Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Pithecellobium dulce
(Manila tamarind)



Pithecellobium dulce (Manila tamarind)


  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Pithecellobium dulce
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Manila tamarind
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • P. dulce is highly adaptable to a range of soils and habitats in the tropics and subtropics, grows rapidly and may produce abundant, quickly germinating seeds that are dispersed by native birds. Due to its thorniness, irritant sap and the ease with w...

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Tree habit: small grove of medium-sized trees, lopped for dry season livestock fodder, Oaxaca, Mexico.
TitleTrees lopped for livestock fodder
CaptionTree habit: small grove of medium-sized trees, lopped for dry season livestock fodder, Oaxaca, Mexico.
CopyrightColin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
Tree habit: small grove of medium-sized trees, lopped for dry season livestock fodder, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Trees lopped for livestock fodderTree habit: small grove of medium-sized trees, lopped for dry season livestock fodder, Oaxaca, Mexico.Colin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
P. dulce is cultivated for hedging, Rajasthan, India.
CaptionP. dulce is cultivated for hedging, Rajasthan, India.
CopyrightColin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
P. dulce is cultivated for hedging, Rajasthan, India.
HedgerowP. dulce is cultivated for hedging, Rajasthan, India.Colin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
Copyright©A.R. Pittaway
Foliage©A.R. Pittaway
TitleCream-coloured flowers
CopyrightColin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
Cream-coloured flowersColin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
Mature and immature seed pods and leaves.
CaptionMature and immature seed pods and leaves.
Mature and immature seed pods and leaves.
FruitMature and immature seed pods and leaves.ICRAF
Dehisced pods showing the red pod valves, shiny black seeds and sweet white aril, which attract birds for seed dispersal. The white aril is often eaten locally as a sweet or 'dulce' by children and pods are occasionally marketed in Mexico.
TitleSeed pods
CaptionDehisced pods showing the red pod valves, shiny black seeds and sweet white aril, which attract birds for seed dispersal. The white aril is often eaten locally as a sweet or 'dulce' by children and pods are occasionally marketed in Mexico.
CopyrightColin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
Dehisced pods showing the red pod valves, shiny black seeds and sweet white aril, which attract birds for seed dispersal. The white aril is often eaten locally as a sweet or 'dulce' by children and pods are occasionally marketed in Mexico.
Seed podsDehisced pods showing the red pod valves, shiny black seeds and sweet white aril, which attract birds for seed dispersal. The white aril is often eaten locally as a sweet or 'dulce' by children and pods are occasionally marketed in Mexico.Colin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
1. flowering branch
2. branchlet with fruits
TitleLine artwork
Caption1. flowering branch 2. branchlet with fruits
CopyrightPROSEA Foundation
1. flowering branch
2. branchlet with fruits
Line artwork1. flowering branch 2. branchlet with fruitsPROSEA Foundation


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Pithecellobium dulce (Roxb.) Benth.

Preferred Common Name

  • Manila tamarind

Other Scientific Names

  • Acacia obliquifolia Mart. & Gall.
  • Inga dulcis (Roxb.) Willd.
  • Inga leucantha K. Presl
  • Inga pungens Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
  • Mimosa dulcis Roxb.
  • Mimosa monilifera Bert.
  • Pithecellobium littorale Britton & Rose ex Record

International Common Names

  • English: blackbead; guayamochil; Madras thorn; poiss sucré; sweet inga
  • Spanish: guamúchil; madre de flecha

Local Common Names

  • : gallinero
  • Brazil: ingarana
  • Cambodia: am'pül tük
  • Colombia: azabuche; chamcán; chininango; dinde; gallinero; ojito de nena; payandé; payandé clavo; tíraco
  • Costa Rica: michiguiste
  • Cuba: inga dulce; tamarindo chino
  • Dominican Republic: jina extranjera
  • Ecuador: tierra espina
  • El Salvador: guachimol; mangollano; mongollano
  • French West Indies: acacia a bracelets; diabelle
  • Guatemala: jaguay; madre de flecha; tsuiche
  • Guyana: bread-and-cheese
  • India: amli; balati; dakhani babul; dekhani; hatichinch; imli; jamgal jalebi; kodukapuli; madras thorn; simachinduga; simachinta; simehunise; vilayati imli
  • Indonesia: asam koranji
  • Indonesia/Java: asam belanda; assam londo
  • Laos: khaam th'ééd
  • Malaysia: asam kranji; asam tjina
  • Mexico: camanchil; camchile; chucúm blanco; coacamachatli; cuaumochtli; guamachi; guamúchil; guayamochil; guaymachile; huamúchil; humo; piliil; pinsón; quahmochitl; quamochitl
  • Myanmar: kway-tanyeng
  • Nicaragua: espino de playa; michiguiste
  • Philippines: damortis; kamanchilis; kamatsile
  • Puerto Rico: guamá americano
  • Sri Lanka: katugaja; kodukapuli
  • Tanzania: mchonogoma
  • Thailand: makham-khong; makham-thet
  • USA: opiuma
  • USA/Hawaii: opiuma
  • Venezuela: guamo blanco; yacure
  • Vietnam: keo tây; me keo

EPPO code

  • PIFDU (Pithecellobium dulce)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page P. dulce is highly adaptable to a range of soils and habitats in the tropics and subtropics, grows rapidly and may produce abundant, quickly germinating seeds that are dispersed by native birds. Due to its thorniness, irritant sap and the ease with which it forms spiny root suckers if damaged, it is hard to control and can form monospecific thickets that out compete pasture grasses and native plants. P. dulce has been widely introduced from its native Americas throughout warm regions of the world, and has shown itself to be invasive in a number of countries, and may become invasive in others where it has already naturalized. It is, however, absent from, but a declared noxious weed in two Australian states, prohibited from Western Australia and a P1/2 weed in Queensland (NWSEC, 1998), due to the vast areas that could be colonized, and the economic damage that would then be inflicted on the Australian livestock industry (AFFA, 2000).

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Mimosoideae
  •                                 Genus: Pithecellobium
  •                                     Species: Pithecellobium dulce

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Pithecellobium (family Fabaceae, subfamily Mimosoideae), as defined by Barneby and Grimes (1997), is an endemic neotropical genus with 18 species. There has been considerable confusion surrounding the generic delimitation of Pithecellobium . Pithecellobium differs consistently from all other genera of the tribe Ingeae by having a seed funicle modified into a spongy aril that cups the lower half of the seed, and by the presence of woody stipular spines (Barneby and Grimes, 1997). The generic name has sometimes been written as Pithecollobium or Pithecolobium, but these are orthographic errors and are now rejected spellings (Rickett and Stafleu, 1959-1961). The name Pithecellobium is derived from the characteristic spirally twisted pods taken to resemble a monkey's earring (Greek pithecos, monkey; ellobium, earring).

The name Pithecellobium dulce has remained stable, belonging to the true Pithecellobium sensu stricto (Barneby and Grimes, 1997). P. dulce is one of a series of six closely related species (including P. keyense, P. unguiscati, P. roseum, P. peckii and P. bipinnatum). It is distinguished among species with only four leaflets per leaf by having flowers in heads.


Top of page The characteristics of P. dulce were previously summarized by Streets (1962), National Academy of Sciences (1980), Hendro Sunarjono and Coronel (1991), Parrotta (1991), Brewbaker (1992), Stewart et al. (1992), Hocking (1993), and Luna (1996). P. dulce forms a small to medium-sized tree up to 15-20 m in height with a dbh of 30-50 cm, or even 100 cm. It is usually multiple-stemmed, sometimes forming only a bush, but often forming a branchy tree with an irregular rounded crown and flexuous and pendulous branches. A few slender whip-like branches often straggle well beyond the rest of the crown. The bark on the branches and in younger trees is smooth, pale whitish-grey, lenticellate, often with horizontal ribs encircling the trunk and branches, becoming rougher and fissured on older boles. The shoots are randomly armed at nodes with pairs of straight, stout, stipular spines, 4-13 mm long, but are occasionally thornless. The leaves are abruptly bipinnate with a single pair of pinnae per leaf and two pairs of leaflets per pinna, i.e. 4 leaflets in all per leaf. The leaflets are 25-56 mm long and 9-32 mm wide, obliquely elliptic or oblong elliptic with 4-7 pairs of pinnate veins, deep olive green above, paler grey-green below, with small glands, 0.3-0.8 mm high and 0.4-0.7 mm in diameter, at the tip of the petiole and the tip of the pinnular rachis. The flowers are grouped in small, dense, sub-spherical heads, 7-12 mm in diameter, with 20-30 flowers per head, the heads arranged in fascicles of 2-4 in axils of leaves. The flowers are pale whitish-green and the stamen filaments are white. There are 5 sepals and 5 petals fused into a tube, with 22-42 stamens per flower, also basally united into a staminal tube. The fruits are distinctive in shape and colour being spirally curved or coiled into 1-2 circles, noticeably constricted between the seeds, and green tinged red, turning bright rose or bright red as they ripen, and reddish-brown after dehiscence. The unripe pods are fleshy, becoming dry and papery after opening. The pods open along both sides to reveal 8-12 seeds which persist after the pods open, attached by the fleshy white, pale pink or occasionally red, aril. The seeds are shiny black, compressed, lentiform, 7-13 x 6-11 x 2-4 mm in size.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Seed propagated


Top of page The native range of P. dulce extends throughout the seasonally dry tropical forest formation of Mexico as far north as 28°N and south through Central America and northern South America, as far south as the dry inter Andean valleys of central Colombia just north of the equator. In Mexico and Central America it occurs in a more or less continuous belt from Baja California and Sinaloa in the north, south and east along the Pacific lowlands as far as Panama in seasonally dry tropical, and dry thorn scrub forest (Barneby and Grimes, 1997). Several sources state that the native range extends as far north as the USA, into coastal California (Parrotta, 1991; Brewbaker, 1992) and it is noted in southern Texas though it is uncertain whether the species is native there (Pasiecznik N, CAB International, personal communication, 2004).

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
British Indian Ocean TerritoryPresentIntroduced
Brunei DarussalamPresentIntroduced Planted
CambodiaPresentIntroduced Planted
ChinaPresentIntroduced Planted
-FujianPresentIntroduced Planted
-GuangdongPresentIntroduced Planted
-GuangxiPresentIntroduced Planted
-Hong KongPresentIntroduced Planted
-MacauPresentIntroduced Planted
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
IndiaPresentIntroducedTroup and Joshi, 1983; Parrotta, 1991
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-DelhiPresentIntroduced Planted
-GoaPresentIntroduced Planted
-GujaratPresentIntroduced Planted
-HaryanaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Himachal PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-Indian PunjabPresentIntroduced Planted
-KarnatakaPresentIntroduced Planted
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-MaharashtraPresentIntroduced Planted
-RajasthanPresentIntroduced Planted
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroduced Planted
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted
-West BengalPresentIntroduced Planted
IndonesiaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Irian JayaPresentIntroduced Planted
-JavaPresentIntroduced Planted
-KalimantanPresentIntroduced Planted
-MoluccasPresentIntroduced Planted
-SulawesiPresentIntroduced Planted
-SumatraPresentIntroduced Planted
IranPresentIntroduced Planted
IraqPresentIntroduced Planted Townsend and Guest, 1974
-Bonin IslandPresentIntroduced
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentIntroduced
LaosPresentIntroduced Planted
MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Planted
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Planted
-SabahPresentIntroduced Planted
-SarawakPresentIntroduced Planted
MyanmarPresentIntroduced Planted
NepalPresentIntroduced Planted
OmanPresentIntroduced Planted
PakistanPresentIntroduced Planted
PhilippinesPresentIntroduced1521-1815Merrill, 1921; McVaugh, 1987; Parrotta, 1991
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroduced Planted
SingaporePresentIntroduced Planted
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced Planted
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Planted
ThailandPresentIntroducedMcVaugh, 1987
VietnamPresentIntroduced Planted
YemenPresentIntroduced Planted


Burkina FasoPresentIntroduced Planted
BurundiPresentIntroducedAFFA, 2000
CameroonPresentIntroduced Planted
Cape VerdePresentIntroduced Planted
ChadPresentIntroduced Planted
ComorosPresentIntroduced Planted
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted
DjiboutiPresentIntroduced Planted
EgyptPresentIntroduced Planted
EritreaPresentIntroduced Planted
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced Planted
GhanaPresentIntroduced Planted
KenyaPresentIntroduced Planted
MadagascarPresentIntroduced Planted
MalawiPresentIntroduced Planted
MauritiusPresentIntroduced Planted
MozambiquePresentIntroduced Planted
NigeriaPresentIntroduced Planted
RéunionPresentIntroduced Planted
SenegalPresentIntroduced Planted
SeychellesPresentIntroduced Planted
Sierra LeonePresentIntroduced Planted
SomaliaPresentIntroduced Planted
SudanPresentIntroducedAFFA, 2000
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedAFFA, 2000
-ZanzibarPresentIntroduced Planted
TogoPresentIntroduced Planted
UgandaPresentIntroduced Planted
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Planted

North America

BermudaPresentIntroduced Planted
MexicoPresentNativeMcVaugh, 1987
Saint Pierre and MiquelonPresentIntroduced Planted
USAPresentNative Planted
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Morton, 1976; Parrotta, 1991; AFFA, 2000
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Degener, 1930; Holm et al., 1979; Little and Skolmen, 1989

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaPresentIntroduced Planted
Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroduced Planted
ArubaPresentIntroduced Planted
BahamasPresentIntroduced Planted
BarbadosPresentIntroduced Planted
BelizePresentNative Planted
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
Costa RicaPresentNative Natural
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive McVaugh, 1987; Parrotta, 1991; AFFA, 2000; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
CuraçaoPresentIntroduced Planted
DominicaPresentIntroduced Planted
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted
El SalvadorPresentNative Natural
GrenadaPresentIntroduced Planted
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced Planted
GuatemalaPresentNative Natural
HaitiPresentIntroduced Planted Timyan, 1996
HondurasPresentNative Natural
JamaicaPresentIntroducedParrotta, 1991; AFFA, 2000
MartiniquePresentIntroduced Planted
MontserratPresentIntroduced Planted
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroduced Planted
NicaraguaPresentNative Natural
PanamaPresentNative Natural
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Francis and Liogier , 1991
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced Planted
Saint LuciaPresentIntroduced Planted
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroduced Planted
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced Planted
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted Parrotta, 1991

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Planted
BrazilPresentNative Planted
-BahiaPresentIntroduced Planted
ColombiaPresentNative Natural
EcuadorPresentIntroduced Planted
French GuianaPresentIntroduced Planted
GuyanaPresent Planted
ParaguayPresentIntroduced Planted
PeruPresentNative Planted
SurinamePresentIntroduced Planted
UruguayPresentIntroduced Planted
VenezuelaPresentNative Natural


American SamoaPresentIntroduced Planted
FijiPresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn , 2001; PIER, 2002
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn , 2001
GuamPresentIntroduced Planted PIER, 2002
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Planted Space and Flynn , 2001
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedSpace and et al. , 2000; PIER, 2002
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2002
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedVerdcourt, 1979; PIER, 2002
SamoaPresentIntroduced Planted
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page P. dulce was introduced to the Philippines from Mexico aboard one of the Spanish government galleons that sailed between Acapulco and Manila between 1521 and 1815, along with 200 other American species including other woody legumes from the genera Gliricidia, Leucaena, Prosopis and Samanea (Merrill, 1912). Early, pre-1800 introduction to Asia is certain, given that although P. dulce is native to tropical America, it was first described and named in 1798 by Roxburgh from material collected in India, reported to have been introduced from the Philippines. The very wide distribution seen today, the extent of naturalization and the great abundance of local vernacular names, provide further evidence of the wide spread and cultivation of P. dulce across the tropics in early historical times. It is particularly abundant, and often weedy, in the Caribbean, e.g. in Puerto Rico with Prosopis pallida along mangrove fringes, also in Hawaii in pastures, and in warmer and drier regions of south India and the Gangetic plains (Troup and Joshi, 1983). Elsewhere it is a common ornamental and shade tree. Seed of P. dulce was included amongst a package of dry zone Central American species widely distributed for testing in a series of species elimination trials in the mid 1980s (Hughes and Styles, 1984; Stewart and Dunsdon, 1994). The present day distribution, based on herbarium records is summarized by Lock (1989), Lock and Simpson (1991), and Lock and Heald (1994).

Binggeli (1999) classed P. dulce as a highly invasive species. Space et al. (2000a) list it as one of a number of potentially invasive species that has been introduced to Rota in the Northern Mariana islands, and on finding it had naturalized recommended that it should not be planted further. Elsewhere in the Pacific it has been introduced to Chuuk, where it is described as cultivated, common or weedy (Space et al., 2000b) and Micronesia where it is described as common or weedy (Space and Falanruw, 1999), New Caledonia, Fiji and French Polynesia (Space and Flynn, 2001). According to the PIER (2002), it is a problem plant in Hawaii but not in Micronesia. Major Hawaiian infestations are reported in parts of Mokuleia, O'ahu, Moloka'i; Lahaina, Maui; and South Kona (Smith, 1998). Brewbaker (1992) considered that the invasion of grass pasture in Hawaii occurred mainly where fields were low in nitrogen, and that elsewhere the tendency of the species to spread was related to factors such as grazing pressure and management. In the Caribbean, this tree is recorded as naturalized and spreading rapidly on Puerto Rico (Francis and Liogier, 1991), and at the time of reporting it occupied less than 1000 hectares of coast on the north and south of the island. It has also naturalized in Cuba, Jamaica and St. Croix (US Virgin Islands) and in Florida, USA (Parrotta, 1991). Csurhes and Edwards (1998) describe it as invasive in Florida but it does not appear on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council list. It is also reported naturalized (Parrotta, 1991) or invasive (Csurhes and Edwards, 1998) in India and naturalized in eastern Africa (Parrotta, 1991) and Taiwan (Csurhes and Edwards, 1998).

Risk of Introduction

Top of page In Australia, the risk posed by this species is considered very high and it is therefore designated a quarantine plant, the single introduced specimen in a botanical garden was removed, and the greatest risk of introduction to Australia is associated with the ornamental trade (AFFA, 2000).


Top of page It its native range, P. dulce is a plant of flat and undulating land, usually a lowland species but found in a wide variety of environments and soils within a tropical-subtropical range (CONABIO, 2003). Among the vegetation types it appears in are dry tropical and subtropical forest, thorn scrub, matorral, secondary savannah, coastal dunes and in the ecotone habitat between mangrove and lowland forest, and in Mexico it is frequently seen growing on roadsides and in the urban environment (CONABIO, 2003). On Hawaii it is a pest of pasture (AFFA, 2000) but Brewbaker (1992) considered that this was mostly a problem where the nitrogen status of fields was low.

Habitat List

Top of page
Terrestrial – ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

Top of page The biological and ecological characteristics of P. dulce have been summarized by Streets (1962), National Academy of Sciences (1980), Hendro Sunarjono and Coronel (1991), Parrotta (1991), Brewbaker (1992), Stewart et al. (1992), Hocking (1993), and Luna (1996).


There have been few, if any, attempts to systematically explore, evaluate and improve the genetic material used in planting of P. dulce. It is likely that 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. Even more recent introductions (although based on larger numbers of parent trees, e.g. Hughes and Styles, 1984), sampled only one or two provenances. Limited selection for large pods containing small seeds and red arils has been undertaken in the Philippines to obtain selected clones with sweeter, dry and mealy, and less astringent arils (Hendro Sunarjono and Coronel, 1991). A variegated mutant has been used as an ornamental pot plant (Hendro Sunarjono and Coronel, 1991) and as a garden plant in Hawaii (Neal, 1965). However, it is unlikely that P. dulce, with its very limited commercial potential, will ever be the focus of more intensive genetic improvement.

Physiology and Phenology

P. dulce is comparatively fast growing, often being considered intermediate between slow-growing Prosopis and fast-growing Leucaena (Brewbaker, 1992). On most sites growth rates of <1 m height per year are normal and it may take 40 years to reach full size (Luna, 1996). Trees start to flower and fruit at 4-8 years of age. Flowering and fruiting can occur throughout the year as moisture permits, but usually flowering peaks during the dry season with pods ripening 2-4 months later. Trees are generally evergreen or almost so, even in seasonally dry climates, as leaf fall and flush of new leaves often overlap.

Reproductive Biology

Trees flower from 4-8 years old, over an extended period of the year, with a peak in the dry season and pods ripen 2-4 months after flowering. Flowers are pollinated by a wide range of generalist insect pollinators, including large and small bees. The seeds remain attached to the pods after they open. Pods often ripen over a long period of the year rather than synchronously over a shorter period. There are approximately 10 seeds in each pod (Brewbaker, 1992) and 9,000-26,000 seeds/kg (Parrotta, 1991; Stewart et al., 1992). Seeds are dispersed by birds attracted by the red pods, and sweet fleshy white, pale-pink, or occasionally red arils which persist after the pods open. Seeds germinate within 1-2 days and germination of 20-70% can be expected.

Environmental Requirements

P. dulce is a hardy, nitrogen-fixing tree that tolerates harsh sites, heat and drought, and heavy cutting. It is also able to withstand poor and saline soils (Brewbaker, 1992). Beyond the fact that it does not withstand heavy frost, P. dulce is not exacting in its climatic requirements. It grows well in dry and subhumid areas, but thrives best in dry hot tropical and subtropical climates, with rainfall between 700 and 1800 mm and a 4-6 month dry season (Brewbaker, 1992; Luna, 1996). It can withstand considerable heat and drought and is naturalized in India in areas with temperature maxima as high as 48°C and annual rainfall as low as 250 mm (Troup and Joshi, 1983; Hocking, 1993).

In its native range, P. dulce grows on young superficial, often extremely rocky, shallow and skeletal soils, primarily of volcanic origin in areas where soils have often suffered severe abuse through slash and burn agriculture, desiccation and erosion. It is also found along river banks on alluvial soils and sands. It prefers well-drained soils but can grow on heavier clays, including black cotton vertisols. It is known to tolerate moderate salinity in areas with a high brackish water table (Luna, 1996). P. dulce is thus extremely adaptable in terms of both its soil and climatic requirements, and is found at altitudes up to 1550 m.


This species occurs in a wide range of habitats, and among the species with which it is associated are: Prosopis pallida, Bursera sp., Ipomoea sp., Caesalpinia sp. Erythroxylon sp., Haematoxylon brasileto, Gliricidia sepium, Guaiacum sp., Ficus sp., Celtis iguana, Swietenia humilis, Byrsonima crassifolia, Enterolobium cyclocarpum, Lemaireocereus and Opuntia sp. (Parrotta, 1991; CONABIO, 2003). This species is noted to form associations with Rhizobium bacteria (Brewbaker, 1992) and it is widely reported to be nitrogen fixing with no apparent nodulation problems where introduced (Allen and Allen, 1981).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
28 2 0 1550

Air Temperature

Top of page
Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 18 26
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 32 41
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 8 20


Top of page
ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration46number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall2501800mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal

Soil Tolerances

Top of page

Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page There are a number of minor pests and diseases of P. dulce recorded by Parrotta (1991), but few appear to be serious. In Hawaii, the fruits and seeds are susceptible to attack by larvae of Subpandesma ansya. In Puerto Rico, the hemipteran Umbonia crassicornis has been reported as a pest. The bark-boring larvae of Indarbela spp have been reported to attack the tree in India. The lepidopteran Polydesma umbricola is considered a serious pest on the island of Reunion. In India, five leaf-spot pathogens have been reported to infect P. dulce: Cercospora mimosae, Colletotrichum dematium, C. pithecellobii, Phyllosticta ingae-dulcis, and P. pithecelobii; and heartrot caused by Phellinus sp. (Parrotta, 1991).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Seeds are dispersed by birds attracted by the red pods, and sweet fleshy white, pale-pink, or occasionally red arils which persist after the pods open. Local birds, such as the False Mynah bird in Hawaii (Degener, 1930), have adapted to disperse seeds of P. dulce in many areas where it is introduced aiding its spread and naturalization. This species has been widely introduced to countries outside its American tropical native range for use as an ornamental, shade and street tree, which has been the principal means of long-distance dispersal.

Impact Summary

Top of page
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 Negative
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page As P. dulce invades pasture, livestock industries may be disrupted, and the control of this species is very costly because of its readiness to form thorny root suckers whenever it is damaged (AFFA, 2000).

Environmental Impact

Top of page P. dulce is thicket forming and is able to out compete other species such as pasture grasses and native vegetation (AFFA, 2000). Being a nitrogen fixing species, thickets of this tree are also likely to change patterns of nutrient cycling.

Social Impact

Top of page The sharp thorns can cause injury and the irritating sap can cause skin welts and eye irritations.

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
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page P. dulce is most often cultivated as an ornamental, shade or street tree planted on roadsides, and in backyards and hedges (Streets, 1962). In Indonesia, it is often pruned to be a shapely avenue tree, and occasionally used for more elaborate topiary. It is however, best known as a good hedging plant and is widely used as such in southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu. With regular trimming it produces a hedge which quickly forms a dense spiny barrier that is impenetrable to livestock if well maintained. It can withstand any amount of clipping. As a hardy, drought and heat tolerant, nitrogen-fixing tree it is more often planted because it tolerates harsh sites and heavy cutting than because of the products which it produces, none of which are of particularly high quality or significant commercial value.

The wood is used locally for construction, panelling, boxes, crates, agricultural implements, and cart wheels. Irregular growth habit and branchiness prohibit use as a sawn timber and the wood has never been used commercially, except in some areas for fuel. However, as a fuelwood it is not of very high quality, having only low to moderate calorific value, being thorny and burning with a very smoky flame (Brewbaker, 1992). Nevertheless, the wood is used as a domestic fuel in many areas where firewood is in short supply and as fuel for brick kilns in India.

P. dulce is perhaps best-known for its sweet edible aril, which is eaten fresh, as an infusion, or macerated in water to make a lemonade-like beverage (Brewbaker, 1992). The species name 'dulce' derives from this use. The aril is small, fleshy, sweet, but often rather astringent, and has been the focus of selection in the Philippines to produce superior clones with sweeter, redder arils. The pods are often harvested for local consumption, but in some areas, such as the Philippines, Thailand, Cuba and Mexico (McVaugh, 1987), pods are harvested in larger quantities and sold in local markets. The fruits do not store for long and must be eaten within a few days. The seeds themselves are also edible (Parrotta, 1991), eaten in curries in India. They also contain 17% oil, light-coloured, as thick as castor oil, which is extracted in some areas, and the resulting pressed seed cake residue is rich in protein (30%) and can be used as a seed meal for stock feed.

The pods are also relished by livestock and chickens (Hocking, 1993). The leaves contain 29% crude protein (Luna, 1996) and the young shoots are used for livestock fodder in some areas (Kundu et al., 1983), either browsed directly or by lopping branches and allowing the leaflets to dry and drop off. Hedge trimmings are often used in this way as fodder for goats in parts of India (Hocking, 1993). However, it is rarely considered an important fodder and there has been only limited evaluation of its nutritive value.

The flowers of P. dulce are a high quality nectar and pollen source producing excellent quality honey (Crane et al., 1984). Tannin, used to soften leather, can be extracted from the bark, seeds and leaves. The tree also produces a reddish-brown, water-soluble exudate gum similar to commercial gum arabic from Acacia senegal. P. dulce has numerous minor medicinal uses (Standley, 1922; Standley and Steyermark, 1946; Timyan, 1996).

Wood Products

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  • Boxes
  • Crates
  • Pallets


  • Building poles
  • Posts
  • Stakes

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • For light construction


  • Industrial and domestic woodware
  • Tool handles

Prevention and Control

Top of page The Australian government has adopted a strict quarantine policy to ensure this species is not introduced. According to Smith (1998), P. dulce is relatively resistant to fire and thus this does not appear to be useful in controlling the species. AFFA (2000) and PIER (2002) also comment on the difficulty and potential ineffectiveness of mechanical control of this species, because any damage to the roots promotes resprouting with thorny suckers. However, PIER (2002) state that glyphosate can be applied onto cut stumps to prevent regeneration, or foliar or basal application of herbicide, for example triclopyr, can control seedlings or young plants. Smith (1998) report that no evaluation of the potential for biocontrol had taken place on Hawaii because of conflicts of interest in the use of this plant.


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Links to Websites

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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.

Distribution Maps

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