Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Pongamia pinnata
(Indian beech)

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Datasheet

Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 28 February 2022
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Documented Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Pongamia pinnata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Indian beech
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Pongamia pinnata is an evergreen or briefly deciduous, perennial, multipurpose, leguminous shrub or tree reaching 15-25 m in height. Its native range is from tropical and subtropical Asia to the Southwestern Pacific, although the extent o...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
TitleFlowers and foliage
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
Copyright©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
Flowers and foliagePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kozhikode, Kerala, India. March 2018.
TitleFlowers and foliage
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kozhikode, Kerala, India. March 2018.
Copyright©Vengolis/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kozhikode, Kerala, India. March 2018.
Flowers and foliagePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Kozhikode, Kerala, India. March 2018.©Vengolis/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.
TitleInflorescence
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.
InflorescencePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.
TitleInflorescence
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.
InflorescencePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Lonavala, Maharashtra, India. April 2007.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.
TitleHabit
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.
Copyright©Forest and Kim Starr/via Starr Environmental - CC BY 4.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.
HabitPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.©Forest and Kim Starr/via Starr Environmental - CC BY 4.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Achare, Maharashtra, India. May 2012.
TitleFlowers and foliage
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Achare, Maharashtra, India. May 2012.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Achare, Maharashtra, India. May 2012.
Flowers and foliagePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers and foliage. Achare, Maharashtra, India. May 2012.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Kerala, India. February 2018.
TitleInflorescence
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Kerala, India. February 2018.
Copyright©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Kerala, India. February 2018.
InflorescencePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Inflorescence. Kerala, India. February 2018.©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
TitleFlowers
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
Copyright©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
FlowersPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
TitleFlowers
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
Copyright©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.
FlowersPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers. Kannur, Kerala, India. May 2014.©Vinayaraj/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruits and foliage. September 2007.
TitleFruits and foliage
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruits and foliage. September 2007.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruits and foliage. September 2007.
Fruits and foliagePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruits and foliage. September 2007.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit and foliage. Munavli, Maharashtra, India. July 2021.
TitleFruit and foliage
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit and foliage. Munavli, Maharashtra, India. July 2021.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit and foliage. Munavli, Maharashtra, India. July 2021.
Fruit and foliagePongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit and foliage. Munavli, Maharashtra, India. July 2021.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. January 2008.
TitleFruit
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. January 2008.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. January 2008.
FruitPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Fruit. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. January 2008.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Zirad, Maharashtra, India. April 2013.
TitleHabit
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Zirad, Maharashtra, India. April 2013.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Zirad, Maharashtra, India. April 2013.
HabitPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Habit. Zirad, Maharashtra, India. April 2013.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Gorai Creek, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.
TitleDried seedpods
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Gorai Creek, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Gorai Creek, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.
Dried seedpodsPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Gorai Creek, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.
TitleDried seedpods
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.
Dried seedpodsPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Dried seedpods. Vaghbil, Thane, Maharashtra, India. June 2009.©Dinesh Valke/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers, pod and seed. Nelavanki, Karnataka, India. April 2017.
TitleFlowers, pod and seed
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers, pod and seed. Nelavanki, Karnataka, India. April 2017.
Copyright©Rajeev B (Rawlife)/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 4.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers, pod and seed. Nelavanki, Karnataka, India. April 2017.
Flowers, pod and seedPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Flowers, pod and seed. Nelavanki, Karnataka, India. April 2017.©Rajeev B (Rawlife)/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 4.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Pods and seeds. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.
TitlePods and seeds
CaptionPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Pods and seeds. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.
Copyright©Forest and Kim Starr/via Starr Environmental - CC BY 4.0
Pongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Pods and seeds. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.
Pods and seedsPongamia pinnata (Indian beech); Pods and seeds. Keehi Lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii. May 2008.©Forest and Kim Starr/via Starr Environmental - CC BY 4.0
1. flowering branch
2. flower
3. pods
TitleLine artwork
Caption1. flowering branch 2. flower 3. pods
CopyrightPROSEA Foundation
1. flowering branch
2. flower
3. pods
Line artwork1. flowering branch 2. flower 3. podsPROSEA Foundation

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre

Preferred Common Name

  • Indian beech

Other Scientific Names

  • Cajum pinnatum Kuntze
  • Cytisus pinnatus L.
  • Dalbergia arborea Willd.
  • Derris indica (Lam.) Bennet
  • Galedupa arborea Roxb.
  • Galedupa indica Lam.
  • Galedupa pinnata (L.) Taub.
  • Galedupa pungum J.F.Gmel.
  • Millettia novoguineensis Kaneh. & Hatus.
  • Millettia pinnata (L.) Panigrahi
  • Pongamia mitis (L.) Kurz
  • Pongamia xerocarpa Hassk.
  • Pterocarpus flavus Lour.
  • Robinia mitis L.

International Common Names

  • English: Indian pongamia; Indian-beech; karanja; karumtree; mullikulam tree; pongam; pongam oil tree; pongamia-tree; poonga-oil-tree; seashore mempari
  • French: arbre de pongolote

Local Common Names

  • India: kanji; karanga; karanj; karanja; papar; pongam
  • India/Tamil Nadu: poona; punka; punku
  • Indonesia: bangkong ; ki pahang laut; kranji
  • Japan: kuro-yona
  • Malaysia: bani; biansu ; kacang kayu laut; mempari
  • Myanmar: thiuwia
  • Palau: kisaks
  • Philippines: balikbalik; balukbaluk

EPPO code

  • PNGPI (Pongamia pinnata)

Trade name

  • kanji
  • karanj

Summary of Invasiveness

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Pongamia pinnata is an evergreen or briefly deciduous, perennial, multipurpose, leguminous shrub or tree reaching 15-25 m in height. Its native range is from tropical and subtropical Asia to the Southwestern Pacific, although the extent of the native range is uncertain due to a long history of cultivation and transport. It has been introduced in Central Africa, the USA (Florida, Hawaii), Puerto Rico and Mesoamerica. Planted in humid tropical lowlands around the world, it has been introduced intentionally in various tropical countries as an ornamental. Although described as invasive in Mauritius there are no details on negative impacts; it is also listed by some sources as potentially invasive in Florida, Hawaii and parts of Australia. It is naturalized in its non-native range with no evidence of negative impacts. P. pinnata has medicinal properties, is planted as a fragrant ornamental and has potential as a biofuel crop.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Faboideae
  •                                 Genus: Pongamia
  •                                     Species: Pongamia pinnata

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre was transferred to the genus Millettia in 1989 based on morphological traits (Geesink, 1984), and supported later by a genetic study (Acharya et al., 2004). However, molecular phylogenetic studies have since shown that Pongamia is monophyletic and Millettia polyphyletic (Hu et al., 2000; Cooper et al., 2019); Pongamia is therefore a distinct genus. P. pinnata (L.) Pierre is an accepted name (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2020; POWO, 2020; World Flora Online, 2020). Within P. pinnata, there are two recognized varieties: var. minor and var. pinnata, distinct in terms of morphological characteristics, but not phylogenetically (Cooper et al., 2019).

Description

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The following description is from Orwa et al. (2009); further descriptions are available from Oyen (1997), Cooper et al. (2019) and Flora of China Editorial Committee (2020):

A medium-sized evergreen or briefly deciduous, glabrous shrub or tree 15-25 m high, with straight or crooked trunk 50-80 cm or more in diameter and broad crown of spreading or drooping branches. Bark grey-brown, smooth or faintly vertically fissured. Branchlets hairless with pale stipule scars. Leaves alternate, imparipinnate with long slender petiole, hairless, pinkish-red when young, glossy dark green above and dull green with prominent veins beneath when mature. Leaflets 5-9, paired except at end, short-stalked, ovate elliptical or oblong, 5-25 x 2.5-15 cm, obtuse-acuminate at apex, rounded to cuneate at base, not toothed at the edges, slightly thickened. Inflorescence raceme-like, axillary, 6-27 cm long, bearing pairs of strongly fragrant flowers; calyx campanulate, 4-5 mm long, truncate, finely pubescent. Flower clusters at base of and shorter than leaves, to 15 cm long, slender, drooping. Flowers 2-4 together, short-stalked, pea-shaped, 15-18 mm long. Calyx campanulate, 4-5 mm long, truncate, finely pubescent; corolla white to pink, purple inside, brownish veined outside, 5-toothed, standard rounded obovate 1-2 cm long, with basal auricles, often with green central blotch and thin, silky hairs on back; wings oblong, oblique, slightly adherent to obtuse keel. Pods borne in quantities, smooth, oblique oblong to ellipsoid, 3-8 x 2-3.5 x 1-1.5 cm, flattened but slightly swollen, slightly curved with short, curved point (beaked), brown, thick-walled, thick leathery to sub-woody, hard, indehiscent, 1-2 seeded, short-stalked. Seed compressed ovoid or elliptical, bean-like, 1.5-2.5 x 1.2-2 x 0.8 cm, with a brittle coat long, flattened, dark brown, oily.

Plant Type

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Seed / spore propagated
Shrub
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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Pongamia pinnata is distributed in tropical and temperate Asia from the Indian Ocean islands, Southeast Asia and northeastern Australia to islands in the Western Pacific and Japan (Daniel, 1997; Oyen, 1997Orwa et al., 2009; Cooper et al., 2019); it has a broad distribution across the Indian subcontinent (Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012), which is considered to be its native range (Daniel, 1997; ILDIS, 2005; POWO, 2020), even though the extent of its native range is uncertain due to a long history of cultivation and transport (Murphy et al., 2012). It is unclear as to whether P. pinnata is native or naturalized in the Brisbane region (Australia) (Cooper et al., 2019). It has been introduced in Central Africa, the USA (Florida, Hawaii), Puerto Rico and Mesoamerica (Orwa et al., 2009).

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.

Last updated: 25 Feb 2022
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Planted Reference Notes

Africa

DjiboutiPresentIntroduced
EgyptPresentIntroduced
KenyaPresentPlanted
MauritiusPresentIntroducedInvasive
-RodriguesPresentIntroduced
RéunionPresentIntroduced
SeychellesPresentNative
South AfricaPresentPlanted
SudanPresentIntroduced
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced
UgandaPresentIntroduced
ZimbabwePresentPlanted

Asia

BangladeshPresentNative
BruneiPresentNative
ChinaPresentNative
-FujianPresentNative
-GuangdongPresentNative
-HainanPresentNative
IndiaPresentNative
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentNative
-Andhra PradeshPresentNative
-AssamPresentPlanted
-BiharPresentPlanted
-ChhattisgarhPresentNative
-HaryanaPresentPlanted
-Himachal PradeshPresentPlanted
-JharkhandPresentNative
-KarnatakaPresentPlanted
-Madhya PradeshPresentPlanted
-MaharashtraPresentPlanted
-OdishaPresentNative
-PunjabPresentPlanted
-RajasthanPresentNative
-Tamil NaduPresentPlanted
-Uttar PradeshPresentPlanted
-West BengalPresentPlanted
IndonesiaPresentNative
-JavaPresentNative
-SumatraPresentNative
JapanPresentOn Bonin Island, Kyushu and the Ryukyu Islands
-Bonin IslandsPresentIntroduced
-KyushuPresentNative
-Ryukyu IslandsPresentNative
MalaysiaPresentNative
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNative
MyanmarPresentNative
PakistanPresentIntroduced
PhilippinesPresentNative
Saudi ArabiaPresent
SingaporePresentNative
Sri LankaPresentNative
TaiwanPresentNative
ThailandPresentNative
VietnamPresentNative

North America

NicaraguaPresentIntroducedCultivated
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedNaturalized
United StatesPresentIntroduced
-FloridaPresentIntroducedCultivated
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedNaturalizedConsidered high risk for invasion

Oceania

AustraliaPresentSources differ as to whether it is native or introduced where present
-Northern TerritoryPresentNative to northern parts
-QueenslandPresentNative to northern Queenlsand, naturalized in south-eastern Queensland
Christmas IslandPresentNative
FijiPresentNative
New CaledoniaPresentNative
New ZealandPresentPlanted
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentNative
Papua New GuineaPresentNative
SamoaPresentNative
VanuatuPresentNative

History of Introduction and Spread

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Pongamia was introduced to Hawaii around 1867 (Daehler, 2018), to Florida in 1910, to Mauritius in 1911 and Egypt in 1916 (Morton, 1990).

Risk of Introduction

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Pongamia pinnata has been introduced intentionally in various tropical countries as an ornamental. It has escaped from cultivation (Wunderlin et al., 2020) and therefore, the likelihood of the species being introduced as an ornamental plant commodity in tropical and subtropical countries is high.

Habitat

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Pongamia pinnata is native to humid and subtropical environments and occurs naturally in lowland forests (riparian forests, monsoon forests), on limestone and rocky coral outcrops on the coast and along the edges of mangrove forests; it is common along waterways or seashores, along beaches, in estuaries and on river banks (Sauer, 1962; Oyen, 1997Orwa et al., 2009; Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012; Cooper et al., 2019; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2020). It is found in disturbed sites (Wunderlin et al., 2020), for example, it forms monospecific stands in areas where mangroves have disappeared along estuaries on the islands of Rodrigues and Mauritius (Kueffer and Mauremootoo, 2004).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Principal habitat Natural
LittoralCoastal areas Principal habitat Natural
LittoralMangroves Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
LittoralIntertidal zone Principal habitat Natural
FreshwaterRivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
BrackishEstuaries Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome numbers reported for P. pinnata are 2= 20, 22 (Bairiganjan and Patnaik, 1989; Oyen, 1997Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2020).

Reproductive Biology

Pongamia pinnata reproduces by seed and can also be propagated vegetatively from root suckers and branch cuttings (Daniel, 1997; Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012).

This species produces nectariferous flowers with copious amounts of pollen with additional secretions of nectar droplets on wing and keel petals. It has an explosive pollination mechanism adapted for tripping by certain nectar-seeking bees [Apidae]. Floral visitors include bees, wasps and thrips. Some bees such as Apis dorsata, A. cerana indica, Amegilla sp., Megachile sp., Xylocopa latipes, X. pubescens and wasps collect only nectar, while all other bees and thrips collect pollen and nectar. Among bees, Apis spp. and Amegilla sp. are the more common species involved in pollination. P. pinnata is an important bee-forage tree species during the summer season. It is able to produce viable, self-pollinated seeds, as has been observed in Hawaii. The flowers stay open only on the day of anthesis and remain closed for the other two successive days of flower-life. Unpollinated flowers fall off, while pollinated ones develop into fruits (Raju and Rao, 2006).

Further details on the pollination and reproductive biology of P. pinnata are available from Kukade and Tidke (2013) and Veereshkumar et al. (2021).

Physiology and Phenology

In India, leaf flushing in P. pinnata occurs in April with new leaves  developing from May onwards. Flowering takes place during April to June pods ripen during March to May of the following year; seeds ripen from February to May (Sangwan et al., 2010). A few individuals extend flowering into June. A few trees have been reported to flower during the second season in October-November (Raju and Rao, 2006). The seeding season is April to June (Daniel, 1997). In India, flowers appear in April to June and seeds ripen during February to May of the following year (Sangwan et al. 2010); in China a shorter period has been observed for seed maturation, with flowers emerging in April to May and seeds ripening during October to December (Huang et al., 2018). Seedlings reach a height of 60 cm about 1.5 years after sowing. Pod production starts 4-7 years after sowing (Mukta and Sreevalli, 2010; Murphy et al., 2012; Csurhes and Hankamer, 2016).

Flowering occurs in late spring and summer (May onwards) in the USA (Orwa et al., 2009). In some parts of the world, flowers may appear throughout the year. Anthesis is acropetal in the raceme, with 40-50 floral buds that take 13-16 days to bloom. Flowers open for a day and remain closed for two successive days. Pollination is mediated by wasps and bees. Pollinated flowers develop into fruits. Flowering to pod maturity takes 10-11 months (Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012). P. pinnata, in Australia (Queensland), is recognized by its seasonal leaf loss somewhere between August and November (rarely December, January and May); the flush of new red leaves is followed by flowering (February-September). Full-sized fruit are present most of the year; fruit ripens almost 12 months after flowering. The indehiscent fruit walls rot quickly in wet conditions, allowing for germination (Cooper et al., 2019). In Mesoamerica, flowering and fructification occur in June (Flora of Nicaragua, 2020). In South Asia, flowering takes place from May to June and fructification from August to October (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2020).

Individual trees yield 9-90 kg of pods annually with mature trees yielding 8-24 kg seed annually (Oyen, 1997). There are 1500-1700 seeds per kg (Daniel, 1997) and annual seed yields range from 36 t/ha (Orwa et al., 2009). The growth of young trees is fairly slow; a growth of 1.3 m in height and 0.4 cm in diameter in 13 months has been recorded (Orwa et al., 2009). The lateral spread of the roots of this species is about 9 m in 18 years (Misra and Singh, 1987).

The root nodule microsymbionts in P. pinnata in southern India have been identified as belonging to Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium (Rasul et al., 2012). Trees in cultivation start production of seeds in 4 or 5 years (Duke, 1983), while wild trees take 10 years (Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012). It is recommended that 10- and 15-year-old trees be harvested for poles and wood (Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012). P. pinnata produces seeds containing 30-40% oil (Daniel, 1997).

Longevity

With a life span of 85 to 100 years, P. pinnata produces sustainable yields until 50 years of age (Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012).

Associations

Pongamia pinnata is associated with evergreen, riparian and monsoon forests (Cooper et al., 2019).

Environmental Requirements

Pongamia pinnata is native to humid and subtropical environments. Its altitudinal range is from 0-1200 m, but in the Himalayan foothills, it is not found above 600 m (Daniel, 1997). In Mesoamerica, the range is from 200 to 220 m (Flora of Nicaragua, 2020). In its natural range, P. pinnata tolerates a wide temperature range. Mature trees withstand light frost and tolerate temperatures over 50°C. The reported temperature range for growth is 10-50°C, with the optimum between 16 and 38°C. Annual rainfall required is 500-2500 mm, with a dry season of 2-6 months. It is shade-tolerant and grows under the tree canopy and can grow well even with full light. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types but performs best in deep, well-drained, sandy loams with adequate moisture. This species will also grow on sandy soils and heavy, swelling clay soils. It is very tolerant of saline conditions and alkalinity. The reported soil pH range for growth is 6-9, with the optimum being 6.5-8.5 (Oyen, 1997Orwa et al., 2009).

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]))
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
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)
45 40 0 1200

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -1
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 10 50
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 35 45
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 8 15

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration24number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall5002500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Bimodal
Summer
Uniform
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • sodic

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Ganoderma lucidum Pathogen not specific
Indarbela quadrinotata Herbivore not specific
Pelopidas mathias Herbivore not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Important pests recorded on P. pinnata include Pelopidas mathiasGracillaria spp., Indarbela quadrinotata, Myllocerus curvicornis, Aleurodiccus disperses, Aspondylia pongamiae, Aceria pongamiae and Acrocercops sp. (Rani and Naik, 2018). Coridius brunneus causes damage to nursery seedlings in India. The red shoulder leaf beetle (Monolepta australis) has been reported on P. pinnata in southern Queensland (Wylie et al., 2021).

Fungi attack seedlings and trees: Ganoderma lucidum causes root rot (Rajeswara Rao and Syamasundar, 2012) while Aspergillus, Penicillium, Chaetomium and Dothiorella species attack stored seeds (Csurhes and Hankamer, 2016). The fungus Phyllachora pongamiae which causes ‘tar spot’ has been found in P. pinnata in North Queensland but not in southern Queensland; leaf discoloration was observed with no effect on mortality or serious impact on mature trees. Impacts on small trees may, however, be more serious (Wylie et al., 2021). Asperisporium pongamiae, which causes leaf spot, has been recorded on native Pongamia in North Queensland (Murphy et al., 2012) and in West Bengal, India (Maji, 2004).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Pongamia pinnata spreads locally by seed (Morton, 1976). The seed pods are dispersed by tides or nearshore ocean currents (Nakanishi, 1989) and by freshwater, as it is commonly found along riverbanks and streambanks in India (India Biodiversity Portal, 2020). Seed germination, however, takes place in fresh water (Geesink, 1984).

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

No records exist of dispersal by a biotic vector. The seeds are toxic (Gilman et al., 2018).

Intentional Introduction

Pongamia pinnata has been introduced intentionally in various tropical countries as an ornamental. It has escaped from cultivation (Wunderlin et al., 2020).

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Mail Yes
Water Yes Morton (1976)

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive
Economic/livelihood Positive
Human health Positive

Impact: Environmental

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Pongamia pinnata produces a suite of secondary metabolites in leaves and seeds, but there is no evidence to date of allelopathic inhibition (Marzouk et al., 2008). It has been recorded as a weed of gardens and lawns in southern Florida, considered a weed and invasive in wild areas (Llamas, 2003) and a weed invading bushland and grazing land, riparian vegetation and forest margins in Australia (Brisbane City Council, 2022); there is no evidence of significant negative impacts (Csurhes and Hankamer, 2016). It has the potential to become a weed if not managed carefully, but the risk is low (Daniel, 1997).

In Australia, the demonstrated capacity of P. pinnata to spread from cultivation has led the authorities to declare that it should not be grown outside its natural range close to national parks or watercourses (Low and Booth, 2008).

Pongamia pinnata is also recognized as naturalized and invasive on the island of Mauritius where it is found in disturbed coastal habitats, but there is no evidence of negative impacts (Kueffer and Mauremootoo, 2004). This species is also reported to have no impact in Bangladesh (Biswas et al., 2007), Cuba (González-Torres et al., 2012) and the Maldives (Sujanapal and Sankaran, 2016).

A previous assessment using the Hawaii-Pacific Weed Risk Assessment (HPWRA) tool predicted that P. pinnata posed a high risk of becoming an invasive weed in Hawai‘i (Chimera, 2017), but a subsequent study showed that it is not invasive or established outside of cultivation, and that the risk of this species becoming invasive can be mitigated through monitoring and targeted control of any rare escapes in the vicinity of plantings (Daehler, 2018). There is also no evidence of negative impacts throughout its distribution range (Csurhes and Hankamer, 2016).

Although P. pinnata has been assessed in Florida as having a high invasion risk, in certain cases, this species may be considered for use under specific management practices that have been approved by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Invasive Plant Working Group (UF-IFAS, 2016). P. pinnata is described as moderately invasive with no further details, in a list of woody species in tropical and sub-tropical regions compiled by Binggeli et al. (1998).

In southern Queensland, where P. pinnata is grown as a street tree, it has spread into the wild on a small scale, well south of its natural range (Stanley and Ross, 1986). As it seeds prolifically with seeds germinating readily near parent trees, the spread of this species into new regions of Australia would be ecologically undesirable, irrespective of its native status in the north (Low and Booth, 2008). In view of the demonstrated capacity of P. pinnata to spread from cultivation, it is recommended that it should not be grown outside its natural range close to national parks or watercourses, and that it should be declared a restricted species not to be grown near sensitive areas (Low and Booth, 2008).

A risk assessment carried out in Queensland, Australia, determined that P. pinnata poses a low risk as there is no recorded evidence of negative impacts as a weed in any region within its distribution range (Murphy et al., 2012; Csurhes and Hankamer, 2016)).

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact mechanisms
  • Poisoning
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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The leaves of P. pinnata are used in wet areas of the tropics as green manure and as fodder (Duke, 1983). However, the greatest value is as fodder is in arid regions, where the leaves are eaten by cattle and goats. The press cake remaining when oil is extracted from the seeds, is used as poultry feed (Daniel, 1997). The seed oil is used for illumination, as a lubricant, as leather dressing in the traditional Indian tanning industry and in manufacturing soap, varnish and paint (Oyen, 1997). The roots contain a potent, fish-stupefying agent (Duke, 1983) while the seeds are poisonous (Oyen, 1997Gilman et al., 2018).

The energy value of the wood is 19,000-20,000 kJ/kg and its specific gravity about 650 kg/m3. The yellowish white wood is not durable, is used as cooking fuel and also provides timber for cabinet work and cartwheels and paper pulp (Oyen, 1997). The hard wood is used for temporary housing construction. Twigs and small branches are used as toothbrushes (Adema, 2000) while the bark can be made into rope (Oyen, 1997).

Extracts of the leaves potentially inhibited the growth of rice (Oryza sativa) and wheat (Triticum aestivum) crops, but had no effect on their weeds (Latha et al., 2001). In rural areas, dried leaves are stored with grain to repel insects. P. pinnata is a host of lac insects and of the hemi-parasitic sandalwood, Santalum album (Oyen, 1997). The seed oil was examined as an anti-feedant and insecticide against several insects, e.g. Oryzaephilus surinamensis, Tribolium castaneum and Nephotettix virescens (a vector of the virus causing tungro disease in rice) (Prakash and Rao, 1986; Saxena et al., 1988; Vishal Kumar et al., 2006). The oil and its components have been tested as synergists to increase the potency of other insecticides (Oyen, 1997).

Pongamia pinnata is widely used in traditional medicine (Adema, 2000; Sangwan et al., 2010); extracts from the leaves, bark and seeds are applied as antiseptics against skin diseases and rheumatism (Oyen, 1997). This species has been shown to have active anti-plasmodial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrhoeal, antioxidant, anti-hyperammonemic, anti-ulcer, anti-hyperglycaemic and anti-lipid peroxidative properties (Sangwan et al., 2010).

Pongamia pinnata is often planted in homesteads as an ornamental tree and in avenues, roadsides and stream and canal banks (Daniel, 1997; Oyen, 1997); P. pinnata var. minor in particular is widely cultivated for its attractive foliage and masses of pink flowers (Cooper et al., 2019). The flowers are considered a good source of pollen for honeybees in India and they yield a dark honey (Oyen, 1997).

The oil-rich seeds of P. pinnata comprise about 40% oil, of which 70% is oleic acid and 11% linoleic acid (Oyen, 1997). Therefore there is interest in developing this species as a new biofuel crop in India (Csurhes and Hankamer, 2016). P. pinnata has also been assessed as a potential biofuel crop in Australia and in Hawaii (Daehler, 2018; Wylie et al., 2021).

Environmental Services

Pongamia pinnata is used in the reforestation of marginal land, as a windbreak (Oyen, 1997), and for the control of soil erosion (Daniel, 1997; Orwa et al., 2009). Its ability to tolerate moderate levels of salinity makes it an ideal candidate for saline soil reclamation (Daniel, 1997).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Environmental

  • Amenity
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Firebreak
  • Host of pest
  • Revegetation
  • Shade and shelter
  • Soil conservation
  • Soil improvement
  • Windbreak

Fuels

  • Biofuels
  • Charcoal
  • Fuelwood

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora

Materials

  • Bark products
  • Carved material
  • Dye/tanning
  • Essential oils
  • Green manure
  • Oils
  • Pesticide
  • Poisonous to fish
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Christmas tree
  • Cut flower
  • garden plant
  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Wood Products

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Charcoal

Furniture

Roundwood

  • Posts
  • Roundwood structures

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Prevention and Control

Since seeds and seed pods are water-dispersed, the risk of Pongamia escaping from a planting site could be substantially reduced by avoiding planting on steep slopes, near areas exposed to tides or near river or stream banks (Kazakoff et al., 2011). The root suckers might require active control at the edge of plantations as well as within plantations (Daehler, 2018).

Physical/Mechanical Control

Pongamia pinnata is heavily self-seeding and the control of young seedlings requires considerable hand pulling (Llamas, 2003). Unwanted vegetative spread could be addressed with localized mechanical or chemical control (Daehler, 2018).

References

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Veereshkumar, Kaushik, S. K., Rajarajan, K., Kumaranag, K. M., Uthappa, A. R., Sridhar, K. B., Badre Alam, Handa, A. K., 2021. Pollination biology of Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre: a potential biodiesel plant. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 68(1), 59-67. doi: 10.1007/s10722-020-01010-6

Vishal Kumar, Chandrashekar, K., Sidhu, O. P., 2006. Efficacy of karanjin and different extracts of Pongamia pinnata against selected insect pests. Journal of Entomological Research, 30(2), 103-108.

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Wylie, P., Gresshoff, P., Muirhead, G., Fritsch, S., Binks, R., Bowman, K., 2021. A technical and economic appraisal of Pongamia pinnata in northern Australia: preliminary report. Wagga Wagga, Australia: AgriFutures Australia.x + 59 pp. https://www.agrifutures.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/21-085.pdf

Distribution References

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12/01/2021 Original text by:

Manuel Angel Duenas-Lopez, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, UK

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