Tamarindus indica

Tamarindus indica L.

Family       : Fabaceae (subfam.: caesalpinioideae)

Common Name : വാളൻപുളി (Mal)

: इमली (Hin)

: Tamarind (Eng)

Tamarind is a very common large tree with a short massive trunk, ferny pinnate leaves, small yellow flowers and fat reddish brown pods. The tree can get 90 ft tall but is usually less than 50 ft. It has a short, stocky trunk, drooping branches and a domed umbrella shaped crown about as wide as the tree's height. The leaves are about 10 in long with 10-18 pairs of 1 in oblong leaflets. Tamarind drops its leaves in pronounced dry seasons; in climates without a dry season it stays evergreen. The flowers are about 1 in across, pale yellow with purple or red veins. They have five unequal lobes and borne in small drooping clusters. The velvety cinnamon brown pods are 2-6 in long, sausage shaped and constricted between the seeds. The pulp that surrounds the 8-10 seeds is both sweet and extremely sour, and girls in India love it. It is common to have a tamarind tree in the compound of a girls hostel. Tamarind is very much used in cooking in India, particularly in the south. Contrary to popular belief, Tamarind is not native to India. It originated in tropical Africa, including Sudan and parts of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. It was introduced into India so long ago that it has often been reported as indigenous here, and it was apparently from India that it reached the Persians and the Arabs who called it "tamar hind" (Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic name. The species name indica also gives the misleading impression that it originated in India.

Trees, to 25 m high, bark brown to brownish-black, rough; branchlets tomentose. Leaves paripinnate, alternate; leaflets 20-34, opposite, sessile, 1.5-4 x 0.4-1.3 cm, oblong, apex obtuse, base unequal; rachis 8-13 cm long, slender, glabrous, pulvinate; stipules lateral, minute, caducous;. Flowers 1 cm across, yellow with reddish-pink dots, in lax terminal racemes; bracts and bracteoles ovate-oblong, coloured, caducous; pedicels up to 5 mm. Calyx tube narrowly turbinate, lined by disc; lobes 4, subequal, oblong, imbricate. Petals 3, outer one, 1 x 0.3 cm, rolled up, pink dotted, lateral 2, 1-1.5 x 0.7-1 cm, clawed, subequal, oblong-lanceolate, lower pair scaly. Stamens 9, monadelphous, only 3 fertile, others reduced to bristle, base pubescent; anthers versatile. Ovary stipitate, adnate to the disc, ovules many; style attenuate, tomentose; stigma globose. Pod 10-15 x 1-2 cm, oblong, fruit wall crustaceous, mesocarp pulpy, endocarp septate, leathery, indehiscent; seeds 3-8 or more, obovoid-orbicular, compressed, brown.

Use: The fruit pulp is rich in tartaric and citric acids, high amount of vitamin C and sugar. The fruit pulp is used in syrup, juice concentrates and as a spice in drinks, chutney, curries, pickles and meat sauces. The seeds are used as cattle feed. The wood is hard and strong, used as chopping blocks, also used as firewood.


Distribution : Native of Tropical Africa; introduced and widely grown in India and other parts of tropics

Flowering & Fruiting : September-April