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Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce

Syn.: Prosopis spicigera L.
Ghaf (Arabic), Jand (Punjab), Jandi (Pakistan), Shum (India)

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 unpublished.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


According to Burkart (1976) Prosopis cineraria is not used commercially. During India's Rajputana famine (1868–69), many lives were spared, using the sweetish bark as a food. It was ground into flour and made into cakes. Wood used for boat frames, houses, posts, and tool handles; the poor form of unimproved trees limits use as timber. Containing 31% soluble potassium salts, the wood ash may serve as a potash source. Pods and lopping provide valuable fodder during the dry season. According to the NAS (1980a), it "does not compete for moisture with crop plants, which may be grown close to its trunk." Pakistanis and Indians believe, quite properly, that it increases fertility under its canopy. Bark and leaf galls used for tanning. The gum exuding from the trunk is suggestive of gum arabic.

Folk Medicine

Reported to be astringent, demulcent, and pectoral, ghaf is a folk remedy for various ailments. In India, the flowers are mixed with sugar and administered to prevent miscarriage. In Las Bela, India, the ashes are rubbed over the skin to remove hair (perhaps Leucaena ashes should be tried as well). The bark, considered anthelmintic, refrigerant, and tonic, is used for asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, leucoderma, leprosy, muscle tremors, piles, and wandering of the mind. Smoke from the leaves is suggested for eye troubles, but the fruit is said to be indigestible, inducing biliousness, and destroying nails and hair. Punjabis consider the pod astringent. Central Province Indians use bark for rheumatism. Although recommended for scorpion sting and snakebite, the plant has not proved out (Kirtikar and Basu, 1975).


The heartwood, contains sugars, five flavonones, fatty acids, and tannins (Burkart, 1976). Fresh leaves (ZMB) contain 15.3% CP, 17.5% CF, 10.0% ash, 3.2% EE, 54.0% NFE, 2.65% Ca, and 0.24% P (Gohl, 1981). Wealth of India reports that leaves contain 2.9% N, 0.4% P2O5, 1.4% K2O, and 2.8% CaO. The flavone glycoside patulitrin has been isolated from the flowers (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976). A novel variant on the piperidine-3-ol alkaloid recently reported is spicigerine (Jewers et al., 1976).


Tree to 6.5 m high; cortex cinereous; prickles internodal, scattered, straight, somewhat acroscopic, conical with broad bases. Taproot to more than 3 m long. Leaves 1–3-jugate, glabrous or puberulous; petiole and rachis 0.5–4 cm long, the pinnae 2–7 cm long; leaflets 7–14-jugate, ovate, straight to subfalcate, without nerves (or 2–4-nerved at base, the midrib excentric), mucronate, 4–15 mm long x 2–4.5 mm broad, grayish when dry; stipules foliaceous, deciduous. Racemes spiciform, 5–13 cm long, several together, subpaniculate; peduncle with amplexicaul bract (or 2 bracts united), this caducous and leaving an oblique scar, 1.5–2 mm long; bractlets ovate, sessile, 0.5–0.8 mm long, caducous; pedicels 0.5 mm, to 1.5 mm long when mature; flowers yellow, glabrous; calyx truncate, 0.8–1.2 mm long; corolla 3.5 mm long, glabrous, the petals rolled back in age; anthers 0.8–1 mm long; pistil glabrous. Fruit slender, elongate, 8–19 cm long (including the stipe 0.8–2 cm), subcylindric-torulose, 4–7 mm in diameter, glabrous; pericarp thin, brittle; endocarp segments thin, longitudinal, little developed; seeds distant, longitudinal, ovate, 6 mm long, the tegument with open horse-shoe fissural line on faces (Burkart, 1976), 10–15 in a pod, brown (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976).


Reported from the Hindustani Center of Diversity, ghaf, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate alkalinity, drought, grazing, heat, high pH, poor soil, sand, and salt. Young seedlings are sensitive to frost (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976).


In dry and arid regions of northwestern India in Punjab, West Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, in dry parts of central and southern India, extending into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Arabia. Usually at low elevations. Introduced in Abu Dhabi, where plantings totaling 2,000 ha have been made on flat, silty, gravelly plains and in shifting sand dunes (NAS, 1980a).


Withstands slight frost (-6°C minimum) and high temperatures (40–50°C maximum shade). Sometimes gregarious but scattered in open dry forest. Seems to require light. Our computer entries for Prosopis spp. are unreliable, partly due to past taxonomic confusions. I estimate this species to range from Tropical Thorn to Moist through Subtropical Thorn to Moist Forest Life Zones. I estimate it tolerates annual precipitation of 1 to 20 dm and pH of 6.5–9.8. The chief Indian tree species in the Punjab, where rainfall is less than 750 mm.


Reproduces freely by root suckers and establishes well from seed, which remain viable for decades. Seeds, which should be soaked for 24 hours, may be processed and planted like P. alba. They retain their viability for at least one year. An initial spacing of 2 x 2 m is recommended. Should be weeded until well established.


Tree coppices readily.

Yields and Economics

Standing crops yield 7–70 m3 fuel/ha, averaging 21 m3 stacked. Annual yields of stacked firewood approach 3 m3/ha. The heartwood is very hard and heavy (769–945 kg cu m).


In the Punjab, its rather scanty, purplish brown heartwood is preferred to other kinds for firewood (Burkart, 1976). It is an excellent fuel, also giving high-quality charcoal (5,000 kcal/kg). According to the Wealth of India, the calorific value of the sapwood is 5,003 kcal (9007 BTU) (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976).

Biotic Factors

NAS (1980a) reports that "one fungus and five insect species are known to attack the tree." Species of Chrysobothris and Sinoxylon bore into the dead wood, causing wood rot. Felker et al. (1981) review the pest infestations of their Prosopis plantings with suggestions for their control. Browne (1968) lists the following: Angiospermae—Cuscuta reflexs; Coleoptera—Caryedon gonagra, celosterna scabrator; Hemiptra—Drosicha stebbingi, Laccifer lacca, Oxyrhachia tarandus, Perisopneumon tamarinda; and Orthoptera— Schistocerca gregaria.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update January 8, 1998 by aw