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Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre

Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre




Pongamia glabra Ventenat, Millettia novo-guineensis Kanehira & Hatusima, Derris indica (Lamk) J.J. Bennett.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Mempari, kacang kayu laut (Peninsular), biansu (Sarawak).
English Pongam, Indian beech.
American Pongame oil tree.
Indonesia Bangkong (Javanese), ki pahang laut (Sundanese), kranji (Madurese).
Philippines Bani (General), balikbalik, balok (Tagalog).
Thailand Khayi (Chumphon), yi-nam (Peninsular).
Vietnam D[aa]y m[aas]u, d[aa]y kim, kh[oor] s[aa]m hoa.
Laos (do:k) ko:m ko:y.
Singapore Seashore mempari.
French Arbre de pongolote.

Geographical Distributions

Pongamia pinnata probably originated from India and occurs naturally or naturalised from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka throughout Southeast Asia to north-eastern Australia, Fiji and Japan. It has been introduced in Egypt and the United States (Florida, Hawaii).


P. pinnata is an evergreen or briefly deciduous, hairless shrub or tree with spreading branches. It is 15-25 m tall and with the trunk measuring up to 80 cm in diametre. The grey bark is smooth or faintly vertically fissured. The branchlets are with pale stipule scars.

The leaves are imparipinnate, pinkish-red when young, glossy dark green above and dull green with prominent veins beneath when mature. There are 5-9 leaflets which are ovate, elliptical or oblong, measuring 5-25 cm x 2.5-15 cm, obtuse-acuminate at the apex and rounded to wedge-shaped at the base.

The inflorescence is raceme-like, axillary, measures 6-27 cm long and bears pairs of strong fragrant flowers. The sepal is bell-shaped, measures 4-5 mm long, truncate and finely pubescent. The petal is white to pink, purple inside and brownish veined outside. The standard is rounded obovate, measures 1-2 cm long, with basal auricles, often with green central blotch and with thin silky hairy. The wings are oblong, oblique and slightly adherent to obtuse keel. There are 10 monadelphous stamens, vexillary one free at the base and joined to the tube in the middle.

The pod is short-stalked, oblique-oblongoid to ellipsoid, flat, measuring 5-8 cm x 2-3.5 cm x 1-1.5 cm, smooth, thick-leathery to subwoody, beaked, indehiscent and with 1-2-seeded. The seed is compressed ovoid, measuring 1.5-2.5 cm x 1.2-2 cm x 0.8 cm and with a brittle coat.

Ecology / Cultivation

In its natural range, P. pinnata tolerates a wide temperature range. Mature trees withstand light frost and tolerate temperatures of over 50°C. Its altitudinal range is from 0-1200 m. It is fairly tolerant of shade, at least when young. The annual rainfall required is 500-2500 mm, with a dry season of 2-6 months. It occurs naturally in the lowland forest on limestone and rocky coral outcrops on the coast, along the edges of mangrove forest and along tidal streams and rivers. The best growth is found on deep sandy loams, but it will also grow on sandy soils and heavy swelling clay soils. It is very tolerant of saline conditions and tolerant of alkalinity.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 11: Auxiliary plants.

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