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Pithecellobium dulce (Roxb.) Benth.

Guamachil, Manila tamarind

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Often planted for living fence or thorny hedge, eventually nearly impenetrable, guamachil furnishes food, forage, and firewood, while fixing a little nitrogen. The pods, harvested in Mexico, Cuba, and Thailand, and customarily sold on roadside stands, contain a thick sweetish, but also acidic pulp, eaten raw or made into a drink similar to lemonade. 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 (Perry, 1980). 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.

Folk Medicine

Reported to be abortifacient, anodyne, astringent, larvicidal, guamachil is a folk remedy for convulsions, dysentery, dyspepsia, earache, leprosy, peptic ulcers, sores, toothache, and venereal disease (Duke and Wain, 1981). The bark of P. avaremotem, the "avaremo-temo" from Brazil, is a folk cancer elixir (Hartwell, 1967–1971).


The fruit, more probably the aril, is reported to contain, per 100 g, 78 calories, 77.8% water, 3.0% protein, 0.4% fat, 18.2% total carbohydrate, 1.2% fiber, 0.6% ash, 13 mg Ca, 42 mg P, 0.5 mg Fe, 19 mg Na, 222 mg K, 15 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.24 mg thiamine, 0.10 mg riboflavin, 0.60 mg niacin, and 133 mg ascorbic acid. The essential amino acids in the aril are 143 mg/100 g valine, 178 lysine, 41 phenylalanine, and 26 tryptophan. An Indian aril (60% of the pod) contained 21.0 mg Ca/100 g, 40.0 Mg, 58.0 P, 1.1 Fe, 3.7 Na, 377 K, 0.6 Cu, and 109 S. As calcium pectate, pectin occurs as 0.96% of the sugars (mostly glucose) analysis of the aril (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976). The whole fruit, with husk and seeds (58% refuse) contains 33 calories, 32.7% moisture, 1.3 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 7.6 g total carbohydrate, 0.5 g fiber, 0.2 g ash, 5 mg Ca, 18 mg P, 0.2 mg Fe, 8 mg Na, 93 mg K, 5 mcg b-carotene equivalent, 0.10 mg thiamine, 0.4 mg riboflavin, 0.2 mg niacin, and 56 mg ascorbic acid (Leung et al, 1972). Per 100 g, the seed is reported to contain 13.5 g H2O, 17.7 g protein, 17.1 g fat, 41.4 g starch, 7.8 g fiber, 2.6 g ash. On alcoholic extraction, the seeds yield a saponin, a sterol glucoside, a flavone, and lecithin. The fatty acid composition of the seed is 24.3% saturated acids, 51.1% oleic, and 24.0% linoleic. Hager's Handbook (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979) reports 0.3% caprylic, 0.3% caprinic, 0.3% lauric, 0.8% myristic, 12.1% palmitic, 6.9% stearic, 3.1% arachidic, 13.1% behenic, 4.9% lignoceric, 32.2% oleic, and 26.0% linoleic acids in the fatty acids. Further listed is a saponin containing oleanolic- and echinocytic acids, with the sugar sequence xylose, arabinose, and glucose; also pithogenin, (C28H44O4), hederagenin and sodium nimbinate (which latter two are said to be antiarthritic and antiedemic in rats). Wax, hexacosanol, L-proline, L-leucine, L-valine, and asparagine, are also reported from the fruit, leucoro-binetinidin, leucofisetinidin, and melacacidin from the wood. After extraction of ca 20% edible oil, the seed cake, with 29.7% protein, can be used as animal feed. Bark contains up to 37% of a catechol type tannin. Bark also yields a yellow dye and 1.5% pectin. It is said to cause dermititis and eye inflammation. According to Roskoski et al (1980), studying Mexican material, the seeds contain 14.00% humidity, 2.66% ash, 25.69% CP, 8.12% EE, 22.16% CF, 26.97% carbohydrates with a 80.84% in vitro digestibility. The foliage contains 6.46% humidity, 15.34% ash, 17.17% CP, 6.83% EE, 30–95% CF, 23.25% carbohydrates, and 71.46% in vitro digestibility. For comparison, the Wealth of India reports (ZMB): 29.0% CP, 4.4% EE, 17.5% fiber, 43.6% NFE, 5.6% ash, 1.14% Ca, and 0.35% P. The manurial value of dry leaves is 4.91% N, 0.78% P2O5, 1.04% CaO, and 2.67% K2O. The antitumor compound, b-sitosterol (perhaps ubiquitous), and campesterol, stigmasterol, and a-spinasterol occur in the heartwood (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976).


A large, nearly evergreen tree that grows up to 20 m or more in height, Manila tamarind has a broad crown (to 30 m across) and a short bole (to 1 m thick). At the base of each leaf is normally found a pair of short, sharp spines, though some specimens are spineless. (NAS, 1980a).


Reported from the American Center of Diversity, guamachil, or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate drought, heat, poor soil, salt, sand, and shade. (2n = 26).


Native to Mexico through Central America to Colombia and Venezuela. Introduced in southern Florida, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix. Widely planted and naturalized in tropical regions, including the Old World (Little and Wadsworth, 1964). Listed as a common weed in Hawaii.


Ranging from Tropical Desert (along water courses) to Moist through Subtropical Desert to Moist Forest Life Zones, guamachil is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 1.4 to 22.0 dm (mean of 43 cases = 14.7), annual temperature of 18.0 to 27.9°C (mean of 37 cases = 25.4), and pH up to 8.3 (Duke, 1978, 1979). Occurs up to 1,800 m in Mexico and 1,500 m in Burundi. Suitable for most dry regions, it is drought resistant, in low rainfall areas developing an extensive root system. In Burundi it grows well at 800 m elevation and 600 mm, spread evenly year-round. In southern Florida rainfall averages 1,650 mm or more. It has great adaptability and grows on most soil types, including clay, oolitic limestone, and rather barren sands. It can also be found in wet sands that have a brackish water table (NAS, 1980a).


Reproduces easily by seeds or cuttings. For hedges, seeds may be sown in site, spaced 15 cm apart in two rows 30 cm apart.


Cut as needed for fuel, the tree has a fast rate of growth, coppices vigorously and can withstand "any amount of pruning, lopping, or browsing by animals." (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976).

Yields and Economics

In favorable soils and climates, the Manila tamarind may reach a height of 10 m in 5 or 6 years (NAS, 1980a). With no specific data available, I project that well established trees would produce forage somewhere between 6–20 MT/ha/yr, the 6 projected for Prosopis tamarugo and the 20 for Leucaena, by Felker (1981). Pod yields, according to my visual estimation, should approach those of Prosopis juliflora, a rather productive legume.


The reddish-brown wood is usually hard, heavy, and strong, though it is also brittle and rather difficult to cut. It is used (in India, Africa, and America) as a fuel, but smokes condiserably and is not best quality. Calorific value, 5,200–5,600 kcal per kg. In parts of India it is used as fuel for brick kilns (NAS, 1980a).

Biotic Factors

Normally pest damage is insignificant; can become affected by leaf spot diseases, Phyllosticta inga-dulcis and Colletotrichum sp., and a number of defoliating and boring insect pests. It is a favorite host of the thornbug. (NAS, 1980a). The nematode Meloidogyne is reported as a pest in Florida, the twig blight Phomopsis sp., the leaf spot Phyllosticta pithecolubis in Texas and Puerto Rico, Physalospora fusca and Physalospora rhodina in Florida, the wood rot Polyporus gilvus in Hawaii. Since several rhizobial cultures from guamachil failed to nodulate on several other taxa, this species was considered highly selective. Other tests with Baptisia, Crotalaria, and Dalea incurred nodulation (Allen and Allen, 1981). Browne (1968) lists: Fungi. Corticum salmonicolor, Phyllosticta ingae-dulcis. Coleoptera. Celosterna scabrator, Sternocera sternicornis. Hemiptera. Kerria lacca, Nipaecoccus vastator. Lepidoptera. Cryptophlebia illepida, Eucosma stereoma, Euproctis scintillans, Hypanartia hecabe, Macroplectra nararia.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw