An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Adenanthera pavonina

Adenanthera pavonina

Red sandalwood or Circassian-tree (Adenanthera pavonina L.) is an arboreal species belonging to the Fabaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Fabales Order,
Fabaceae family,
Subfamily Caesalpinioideae
Genus Adenanthera,
Species A. pavonina.
The terms are synonyms:
– Adenanthera gersenii Scheff.;
– Adenanthera polita Miq.;
– Corallaria parvifolia Rumph..
The following varieties are recognized within this species:
– Adenanthera pavonina var. luteosemiralis (G.A.Fu & Y.K.Yang) X.Y.Zhu;
– Adenanthera pavonina var. pavonina.

Etymology –
The term Adenanthera comes from the Greek “aden” which means “gland” and “anthera” which means “antheridia” or “male parts of the flowers”. This reference is linked to the botanical characteristics of the plant.
The specific epithet pavonina comes from the Latin “pavoninus” which means “of peacock” or “that concerns the peacock”. This term is associated with the color of the seeds of the plant, which resemble peacock feathers. The seeds are deep red and shiny, similar to peacock feathers.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Adenanthera pavonina is a leguminous plant native to Southeast Asia and Australia (Northern Territory and Queensland), Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, where it grows in forests in areas characterized by humid tropical or monsoonal climates.
Also the plant is common in the old world tropics. It has also been introduced in the following countries of the Americas: Brazil, especially in Caatinga vegetation; Costa Rica, the Maldives, Honduras, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Tobago, Venezuela and the United States, especially in South Florida.
Its original habitat is that of low-altitude deciduous forests in both primary and secondary formations, sometimes in calcareous soils.

Description –
Adenanthera pavonina L. is an arboreal leguminous up to about 15 – 20 m tall.
It has a spreading crown and trunk up to about 45 cm in diameter.
The bark is greyish to dark brown, smooth, cracking slightly with age.
It has alternate leaves, bipinnate, 30-50 cm long, with 2-6 pairs of opposite fins, 7-12 cm long, carrying 5-15 pairs of sessile leaflets, alternate, oblong-ovate, 1,5-4,5 long cm and 0.5-2.5 cm wide, light green in colour.
The inflorescences are axillary and terminal racemose, 8-20 cm long, bearing tiny flowers.
The flowers are slightly scented, of a creamy white or pale yellow colour, tending to orange, with a bell-shaped calyx with 5 teeth and 5 oblong petals about 0,3 cm long, joined at the base, and 10 stamens with anthers provided with a tiny deciduous gland at the apex.
The fruits are dark brown dehiscent curved legumes, 10-22 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, which open when ripe in two twisted valves which remain for a long time on the plant, containing 8-12 lenticular seeds of 0,7 -0.9 cm in diameter, hard, scarlet to brick-red, shiny, bird-dispersed.
The seeds are fairly uniform and were traditionally used as weights by apothecaries and goldsmiths – each seed weighed nearly 4 grains (0.25g).

Cultivation –
Adenanthera pavonina is a very fast growing deciduous tree.
The tree is grown extensively in the tropics for a variety of uses; it is a very ornamental plant with fragrant and creamy flowers, it is often cultivated as a specimen and as a street tree.
It is also grown as a timber crop, for its edible and medicinal uses, as a nurse crop for slower growing species, and as a shade tree for coffee and nutmeg.
This plant normally grows in lowland, humid tropical areas, where it is found at altitudes of up to 400 meters.
It grows best in areas where the annual daytime temperatures are between 22 and 28 °C, but it can tolerate 12-36 °C and can bear sporadic and very short-term drops in temperature around 0 °C.
It prefers an average annual rainfall between 3,000 and 5,000 mm, but tolerates between 2,000 and 6,000 mm.
It prefers sunny locations, tolerating light shade.
Pedologically, it grows in any moderately fertile, moisture-retentive soil and is naturally found on a variety of soils, from deep, well-drained to shallow, rocky soils. It prefers a pH in the range of 5 – 7, tolerating 4.5 – 7.5.
The mature plants are drought tolerant but require a sheltered position from strong winds.
Plants can become invasive in lowland regions.
Growth is initially slow but increases rapidly after the first year, during which average annual growth rates of 23 – 26 mm in diameter and 200 – 230 cm in height can be achieved.
Trees planted 1 x 2 meters apart for windbreaks and 2 x 2 meters in plantings can be thinned out in 3 – 5 years to provide firewood and building materials.
For shade trees, spacing varies from 5 to 10 meters, depending on the complementary crop and site.
Plants can flower and produce fruit all year round.
The trees re-sprout easily, allowing management of the coppice with good survival.
This species has a symbiotic relationship with some soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen.
The reproduction takes place by seed which must be previously kept in water for 24 hours or scarified, with germination times of 1-2 weeks at a temperature of 24-28 °C, and by cutting.

Customs and Traditions –
Adenanthera pavonina is known by various names depending on where it grows or known: acacia coral, beadtree, circassian-tree, coral-wood, false jequirity, false red-sandalwood, red beadtree, red beantree, red sandalwood tree, red sandalwood , saga tree, sandal beadtree, sandalwood tree, zumbic tree (English); hai hong dou (Chinese); bois de condors, corail végétal (French); carolina, contas-de-rosario, pau tento (Portuguese); árbol del coral, coralillo, coralito, peronia, peronias chata (Spanish); Condoribaum, indischer Korallenbaum (German).
The seeds have long been a symbol of love in China, and its name in Chinese is xiang si dou (Chinese: 相思豆), or “mutual love bean”. The beauty of the seeds has led them to be used as jewelry beads. Botanist Edred Corner said that in India seeds have been used as a unit of weight for fine measurements, such as of gold, throughout recorded history because seeds are known to have nearly identical weights to each other.
This plant is used for various uses.
In the food sector, cooked seeds are used.
They can be roasted, shelled and then eaten with rice.
The seeds are easily digestible and are enjoyed by both children and adults.
The seeds which are bright red in color taste like soybeans and contain 25% oil plus 39% protein.
They contain significant amounts of lignoceric acid, a straight-chain saturated fatty acid with 24 carbon atoms.
The seed may require boiling to neutralize some toxicity.
The young leaves are cooked and used as a vegetable.
In the medicinal field, the plant is antibacterial and hemagglutinant.
A decoction of the leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism and gout.
The bark is used to cure leprosy.
A decoction of the bark and leaves is used to treat dysentery, diarrhea and tonsillitis.
The wood is used as a tonic. Furthermore, the pulverized wood, mixed with water, is taken orally to treat migraines and headaches.
Preliminary scientific studies appear to support these traditional uses. In vitro studies demonstrate that Adenanthera pavonina leaf extract has antibacterial activity against the intestinal pathogen Campylobacter jejuni. Furthermore, high doses of seed extract have an anti-inflammatory effect in studies on rats and mice.
Other uses include agroforestry.
The tree is a natural pioneer. With its rapid growth rate and ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, it can be used for land reclamation and forest restoration.
The spreading canopy of light, feathery foliage provides attractive shade and the tree is often planted for shade in coffee, clove and rubber plantations.
It is also planted along field edges as part of a windbreak.
The small leaves break off easily, making the species a good green manure. It is compatible with most tropical field and tree crops, making it suitable for use in intercropping production systems. It is planted among fields and tree crops such as spices, coffee and coconuts.
Furthermore, the bark is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap for washing clothes, etc. It is also used as a hair shampoo.
The local use of plant parts as a soap substitute is based on the presence of significant quantities of lignoceric acid.
The plant is a source of dyes; from the chopped bark a red dye is obtained. This dye has been used to dye clothes and is used by the Hindus of India for the sacred mark placed on the forehead.
The red, shiny seeds are widely used as toys and for beads in necklaces and other ornaments.
In ancient times they were used to weigh gold, silver and diamonds, because they have a very low weight variation.
Goldsmiths use seeds in soldering.
The heartwood is bright yellow when fresh, turning red on exposure to air; it is sharply delimited by the light gray sapwood, which can be up to 5 cm wide. The wood is heavy, hard, strong, fine-grained, and durable. It can be machined, easy to plane and requires a high finish[.
The heartwood is resistant to drywood termites. It is a prized timber in many countries, used for cabinet making, construction, flooring, paving blocks, vehicle bodies, and fine art.
Valued in the Pacific Islands for firewood, the wood burns easily, producing significant heat, and is used in both above and below ground kilns.
Wood produces very good charcoal.
The wood is often used as a substitute for that of red sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus).
This plant is also appreciated for its ornamental value, thanks to its fragrant white flowers that develop in terminal clusters. These flowers attract pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies.
Adenanthera pavonina is a source of aliphatic natural products (O-acetylethanolamine and 1-octacosanol), carbohydrates (galactitol), simple aromatic natural products (2,4-dihydroxybenzoic acid), flavonoids (ampelopsin, butein, dihydrorobinetin and robinetin), terpenoids (echinocystic acid and oleanolic acid), steroids (daucosterol, β-sitosterol and stigmasterol), amino acids and peptides (2-amino-4-ethylidenepentanedioic acid and γ-methyleneglutamine) and alkaloids (O-acetylethanolamine and 1H-imidazole).

Method of Preparation –
Adenanthera pavonina is a plant that finds use for many uses, from food to medicinal ones and as wood or dye.
The seeds are used for necklaces, bracelets, rosaries and other ornaments; in some areas, due to the high protein content, they are consumed toasted (raw they are toxic) with rice and the young leaves as vegetables. Due to their uniform weight, about 0.25 g each, the seeds were used in the past as a reference in the buying and selling of precious stones, gold and silver.
The oil extracted from the seeds contains appreciable quantities, about 20%, of lignoceric acid, rarely present in those of other species.
Various parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine for various pathologies; animal studies have demonstrated antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive properties of the seed extracts, which also have insecticidal properties.
In traditional medicine, a decoction of the young leaves and bark of Adenanthera pavonina is used to treat diarrhea. Also, ground seeds are used to treat inflammation.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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