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Leguminosae -- Legume family

    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.

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Roger G. Skolmen

Source: Silvics of North America

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