Acacia propinqua A. Rich.
Albizia saman (Jacq.) F. Muell.
Calliandra saman (Jacq.) Griseb.
Enterolobium saman (Jacq.) Prain
Feuilleea saman (Jacq.) Kuntze
Inga cinerea Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.
Inga salutaris Kunth
Inga saman (Jacq.) Willd.
Mimosa saman Jacq.
Pithecellobium saman (Jacq.) Benth.
Zygia saman (Jacq.) Lyons
Common Name: Rain Tree
Typical tree with wide-spreading canopy
Photograph by: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Rain tree is an attractive, large, spreading deciduous tree with a low, dense, dome-shaped crown; usually growing up to 30 metres tall with occasional specimens to 60 metres[
]. It has a short, usually crooked bole that can be up to 200cm in diameter[
]. Trees can be evergreen in humid climates[
A multipurpose tree, it is often cultivated for its many uses. It is particularly valued for its timber, but also supplies food, medicines and a gum. It is one of the most commonly planted avenue and park trees in the tropics and is also commonly grown as a shade tree for other crops[
Northern S. America - Colombia, Venezuela; north through Central America to Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Dry lowland grassland, coastal bushland and forest[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
A plant of the lowland, humid tropics, growing from sea level to an elevation of 1,300 metres[
]. It prefers a mean annual temperature in the range 20 - 35°c, being liable to damage if temperatures ever drop below 8°c. It tolerates a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 3,000mm[
]. In areas of high rainfall the tree has a tendency to be shallow-rooted, but is deep rooted when grown in drier areas[
Prefers a position in full sun[
]. A fairly easy tree to grow, tolerant of a range of conditions, it grows on light or heavy soils and tolerates infertile or waterlogged conditions[
]. Normally found on neutral to moderately acid soils, it can grow on soil with pH as low as 4.6[
]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[
Yields of up to 275 kilos of pods per year can be obtained from trees 15 years old[
The trees provide a microclimate effect for the plants growing under their canopies. At night and on cloudy days, branches hang down and the leaves fold down and inward, allowing rain to fall directly on the ground and promoting cooling through exposing the ground[
]. In the morning the leaves unfold and resume a horizontal position, giving full shade and helping to preserve moisture[
]. The species is used as a shade for tea, coffee, cocoa, nutmeg and vanilla, and provides shade for pasture and grazing animals[
The tree responds to pruning and coppices well, regrowing rapidly when lopped or pollarded[
The tree is listed as undesirable in environmentally sensitive areas of Australia[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
Children eat the pods, which contain a brownish, sticky, liquorice-like, sweet-flavoured pulp[
]. A lemon-like fruit drink is also made from the pulp[
]. The pods are more or less straight with conspicuously thickened edges, 12 - 20cm long, 1 - 2cm wide and 1.2cm thick[
The tree yields a gum of inferior quality which could be used as a poor man's substitute for gum arabic[
A decoction of the inner bark and fresh leaves is used as a treatment for diarrhoea[
A brew of small sections of the bark is taken to treat stomach-ache[
A crude aqueous or alcoholic extract of the leaves is observed to have an inhibiting effect on Mycobacterium tuberculosis[
]. The alkaloid fraction of the leaves is effective on the CNS and PNS[
]. An infusion of the leaves is used as a laxative[
The fruit decoction is used as a CNS-sedative[
The seeds are chewed for treating a sore throat[
The tree is grown to provide shade for other crops, including cocoa, coffee, tea and peppers[
]. The dome-shaped, low crown provides a very strong shade even at low sun positions[
]. The leaves fold up during rain, allowing more moisture to reach the crops below[
The bark is an abundant source of gums and resins[
]. The tree yields a gum of inferior quality which could be used as a poor man's substitute for gum arabic[
Pods can be ground up and converted to alcohol as an energy source[
]. Yields of 1,150 litres of absolute alcohol can be obtained per year from 1 hectare[
The heartwood is brown when freshly cut, turning golden-brown upon exposure; the thin layer of sapwood is a cream colour. The wood is light in weight; soft but strong; durable to very durable. It takes a high polish but is often very cross-grained, making it difficult to work except when green. With its rich dark-and-light pattern, the wood is highly prized for carvings, furniture and panelling. The wood shrinks so little that products may be carved out of green wood without fear of splitting or warping as the wood dries[
]. In Hawaii, bowls and other craft products made from the wood are in such high demand that the local wood supply is supplemented by imports from Indonesia and the Philippines[
]. A moderately durable wood, it is also used in boat building[
]. The wood is very durable against rot and termites[
]. The beautiful, high-quality wood is used for interior trim, crafts, boxes, veneer, plywood and general construction[
The fact that S. Saman wood produces 5,200 - 5,600 kcal/kg when it burns, and that it regrows vigorously after lopping or pollarding, makes it a valuable source of high-quality firewood and charcoal[
]. However, where there is a strong market for wood carvings, the wood is considered too valuable to be used as fuel[
Seed - stores well at ambient temperatures[
]. Fresh seed that is still moist usually germinates freely without pre-treatment[
]. Once the seedcoat has dried and hardened it needs to be treated to allow the ingress of moisture. This can be dome by carefully making a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the seed) or soaking larger quantities of seed in hot water for 3 minutes. In either case, the seed is then soaked for 12 - 24 hours in warm water before sowing[
]. Treated seed usually germinates quickly, in 6 - 8 days under optimal conditions[