Characteristics of Manila Tamarind Tree (Pithecellobium dulce) in the Wild

Pithecellobium dulce
The Manila Tamarind or Madras Thorn is a species of flowering plant in the Fabaceae family, native to the Pacific Coast and highlands of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.

It is a tree species introduced and naturalized in many places including Florida, the Caribbean, Guam, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines. The Manila Tamarind is considered an invasive species in Hawaii.

The Manila Tamarind is resistant to hot weather and can survive in dry land up to 1,500 m above sea level. That makes this tree suitable to be planted as a shade tree for roads in rural areas or on the side of highways.

The Manila Tamarind tree is known by different names in each region, for example in Mexico, this tree is known as Huamuche, Guamuche, Cuamúchil, Guamúchil, and Cuamúchil. In Puerto Rico, it is called Pinzán or Guamá. Meanwhile in Colombia, it is known as Chiminango. The British and the US refer to it as Manila Tamarind, Madras Thorn, Monkeypod, or Camachile.


Characteristics of Manila Tamarind Leaf

Pithecellobium dulce Leaf
Source : Khare

The leaves are bipinnate, each pinna has a pair of leaves, oval in shape, about 2-4 cm long.


Characteristics of Manila Tamarind Flower

Pithecellobium dulce Flower
Source : and Kim Starr

The flowers are greenish-white, fragrant, about 10-12 cm long (although they appear shorter because the flowers are often coiled).

The flowers will bear fruit that turns pink as they ripen over time, usually from March to April.


Characteristics of Manila Tamarind Fruit

Pithecellobium dulce Fruit
Source : Worthington

Each fruit contains 4-6 seeds, small, hard, and shiny black.


Characteristics of Manila Tamarind Tree

Pithecellobium dulce Tree
Source : Teo

The Manila Tamarind tree can grow to a height of 25 meters. The young branches are thorny and the old stems are not prickly. The bark is light gray, rough, and has small cracks.


The Manila Tamarind fruit contains a sweet and sour pulp which is often eaten raw by Mexican and Indian residents as an accompaniment to various meat dishes and is used as a base for drinks with sugar and water (agua de guamúchil).

The bark of the tree is used as a traditional medicine to treat dysentery and antipyretics in India.

Several studies since the ’80s have investigated the use of the Manila Tamarind seed which ultimately proved that the seeds can be processed to produce oil, which when refined and analyzed contains potentially edible fatty acids (the exact composition varies depending on the study, but all agreed that the substances contained in oleic acid and palmitic acid are common).

The oil contained in the Manila Tamarind seeds amounts to 10-17% by weight of the seeds. The seeds also contain 37.5 to 67.11% protein, which the researchers think may be used as animal feed in the future.


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