Roger G. Skolmen
Monkey-pod (Pithecellobium saman), samán in Spanish, is a fast-growing tree that has been introduced to many tropical countries throughout the world from its native habitats in Central America and northern South America. Although generally planted as a shade tree and ornamental, it has been naturalized in many countries and is greatly valued in pastures as shade for cattle. Short-boled, with a spreading crown when open grown, it forms a long, relatively straight stem when closely spaced. Its wood is highly valued in some locations for carvings and furniture (7).
The most widely used common name for the species is raintree, from the belief that the tree produces rain at night. The leaflets close up at night or when under heavy cloud cover, allowing rain to pass easily through the crown. This trait may contribute to the frequently observed fact that grass remains green under the trees in times of drought. However, the shading effect of the crown, the addition of nitrogen to the soil by decomposition of litter from this leguminous tree, and possibly, the sticky droppings of cicada insects in the trees all contribute to this phenomenon (3). The Hawaiian common name, monkey-pod, is used here because it is a logical derivation of the scientific name Pithecellobium (monkey earring in Greek). Besides monkey-pod, raintree, and saman, which is its name throughout Latin America, the tree is called mimosa in the Philippines.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
In the United States and its possessions, monkeypod grows in Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. It is naturalized in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands (3,10). The tree was reportedly introduced into Hawaii in 1847, when Peter A. Brinsmade, a businessman visiting Europe, returned to Hawaii, presumably via Panama, with two seeds, both of which germinated. One of the seedlings was planted in downtown Honolulu, the other at Koloa on the island of Kauai. These seedlings are possibly the progenitors of all the monkey-pod trees now in Hawaii (1). Monkey-pod may have been introduced into Puerto Rico and Guam as early as the 16th century.
Comments: Prefer sandy well-drained soil.
Soils and Topography
Associated Forest Cover
Diseases and Parasites
Stressed trees, however, are sometimes attacked by the monkeypod roundheaded borer (Xystrocera globosa), which makes large galleries in the sapwood (11). In Puerto Rico, ants (Myrmelachista ramulorum) bore into branchlets, resulting in defoliation and leaf deformation (14). The defoliators can be controlled with insecticides applied to the tree trunks (13). The tree is highly susceptible to leaf damage from herbicide overspray. Leaves are also very susceptible to damage by salt-laden mist from ocean storms (called 'ehu kai in Hawaiian).
Reaction to Competition
Life History and Behavior
Seedlings grow rapidly if maintained, reaching 2 to 3 m (6 to 10 ft) within 1 year after planting. Natural seedlings, or planted seedlings that are not weeded, are strongly inhibited by competition and grow much more slowly. Seedlings and mature trees are intolerant of shade (15) and extremely susceptible to damage by overspray of herbicides used in weed control.
Seed Production and Dissemination
Seeds number from 4,400 to 7,000/kg (2,000 to 3,200/lb) (15). They can be stored dry at 0° to 3° C (32° to 38° F) in closed containers for lengthy periods with little loss of viability. Seeds are normally scarified; they are placed in water at 100° C (212° F), then allowed to cool overnight. Scarified seeds usually germinate 3 to 4 days after sowing.
Flowering and Fruiting
Growth and Yield
Although primarily a shade tree, monkey-pod also has potential as a timber tree. After the first year of planting at close spacings in Western Samoa, monkey-pod averaged 4 cm (1.6 in) d.b.h. and 4.4 m (14 ft) tall (2). Because of its large crown, however, it requires wide spacing in plantations. A spacing of 2.4 by 2.4 m (8 by 8 ft) proved much too close in Zanzibar (12). In Hawaii, two plantings at 3 by 3 m (10 by 10 ft) failed, possibly as a result of spacing, but more likely for lack of adequate tending. Monthly weeding around planted trees greatly improved height growth in the Philippines, thus ensuring survival (6). Another planting in Hawaii that covered about 16 ha (40 acres) at 6 by 6 m (20 by 20 ft) was fairly successful and produced many trees with 7 to 10 m (24 to 32 ft), relatively straight, branch-free stems. The growth of this stand, now 85 years old, has never been measured or evaluated, however. Trees in this stand are 18 to 21 m (60 to 70 ft) tall and are about 91 to 122 cm (36 to 48 in) in diameter, and have crowns that are co-dominant in the overstory with Eucalyptus, Ficus, Persea, and other introduced trees that have invaded over the years.
Rate of growth depends on rainfall. In dry areas in Hawaii, diameter growth of open-grown trees is usually less than 13 mm (0.5 in) per year, and total height rarely exceeds 12 m (40 ft). In wet areas, diameter growth usually exceeds 2.5 cm (I in) per year. An annual growth rate of 25 to 35 m³/ha (350 to 500 ft³/acre) was reported, but a source was not cited (15). This rate may be excessive in view of the wide spacing required by this species.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Albizia saman
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
Barcode data: Samanea saman
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Samanea saman
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Native from Mexico and Guatemala to Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil. Widely planted and naturalized elsewhere in continental tropical America from Mexico southward. Cultivated along highways and streets and planted and naturalized in both the moist and dry coastal coastal regions and in the lower Cordillera region of Puerto Rico. Often form canopy trees in the Paraguay river basin.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: Fruit, FORAGE/BROWSE, Building materials/timber, Cultivated ornamental, Showy wildflower, OTHER USES/PRODUCTS
Comments: La madera es moderadamente dura y liviana. Tiene un uso potencial para muebles y tallados de madera. Es resistente y apta para postes. Arbol ornamental con flores vistosas, las flores, producen un néctar para las abejas. Las vainas son comestibles y la pulpa es dulce. En varios países se hace una harina de los frutos, que es alimento excelente para las vacas, chanchos, cabras y gallinas. Las hojas constituyen un forraje apreciado.
Although the tree is commonly used as a shade tree in parking lots, it is undesirable for this purpose because of the sticky flowers, gum, and seed pods that fall from it during much of the year.
Monkey-pod wood has been reported as hard and heavy (12), and difficult to work (3,4). Actually, in Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific where it has been used much more extensively than in its native habitat, the wood is considered easy to work, particularly because low shrinkage during drying allows it to be machined while green. Articles made from green wood can be dried without serious drying degrade (10). In Hawaii, monkey-pod has been the premier craftwood used for carved and turned souvenir bowls since 1946. As labor costs increased, however, the industry spread to the Philippines and Thailand, which now supply most of the monkey-pod bowls for which Hawaii is famous.
Albizia saman (sometimes treated under the obsolete name Samanea saman) is a species of flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, that is native to the Neotropics. Its range extends from Mexico south to Peru and Brazil, but it has been widely introduced to South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii. Common names include saman, rain tree and monkeypod (see also below). It is often placed in the genus Samanea, which by yet other authors is subsumed in Albizia entirely.
Saman is a wide-canopied tree with a large symmetrical crown. It usually reaches a height of 25 m (82 ft) and a diameter of 40 m. The leaves fold in rainy weather and in the evening, hence the name "rain tree" and "five o'clock tree" (Pukul Lima) in Malay. Several lineages of this tree are available, e.g., with reddish pink and creamish golden colored flowers.
During his 1799–1804 travels in the Americas, Alexander von Humboldt encountered a giant saman tree near Maracay, Venezuela. He measured the circumference of the parasol-shaped crown at 576 ft (about 180.8 m), its diameter was around 190 ft (about 59.6 m), on a trunk at 9 ft (about 2.8 m) in diameter and reaching just 60 ft (nearly 19 m) in height. Humboldt mentioned the tree was reported to have changed little since the Spanish colonization of Venezuela; he estimated it to be as old as the famous Canary Islands dragon tree (Dracaena draco) of Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife.
The tree, called Samán del Guère (transcribed Zamang del Guayre by von Humboldt) still stands today, and is a Venezuelan national treasure. Just like the dragon tree on Tenerife, the age of the saman in Venezuela is rather indeterminate. As von Humboldt's report makes clear, according to local tradition, it would be older than 500 years today, which is rather outstanding by the genus' standards. It is certain, however, the tree is quite more than 200 years old today, but it is one exceptional individual; even the well-learned von Humboldt could not believe it was actually the same species as the saman trees he knew from the greenhouses at Schönbrunn Castle.
Large branches of the tree tend to break off, particularly during rainstorms. This can be hazardous as the tree is very commonly used for avenue plantation.
Black-rumped flameback (Dinopium benghalense) on rain tree bark
Kolkata, West Bengal (India)
Albizia saman is a well-known tree, rivalled perhaps only by lebbeck and pink siris among its genus. It is well represented in many languages and has numerous local names in its native range. Most names that originated in Europe (where the tree hardly grows at all) are some variety of "rain tree". The original name, saman - known in many languages and used for the specific epithet - derives from zamang, meaning "Mimosoideae tree" in some Cariban languages of northern Venezuela.
The name "rain tree" was coined in tropical India, especially Bengal. Its origin is the moisture that collects on the ground under the tree, largely the honeydew-like discharge of cicadas feeding on the leaves.
- English: saman, rain tree, monkey pod, giant thibet, inga saman, cow tamarind, East Indian walnut, soar, suar.
- Spanish: cenízaro, acacia preta, árbol de lluvia (rain tree), genízaro
- Cuba: algarrobo
- Central America: carreto, cenicero, dormilon, genizaro, zarza
- Colombia: campano, saman
- Venezuela: carabeli, couji, lara, urero, samán
- French: arbre à (la) pluie (rain tree)
- German: Regenbaum (rain tree), Soar, Suar
- Portuguese: chorona
- Haitian Creole: guannegoul(e)
- Jamaica: goango, guango
- Trinidad: Samaan Tree
In the Caribbean region, it is occasionally called marsave.
- Sanskrit: Shiriisha
- Bengali: shirish শিরীষ
- Gujarati: shirish
- Hindi: vilaiti siris सीरस
- Kannada: Bhagaya mara
- Malayalam: chakkarakkay maram ചക്കരക്കായ് മരം
- Marathi: vilayati shirish (exotic shirish)
- Sinhalese: mara
- Tamil: thoongu moonji maram தூங்குமூஞ்சி மரம் (Literal translation is tree with a sleeping face, actual meaning is sleepy tree. Refers to leaves closing in the evening)
- Telugu: nidra ganneru తెలుగు
- Indonesian/Malay: pukul lima (five o'clock tree, in Malaysia), pokok hujan (rain tree)
- Javanese: trembesi
- Khmer ampil barang (French tamarind)
- Malagasy: bonara(mbaza), kily vazaha, madiromany, mampihe, mampohehy
- Sundanese: ki hujan (rain tree)
- Thai: จามจุรี [dsha:m-dshu-ri:] jamjuree
- Vietnamese: còng, muồng tím, cây mưa (rain tree)
As an introduced plant on Fiji, it is called in some regions vaivai (ni vavalagi), from vaivai "watery" (in allusion to the tree's "rain") + vavalagi "foreign". In some parts of Vanua Levu, Fiji the word vaivai is used to describe the lebbeck, because of the sound the seedpods make, and the word mocemoce (sleepy, or sleeping) is used for A. saman due to the 'sleepiness' of its leaves.
According to a research conducted at the School of Forestry of the Bogor Agricultural Institute, Indonesia, a mature tree with a crown diameter measuring 15 meters absorbed 28.5 tons of CO2 annually. The trees have been planted in cities of Kudus and Demak and also will be planted along the shoulder of the road from Semarang to Losari.
- "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- "Samanea saman (Jacq.) Merr.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2010-02-03. Retrieved 2010-03-25.
- Presuming von Humboldt used the Magdeburg foot of 1755, introduced in Prussia in 1793, which was 1.044 ft (31.385 cm).
- von Humboldt & Bonpland (1820): pp.98-100
- von Humboldt & Bonpland (1820): p.99 footnote
- It is a rather close relative to the ingas.
- Among the legumes, it is not very closely related to tamarinds.
- It is not at all closely related to walnuts.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Albizia saman.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Albizia saman|
- Arditti, Joseph & On, Mak Chin (2004): The Golden Rain Tree. Version of 2004-MAY-01. Retrieved 2008-MAR-31.
- International Legume Database & Information Service (ILDIS) (2005): Albizia saman. Version 10.01, November 2005. Retrieved 2008-MAR-30.
- von Humboldt, Alexander & Bonpland, Aimé (1815): Reise in die Aequinoctial-Gegenden des neuen Continents (Part 3). J.G. Cotta, Stuttgart and Tübingen. Image/PDF fulltext at Google Books
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Record (1924) treats Enterolobium Saman Prain as the accepted name for this species. Mimosa Saman Jacq., Inga Saman Willd., Pithecolobium Saman Benth., Calliandra Saman Gris., Samanea Saman Merrill and Albizia Saman were given as synonyms.
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