are indehiscent and contain 5-10 mature seeds, 8-11.5 mm long x 5-7.5 mm wide.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Seed propagated


Top of page S. saman is extensively cultivated both within and outside its presumed natural range in northern South America and Central America. Its present-day distribution in the Americas is also in part, probably generated by seed dispersal following introduction of horses and cattle (Janzen and Martin, 1982). Its dissemination in the West Indies certainly followed the growth of the cattle industry, as shipments of cattle from Venezuela were often accompanied by bags of S. saman pods for animal feed during the voyage (Pertchik and Pertchik, 1951). This means that the true natural range can no longer be demonstrated without doubt (Barneby and Grimes, 1996). The native range recorded in the distribution table is the presumed natural range based on field observations by the author, and includes only Central and northern South America, from Mexico to Colombia and Venezuela. Streets (1962) reported S. saman being introduced to Trinidad from Venezuela before 1860, supporting this view. This is, however, contradicted in part by a number of other authorities. For example, ILDIS (2002) includes presume nativity also in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana and Peru (though origin unknown in Ecuador), and unknown origin in mainland Central America and Caribbean islands.

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


BangladeshPresentIntroduced Planted Serajuddoula and et al. , 1995
BhutanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
Brunei DarussalamPresentIntroduced Planted
CambodiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FujianPresentIntroduced Planted
-GuangdongPresentIntroduced Planted
-GuangxiPresentIntroduced Planted
-Hong KongPresentIntroduced Planted
-MacauPresentIntroduced Planted
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
IndiaPresentIntroduced1880Troup and Joshi, 1983; ILDIS, 2002
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-AssamPresentIntroduced Planted
-BiharPresentIntroduced Planted
-GujaratPresentIntroduced Planted
-KarnatakaPresentIntroduced Planted
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-MaharashtraPresentIntroduced Planted
-OdishaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroduced Planted
-TripuraPresentIntroduced Planted
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-West BengalPresentIntroduced Planted
IndonesiaPresentIntroduced1870sDjogo, 1997; ILDIS, 2002
-Irian JayaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
-JavaPresentIntroduced Planted
-KalimantanPresentIntroduced Planted
-MoluccasPresentIntroduced Planted
-SulawesiPresentIntroduced Planted
-SumatraPresentIntroduced Planted
LaosPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Planted
-SabahPresentIntroduced Planted
-SarawakPresentIntroduced Planted
MaldivesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002
MyanmarPresentIntroduced Planted
PakistanPresentIntroduced Planted Athar and Mahmood, 1985
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedpre-1815Merrill, 1912; ILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
SingaporePresentIntroduced Planted
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedc. 1850Streets, 1962; ILDIS, 2002
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Planted
ThailandPresentIntroducedAkkasaeng et al., 1989; ILDIS, 2002
VietnamPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002


BeninPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
BurundiPresentIntroduced Planted
CameroonPresentIntroduced Planted
Central African RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted
CongoPresentIntroduced Planted
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroduced Planted
Equatorial GuineaPresentIntroduced Planted
GabonPresentIntroduced Planted
GambiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
GhanaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
GuineaPresentIntroduced Planted
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroduced Planted
KenyaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017
LiberiaPresentIntroduced Planted
MadagascarPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
MalawiPresentIntroduced Planted
MauritiusPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
MozambiquePresentIntroduced Planted
NigeriaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
RéunionPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002
RwandaPresentIntroduced Planted
Sao Tome and PrincipePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
SeychellesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedAmara and Mansaray, 1989; ILDIS, 2002
SudanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017
-ZanzibarPresentIntroduced Planted
TogoPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
UgandaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
ZambiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Planted

North America

BermudaPresentIntroduced Planted
MexicoPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
Saint Pierre and MiquelonPresentIntroduced Planted
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Planted
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced1847 Invasive Neal, 1965; Little and Skolmen, 1989; Smith , 1998; ILDIS, 2002

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
ArubaPresentIntroduced Planted
BarbadosPresentIntroduced Planted
BelizePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
Costa RicaPresentNativeJanzen, 1982; ILDIS, 2002
CubaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
CuraçaoPresentIntroduced Planted
DominicaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
El SalvadorPresentNativePlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2002
GrenadaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
GuatemalaPresentNativePlanted, NaturalWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
HaitiPresentIntroducedTimyan, 1996; ILDIS, 2002
HondurasPresentNativePlanted, Natural
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
MartiniquePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
MontserratPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroduced Planted
NicaraguaPresentNativePlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2002
PanamaPresentNativePlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2002
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedFrancis and Liogier , 1991; ILDIS, 2002
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced Planted
Saint LuciaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced1860 Planted Streets, 1962
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Planted
BoliviaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
BrazilPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-AcrePresentIntroduced Planted
-AlagoasPresentIntroduced Planted
-AmapaPresentIntroduced Planted
-AmazonasPresentIntroduced Planted
-BahiaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroduced Planted
-Fernando de NoronhaPresentIntroduced Planted
-GoiasPresentIntroduced Planted
-Mato GrossoPresentIntroduced Planted
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroduced Planted
-ParaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroduced Planted
-RondoniaPresentIntroduced Planted
-RoraimaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Sao PauloPresentIntroduced Planted
ColombiaPresentNativePlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2002
EcuadorPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
French GuianaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
GuyanaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
PeruPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
SurinamePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2002
VenezuelaPresentNativeEscalante, 1997; ILDIS, 2002


American SamoaPresentIntroduced Planted
AustraliaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced Planted
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Planted
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
FijiPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Planted PIER, 2002
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedSpace and Falanruw , 1999
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Planted
New ZealandPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
NiuePresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn , 2000; ILDIS, 2002
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedSpace and et al. , 2000; ILDIS, 2002
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedVerdcourt, 1979; Brook et al., 1992; ILDIS, 2002
SamoaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
TongaPresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn , 2001; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
VanuatuPresentIntroduced Planted

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page S. saman was one of the first roadside exotic trees to be widely planted in many tropical countries and it is now so widely cultivated, particularly in South-East and south Asia, that it is often mistaken as native to that area. It was planted principally as a shade or ornamental tree in streets, parks and in coffee plantations. It was introduced from Mexico to the Philippines before 1815 aboard one of the annual Spanish government galleons which sailed between Acapulco and Manila between 1521 and 1815 (Merrill, 1912). Historical records also suggest an early introduction to many other countries: 1847 to Hawaii from Mexico (Neal, 1965; Little and Skolmen, 1989); in around 1850 to Sri Lanka, from West Africa (Streets, 1962); in the 1870s to Indonesia (Djogo, 1997) and 1880 to India (Troup and Joshi, 1983). The abundance, extent of naturalization and wide distribution of S. saman in many countries such as Papua New Guinea (Verdcourt, 1979), Indonesia and southern India, along with numerous records of extremely large, stately, and presumably old (>100 years) trees, are further witness to its early pantropical introduction.

S. saman is naturalized, and in the southern foothills Puerto Rico and on neighbouring Vieques, but by 1990 was only localized, occurring over less than 10 hectares (Francis and Liogier, 1991). It is described as common or weedy in several Pacific islands; American Samoa (Space and Flynn, 1999), Rota (Space et al., 2000) and Micronesia (Space and Falanruw, 1999), and common, weedy or cultivated in Niue (Space and Flynn, 2000), Tonga (Space and Flynn, 2001) and Chuuk (Space et al., 2000); and naturalized in disturbed sites in Hawaii (Smith, 1998) and Fiji (PIER, 2002). However a risk assessment conducted by University of Hawaii (see PIER, 2002), did not predict that S. saman would become a pest.

Risk of Introduction

Top of page Classification of S. saman as invasive or naturalized is ambigious among authors, and none of the sources listed provided unequivocal data on impacts of the species where introduced. A precautionary approach should be adopted therefore, with attention being paid to the similarity between the environmental/climatic character of regions where S. saman is reported naturalized and that of the proposed site of introduction. However, it is noted that this species has already been widely introduced and so any risk is likely to be associated with existing plantings. Therefore, monitoring of introduction sites for signs of invasiveness may be prudent.


Top of page The native habitat of S. saman is dry forest and grass savannah (World Agroforestry Centre, 2002), or at the margins of seasonally dry deciduous and semi-deciduous forest as well as moister evergreen woodland and savannah. In its exotic range this species commonly naturalizes on disturbed areas e.g. road verges, riverbanks, and forest areas (PIER, 2002).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

Top of page In many respects S. saman is similar to its close relative, the ear-pod tree, Enterolobium cyclocarpum. General reviews of S. saman are provided by Streets (1962), Allen and Allen (1981), National Academy of Sciences (1979), Raintree (1987), Little and Skolmen (1989), Little and Wadsworth (1989), and Roshetko (1995).


There have been few, if any, attempts to systematically explore, evaluate and improve the genetic material used in planting of S. saman. Currently used seed sources are derived from land race material comprising, in most areas, an extremely narrow genetic base. Many early introductions are known to be from one or a few trees. For example, two seeds of S. saman were originally introduced to Hawaii from Mexico in 1847 (Little and Skolmen, 1989). No comprehensive provenance studies have been attempted although two different seed sources (e.g. Hughes and Pottinger, 1997) were collected and tested in a small number of trials. Two seed orchards comprising 46 and 50 half-sib families have been established in Honduras (Mejia, 1997). Little or nothing is known about patterns of genetic diversity in S. saman.

Physiology and Phenology

Flowering and reproductive biology of S. saman have been observed in natural populations in Central America and trees begin fruiting from an early age. Trees bear tens of thousands of small flowers during the late dry season. Pod set is low with fruit:flower ratios of <0.001 (Bawa and Buckley, 1989). S. saman is generally deciduous, but may be evergreen where planted in wet forest areas or as an ornamental in humid climates, when flowering occurs towards the end of the dry season as the tree refoliates. Tiny immature pods persist for 8-10 months before expanding, ripening and falling, nearly a year after flowering, in the mid dry season (Janzen, 1982, 1983). Pods are shed indehiscent.

Rapid early growth of S. saman on some sites, e.g. in Papua New Guinea (Brook et al., 1992), is comparable with other fast-growing legumes such as Acacia angustissima, A. auriculiformis, Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala and Schleinitzia novoguineensis. However, most trials suggest that early growth is generally slower than commonly planted fast-growing species, e.g. Rourke and Suardika (1990) in Timor (Indonesia); Glover and Heuveldop (1985) in Costa Rica; Hossain et al. (1992) in Bangladesh; Jama et al. (1989) in Kenya; Akkasaeng et al. (1989) in Thailand. S. saman does not appear to rank amongst the fastest-growing tropical trees, and trees with a dbh of >100 cm are generally estimated to be >100 years old.

Reproductive Biology

There is a hermaphroditic reproductive system (World Agroforestry Centre, 2002). Flowers are believed to be pollinated by large night-flying hawk and noctuid moths, the central, enlarged flower of the inflorescence providing nectar. Pollen is dispersed as large 32-grained polyads and the species is thought to be predominantly outcrossing (Bawa and Buckley, 1989). Flowering occurs towards the end of the dry season and the small immature pods persist for 8-10 months before expanding, ripening and falling nearly a year after flowering in the mid dry season (Janzen, 1982, 1983). There are between 4,400 and 7,700 seeds/kg. The seed coat is hard.

Environmental Requirements

S. saman is a truly tropical species, intolerant of frost. It thrives in both the seasonally dry and wet tropics (Allen and Allen, 1981; Raintree, 1987; Little and Wadsworth, 1989; Djogo, 1997) but is faster-growing where rainfall is >1000 mm. A modified description of climatic requirements was prepared by CSIRO (Booth and Jovanovic, 2000). The mean annual rainfall is estimated to be 600 - 3000mm, with a dry season duration of 0 - 6 months. S. saman needs well-drained alluvial, fertile, neutral to moderately acid (>pH 4.6) soils for best growth (Franco et al., 1995), but can also tolerate heavy clays (vertisols) and infertile, or seasonally waterlogged soils. It grows from sea level of to 1500 m altitude.


S. saman has the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Trees have been shown to nodulate effectively in Hawaii, Malaysia and the Philippines with a wide range of strains of Rhizobium (Allen and Allen, 1981).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
15 3 0 1500

Air Temperature

Top of page
Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 8
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 20 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 24 35
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 15 22


Top of page
ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration06number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall6003000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal

Soil Tolerances

Top of page

Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • medium

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page A number of minor insect pests affect S. saman in different areas, but none of these have so far caused serious problems. Two psyllid insects, Heteropsylla cubana and Psylla acacia-baileyanae [Acizzia acaciaebaileyanae], are minor defoliators causing curling of leaves, minor defoliation, stunted shoot growth and development of numerous branches where young shoots die back (Braza, 1987; 1990; Braza and Calilunga, 1981). In the native range, S. saman resprout shoots from cut stumps often have clusters of bright red, orange and blue-black nymphs of a coreid bug feeding on the shoot tips, leafcutter ants occasionally harvest some leaves, and howler monkeys eat flowers and young leaves (Janzen, 1983). The bean maggot, Hylemya platura [Delia platura] infests cotyledons of S. saman seedlings and may kill them in nurseries in Haiti (Timyan, 1996). Seeds of S. saman in Costa Rica are predated by two bruchid beetles, Merobruchus columbinus and Stator limbatus which oviposit on the fruits as they reach full size and may kill 50-70% of the seeds (Janzen, 1977). In Costa Rica, parrots may harvest up to a third of the expanded green fruits of S. saman (Janzen, 1982).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page In the native range, S. saman seeds are dispersed by rodents, tapirs, peccaries, cattle and horses, which eat the pods. Whenever livestock are around fruits never accumulate beneath the tree. This species has been widely planted in agroforestry systems as a shade tree leading to its intentional international distribution and it has been so widely cultivated that the precise native range is now uncertain.

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora None
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel Negative


Top of page The large crown and heavy branches are susceptible to hurricane damage and can be top-heavy and dangerous near houses, while the far-reaching root system can lift foundations and road surfaces, making it an unsuitable urban amenity tree (Allen and Allen, 1981; Little and Wadsworth, 1989). It can also be messy as an ornamental tree, dropping sticky flower parts and pods on parked cars (Little and Skolmen, 1989). However, there are no recorded economic impacts resulting from invasion of young trees in the literature.

Environmental Impact

Top of page There are reports of allelopathic effects caused by sap which exudes and drips from injured limbs, causing damage to grass or other understorey plants (Magnus and Seaforth, 1965), although this appears to be a localized problem. This species fixes atmospheric nitrogen and the nutritional status of soil is therefore likely to increase.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


Top of page S. saman has been most widely planted as a shade, ornamental and roadside tree. Its canopy, with crowns of great diameter is unsurpassed for shade in silvopastoral systems, parks or roadsides. In addition, the pink flowers add to its value as an ornamental.

The wood of S. saman is strong, durable or very durable, with a light yellow sapwood and rich dark chocolate-brown heartwood. The rich colour and beautiful but subtle grain of the heartwood, resembling black walnut (Juglans nigra), makes wood from larger trees highly prized for furniture (e.g. in Trinidad and Malaysia), panelling, decorative veneers, turnery, platters, and other handicrafts. In Hawaii and Thailand the wood is used to make the famous, albeit mis-named, 'monkey-pod' bowls. The wood is often very cross-grained, making it difficult to work when dry, though remains easy to work when green. The wood is also used for fencing, construction timber, plywood, making crates, boats, and cart wheels made from single cross-sections of the thickest trunks which are said to be very durable and were a common sight on two-wheeled oxcarts in parts of Central America (Standley and Steyermark, 1946). The wood is particularly important in Zulia State in Venezuela where it comprised >80% of the timber produced between 1982 and 1988 (Escalante, 1997). The wood also makes good quality fuelwood (Ryan, 1994) and charcoal (Roshetko, 1995). S. saman trees resprout vigorously and can be managed for fuelwood by pollarding in agricultural areas, as in the Philippines (Raintree, 1987).

The mesocarp of the pod of S. saman contains a sweet nutritious pulp which smells of honey when the pods are broken and which contains 12-18% crude protein (Chicco et al., 1973; Escalante, 1985; 1997) and is highly digestible (40% digestibility), making the pods a good source of proteins, carbohydrates and minerals for livestock. The pods, which are produced in the middle of the dry season, may equal good quality hay in nutritive value and are avidly consumed by cattle, goats pigs and other herbivores. The pods can also be dried and milled into a meal that makes an excellent animal feed, which is exported on a small scale in some South American countries. As a prime source of dry season feed and an unsurpassed shade tree, S. saman is one of the foremost trees to be incorporated into silvopastoral systems in the seasonally dry tropical zones of northern South America (especially Venezuela) (Escalante, 1985; 1997) and Central America. The leaves are not widely used for livestock fodder, but have been reported to be of high quality (Larbi et al., 1996) with 22-28% crude protein (Norton, 1994), no detectable tannins and high in vitro dry matter digestibility (Ahn et al., 1989).

The sticky sweet-flavoured pulp of the pods is often eaten by children and can be used in fruit drinks. S. saman is an important lac host plant in, for example, Thailand. It is also a good honey plant (Verdcourt, 1979; Roshetko, 1995). Although S. saman bark lacks tannin, it does yield an inferior gum (Allen and Allen, 1981).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Invertebrate food for lac/wax insects


  • Agroforestry
  • Shade and shelter
  • Soil improvement


  • Charcoal
  • Fuelwood


  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora


  • Carved material
  • Dye/tanning
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Wood/timber

Wood Products

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  • Crates


Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Beams
  • Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
  • Engineering structures
  • For heavy construction
  • For light construction
  • Wall panelling



  • Turnery
  • Wood carvings

Prevention and Control

Top of page No information on the control of S. saman is available from the published literature.


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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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