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 Tamarindus indica subsp. var.  Tamarind
Tamarindus indica pods.JPG
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
90ft 35ft
Height: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 90 ft
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 35 ft
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: Tropical Africa, Sudan
Bloom: early summer, mid summer, late summer
Exposure: sun
Features: fruit, drought tolerant
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 11 to 12
Sunset Zones: not available
Flower features: orange, yellow
Fabaceae > Tamarindus indica var. ,

Adaptation: The tamarind is well adapted to semiarid tropical conditions, although it does well in many humid tropical areas of the world with seasonally high rainfall. Young trees are very susceptible to frost, but mature trees will withstand brief periods of 28° F without serious injury. A tamarind tree in the Quail Botanical Gardens in San Diego County flowers, but rarely sets fruit, possibly because of the cool coastal climate. Dry weather is important during the period of fruit development. The tree is too large to be grown in a container for any length of time.

Growth Habit: Tamarinds are slow-growing, long-lived, evergreen trees that under optimum conditions can grow 80 feet high with a spread of 20 to 35 ft., in its native eastern Africa and Asia. However, in Southern California it seldom reaches more than 15 to 25 ft. in height.

Foliage: The bright green, pinnate foliage is dense and feathery in appearance, making an attractive shade tree with an open branch structure. The leaves are normally evergreen but may be shed briefly in very dry areas during the hot season. There are usually as many as 10 to 20 nearly sessile 1/2 - 1 inch, pale green leaflets per leaf. The leaflets close up at night.

Flowers: The inconspicuous, inch-wide, five-petalled flowers are borne in small racemes and are yellow with orange or red streaks. The flower buds are pink due to the outer color of the 4 sepals which are shed when the flower opens.

Fruit: The 3 - 8 inch long, brown, irregularly curved pods are borne in abundance along the new branches. As the pods mature, they fill out somewhat and the juicy, acidulous pulp turns brown or reddish-brown. When fully ripe, the shells are brittle and easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown, obovate seeds embedded in the brown, edible pulp. The pulp has a pleasing sweet/sour flavor and is high in both acid and sugar. It is also rich in vitamin B and high in calcium. There are wide differences in fruit size and flavor in seedling trees. Indian types have longer pods with 6 - 12 seeds, while the West Indian types have shorter pods containing only 3 - 6 seeds. Most tamarinds in the Americas are of the shorter type.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Tamarindus indica, Linn. Tamarind. Tamarindo. Fig. 3768. A large tree, attaining to 80 ft. in height when grown on deep soils, with a trunk 25 ft. in circum.: bark brownish gray, somewhat shaggy: lvs. abruptly pinnate; lfts. 20-40, opposite, oblong, 1/2 – 3/4 in. long, glabrescent, soft, pale green, obtuse: fls. few together in lax racemes, individually about 1 in. broad, pale yellow, the petals veined red; calyx-teeth lanceolate, the lowest 2 connate: pod 3-8 in. long, 3/4 - l in. broad, cinnamon-brown, with a brittle epicarp and brown pulp inclosing 1-12 seeds. Flowers in April and May in the northern hemisphere, ripening fr. in late autumn and winter. B.M. 4563 (as T. officinalis). J.F. 2:133.—The tamarind is a magnificent evergreen tree, extensively cult. in nearly all tropical countries. It succeeds in S. Fla., and has been grown as far north as Manatee, where a large specimen was killed by the freeze of 1884. It is not sufficiently hardy to be grown in Calif., failure having attended all past efforts to cult. it in that state, so far as known. It delights in a deep alluvial soil and abundant rainfall, the largest specimens being found in tropical regions where the soil is rich and deep. On the shallow soils of S. E. Fla. it does not attain to great size. When small it is very susceptible to frost, but when mature it will probably withstand temperatures as low as 28-30° F. without injury.

The plump slightly curved pod has a thin brittle shell. It contains a soft brownish pulp transversed by a few strong branched fibers; the large flattened glossy seeds, varying from one to twelve in number, are surrounded by a thin tough membrane. The pulp contains sugar together with acetic, tartaric and citric acids, the acids being combined, for the most part, with potash. In East Indian tamarinds, according to Dymock (Pharm. Ind. pt. II, 532-36) citric acid is present in a small quantity, about 4 per cent, while there is about 9 per cent of tartaric. The pulp is widely used in the Orient as an ingredient in chutnies and curries, and for pickling fish. In medicine, it is valued by the Hindus as a refrigerant, digestive, carminative, laxative, and antiscorbutic, for which latter purpose it is sometimes used in place of lime juice. With the addition of sugar and water, it makes a cooling drink or refresco, especially well known in Latin America. For the preparation of this drink, a sirup is often made from the pulp which can be bottled and used as desired. In some countries tamarinds are an important article of export. In Jamaica the fruit is prepared for shipment by stripping it of its outer shell, and then packing it in casks, with alternate layers of coarse sugar. When the cask is nearly full, boiling sirup is poured over all, after which the cask is headed up. In the Orient, the pulp, containing the seeds, is pressed into large cakes, which are packed for shipment in sacks made from palm leaves. This product is a familiar sight in the bazaars. It seems to be greatly esteemed as an article of diet by the Indians, as also by the Arabs, large quantities being shipped to Arabia from India.

According to Watt, the natives of India have an aversion to sleeping under the shade of the tree because of the supposed acid exhalation from the leaves. Pittier states, however, that he has slept under a tamarind tree for weeks without suffering the least inconvenience. Gamble writes that the leaves corrode the cloth of tents pitched in the shade of the tree. This happens, he says, in wet weather; the leaves fall on the tents, and within a day or two the cloth is decomposed in holes.

The tree is easily propagated by means of seeds, which is the only method commonly used. Seeds can be transported without difficulty, as they retain their viability for a considerable length of time if kept dry. They are best germinated by planting them 1/2 inch deep in light, sandy loam. The young plants are rather delicate and must be handled carefully to prevent damping-off. In India, the yield of a mature tree is said to be about 350 pounds of fruit per annum. Little is known of the insect pests which attack the tree; Maxwell-Lefroy mentions two, Caryoborus gonagra, a large gray-brown chrysomelid beetle found in tamarind seeds, and Charaxes fabius, a large black yellow-spotted butterfly whose larvae feed on the leaves. Both these insects occur in India.

Firminger mentions three varieties of tamarind grown in India, but does not know whether they can be depended on to come true from seed. Masters, in the "Treasury of Botany," states that the East Indian variety has long pods, with six to twelve seeds, while the West Indian variety has shorter pods, containing one to four seeds. Seedlings undoubtedly show considerable variation in the size and quality of their fruit, which accounts for the different varieties which have been noted by many writers. Firminger recommends that seedlings which produce unusually choice fruit be propagated by gootee, or stem-layering, a method which is described under Litchi. More recently (1913) Wester has reported that the tree can be shield-budded successfully the method being similar to that used with avocado.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Tamarindus (from the Arabic tamar-Hindi, meaning "Indian date"). Leguminosae. A tropical genus containing but one species, the well-known tamarind. It is considered to be indigenous to tropical Africa (the upper Nile region) and possibly southern Asia as well. It has long been cultivated throughout the tropics of both hemispheres, being grown both as an ornamental and for its acid fruits, which have many uses. The tamarind became known in Europe during the Middle Ages, doubtless through the Arabians. Until correctly described by Garcia d'Orta (1563) it was supposed by Europeans to be produced by an Indian palm (Dymock).

Leaves alternate, equally pinnate, the lfts. small, indefinite in number; stipules minute, caducous: fls. irregular, produced in racemes at the ends of the branches; bracts and bracteoles ovate-oblong, colored, caducous; calyx-tube turbinate, narrow, the segms. 4, imbricate, membranaceous, colored; 3 superior petals imbricate, yellowish, veined with red, 2 inferior reduced to bristles hidden at the base of the staminal tube; fertile stamens 3, connate in a sheath, opening above with short, free filaments, anthers oblong, longitudinally dehiscent; ovary many-ovuled, with a stalk adnate to the calyx-tube, the style filiform, stigma terminal, subcapitate: fr. an oblong or linear, compressed, indehiscent pod, with a thick, crustaceous epicarp, pulpy mesocarp, and coriaceous endocarp septate between the obovate-orbicular, compressed seeds; embryo exalbuminous. The genus is distinguished from Schotia, the only ally which seems to be cult. in Amer., by its floral characters. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


Tamarindus leaves and pod
Native Philippine Tamarind

Location: The tamarind ultimately becomes a fairly large tree, so this should be kept in mind when planting out the tree. It should be planted in full sun and is highly wind-resistant with strong, supple branches. The tree generally forms a beautiful spreading crown that casts a light shade.

Soils Tamarinds tolerate a great diversity of soil types but do best in deep, well drained soils which are slightly acid. Trees will not tolerate cold, wet soils but are tolerant of salt spray and can be planted fairly near the seashore.

Irrigation: The tamarind is adapted to semiarid regions of the tropics and can withstand drought conditions quite well. Young trees require adequate soil moisture until they become established, but mature trees do quite well without supplemental irrigation. Avoid over-watering which results in soggy soils.

Fertilization: The tamarind is not very demanding in its nutritional requirements. Young trees should be fertilized every 2 - 3 months with a 6-6-3 NPK or similar analysis fertilizer. Apply 1/4 lb. and gradually increase to about 1/2 lb. Thereafter, young trees should receive 1/2 lb. per application, per year of tree age, 3 - 4 times a year. Bearing trees can be fertilized with 8-3-9 NPK or similar analysis, at rates of about 1/2 lb. per application per year of tree age. Microelements, particularly iron may be required for trees in alkaline soils.

Pruning: Young trees are pruned to allow three to five well spaced branches to develop into the main scaffold structure of the tree. Maintenance pruning only is required after that to remove dead or damaged wood.

Harvest: Tamarind fruits mature in late spring to early summer. They may be left on the tree for as long as 6 months after maturity so that the moisture content will be reduced to 20% or lower. Fruits for immediate processing are often harvested by pulling the pod away from the stalk. Mature trees are capable of producing 350 lb. of fruit a year. Ripe fruit in humid climates is readily attacked by beetles and fungi, so mature fruit should be harvested and stored under refrigeration.

Tamarinds may be eaten fresh, but they area most commonly used with sugar and water in the American tropics to prepare a cooling drink. The pulp is used to flavor preserves and chutney, to make meat sauces ant to pickle fish. Candy can be made by mixing the pulp with dry sugar and molding it into desired shapes.


A Tamarind seedling

Rootstocks are propagated from seed, which germinate within a week. Seeds retain their viability for several months if kept dry. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep in containers filled with a UC soilless type potting media. They should be selected from trees of good production and quality. Even so, seedlings will be variable in quality and slow to bear. Veneer grafting, shield (T or inverted T) budding and air layering may be used to propagate desirable selections. Such trees will usually fruit within 3 - 4 years if provided optimum growing conditions. Seedlings should begin to produce fruit in 6 - 8 years, while vegetatively propagated trees will normally bear in half that time.

Young trees should be planted in holes larger than necessary to accommodate the root system. They should be planted slightly higher than existing ground level to allow for subsequent settling of the soil and a water basin should be built around each tree to assure adequate moisture for young trees. Spacing of trees is normally 20 to 25 ft. in commercial orchards. However, solitary trees planted in Southern California rarely exceed 15 feet in diameter.

Pests and diseases

In California tamarinds are generally free of pests and diseases, although ants will sometimes spread black and olive scales. In India there are are a host of pests that attack the tree, including mealybugs, caterpillars, aphids, white flies, thrips and a variety of scales. Various weevils and borers can also infest the ripening pods or stored fruits.


There are selected cultivars which have sweeter pulp. One in Thailand is Makham Waan and the USDA's subtropical horticulture research unit in Miami, Florida has one called Manila Sweet. None are presently available in Southern California.


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