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Information @ a Glance

  • Pithecellobium is a genus of legume in the Leguminosae family. Pithecellobium dulce, as it is known botanically, is a fast growing, evergreen, glabrous, spiny tree with a crooked trunk, bearing small branchlets armed with short, straight, sharp, stipular spines, arising near the base of the leaves. The leaves are leathery, pale greyish green with oblique leaflets. The minute, dull white flowers are borne in small, dense, clusters at the ends of the twigs. The constricted pods are curved into a circle or a helical coil and are reddish brown when ripe, containing about 6-10 shining black seeds, enveloped in a massive pink to whitish pulpy edible aril, fondly eaten by monkeys as well. Because of the resemblance of the fruits to the Indian sweet jalebi, the plant has been given the name jungli jalebi.
  • Pithecellobium is a genus of about 110 species, mostly native to Asia and tropical America. The species has become naturalized where planted and is now considered a pest in Florida. 
  • The generic name Pithecellobium is derived from the Greek word `pithekos' meaning an ape and `lobos' referring to a pod and the species name `dulce' in Latin means `sweet' in allusion to the edible pulp of the pod. Pithecellobium dulce followed the Spanish galleon route through the Pacific and Asia to Africa. It is now common and naturalised in India, especially in Chennai where it is grown to produce impenetrable fences.

Growth and Distribution

  • Small to medium tree, the trunk spiny; leaves bipinnate, each pinna with a single pair of leaflets; stipules spinose; leaflets asymmetric, ovate-oblong, mostly a little over 2 cm long or up to 4 cm long, longer than the petiole; flowers greenish-white, fragrant, sessile in dense heads; calyx grayish-puberulent; stigma minute, capitate; pod irregularly swollen, twisted strongly, up to 12 cm long but seemingly shorter because of coiling, usually 6-8-seeded; pod with an inner sweetish white edible pulp (the funicules); seeds black.
  • Pithecellobium is a thorny, deciduous tree grows up to 10 m tall, forming impenetrable thickets. It is relatively resistant to fire and resprouts rapidly by basal or aerial shoots. It is found from sea level to 300 m elevation in dryer habitats.


  • The bending strength of the species is considered medium, being much weaker than White oak or Teak in the air-dry condition (about 12 percent moisture content). It has medium compression strength parallel to grain, comparing favorably to Mahogany. It is moderately hard and resistant to wearing and marring. It is a heavy wood. The density is high. 


  • Pods are devoured by livestock of all kinds; the leaves are browsed by horses, cattle, goats, and sheep; and hedge clippings are often gathered for animal feed. The plants withstand heavy browsing. The seeds contain a greenish oil (20%), which, after refining and bleaching, can be used for food or in making soap. The presscake, rich in protein (30%), may be used as stockfeed. Bark used as a fish poison in the Philippines. Known in the Philippines as "Kamachil", the wood, malodorous when cut, is used for boxes, crates, fuel, and wagon wheels. The gum exuding from the trunk can be used for mucilage, the tannin for tanning. The bark is harvested for tanning in Mexico. Tree seems promising for the cultivation of the lac insect. Flowers make good honey.

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