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Trees bees use - The Tamarind - Tamarindus indica

by Reinhard Fichtl

Apicultural value

The flowers are frequently visited by honeybees the heavy yields of and abundant nectar. In dense stands the tamarind provides good yields of a dark honey which has a thin viscosity and a sour but pleasant flavour, Recommended for planting to increase honey production.


Found from sea level up to 1500 m, along water courses, often associated with termite mounds, in riverine and ground water forests and also sometimes in woodland and wooded grassland where annual rainfall ranges from 400 to 1500 mm.


Occurring in Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Also cultivated in Australia, the Caribbean, Central America, India, and California and Florida in the USA.


Growing into large evergreen tree, usually about 20 tall but can grow to 30 m tall. The bole is stout and the crown densely foliaged and rounded.

Bark: rough, grey to dark grey-brown, fissured.

Leaves: pinnately compound, with 10 to 18 pairs of leaflets which are narrowly oblong, up to 3.cm long

Flowers: fragrant, golden yellow with red veins, about 3 cm across, arranged in lax, slender terminal racemes.

Pods: pale brown, up to 14 cm long, with an edible, sticky, dark. brown, acid pulp around the seeds.

Flowering: mainly from March to July but some trees can be found in flower at any time throughout the year. 

Practical notes

Can be grown from both seeds and cuttings. The tree is not very compatible with other plants. 


The evergreen habit and the extending crown of the tree make it very suitable for “rest and cultural tree” in many villages. This tree is recommended for soil conservation measures and for use in agroforestry systems. It can also be planted as an ornamental and for shade, and is very suitable as a wind and fire-break.

The very hard and durable wood is excellent poles, timber, boat-building and general construction work It also makes good firewood and high quality charcoal.

The acid pulpy part of the fruits is used in cooking and for making cooling, mildly laxative drink. Also eaten fresh or used to make refreshing drinks, jams and confections, for additives to chutney, curries and others.

The seeds are also edible and valuable for human consumption and are commonly sold on local markets in many countries. They are peeled and roasted, or boiled.

Leaves, flowers and fruits provide good animal fodder, but can also be used for various foods. A red dye can be obtained from the leaves and a yellow dye from the flowers.

Over-ripe fruits are used to clean and brighten silver, copper and brass, and Indian silversmiths polish their goods with a stronger infusion of roots mixed with sea salt.

In traditional medicine the fruits are widely used as remedy against fever, intestinal diseases and diarrhoea. The pulp is used against malaria and on wounds and haemorrhoids. Powdered seeds are used against dysentery. Pulverised bark ashes are used for colic and digestive disorders.


Fichtl,R; Addi,A. (1994) Honeybee flora of Ethiopia. Margraf Verlag, Weikersheim, Germany.

Fries,J B. (1992) Forests and trees of northeast tropical Africa. Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, UK.

Maydell von,H IJ. (1990) Trees and shrubs of the Sahel. Margraf Verlag, Weikersheim, Germany