Fabaceae Lindl.

Prosopis L.

This genus is accepted, and its native range is Tropics & Subtropics Central U.S.A.


M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008]

Morphology General Habit
Shrubs or trees, spiny, prickly or unarmed
Morphology Leaves
Leaves bipinnate, rarely reduced or absent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Flowers in spikes, spiciform racemes or heads, bisexual. Calyx 5-lobed
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 5, free or united below
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 10; anthers with an often inconspicuous apical gland
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pod straight, curved or spirally coiled, woody or coriaceous, subcylindrical or ± compressed, internally septate between the seeds, indehiscent.
Some 50 species, one native in tropical Africa, three in the Middle East and the remainder American.


Leguminosae, J. B. Gillett, R. M. Polhill & B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1971

Morphology General Habit
Shrubs or trees, spinous, prickly, or unarmed
Morphology Leaves
Leaves bipinnate, rarely absent or very reduced; rhachis glandular at insertion of pinnae, with glands often also between leaflet-pairs; pinnae each with one to many pairs of opposite or rarely alternate leaflets
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences of spikes, spiciform racemes or heads
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers hermaphrodite
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx gamosepalous, with 5 teeth
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals 5, free or connate below
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 10, fertile; anthers with an apical gland which may sometimes be sessile and inconspicuous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods straight, curved or spirally coiled, woody or coriaceous, subcylindrical or ± compressed, internally septate between the seeds
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds hard, unwinged, with endosperm.


Legumes of the World. Edited by G. Lewis, B. Schrire, B. MacKinder & M. Lock. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2005)

Trees and shrubs
Tropical to warm temperate seasonally dry forest, woodland, wooded grassland, semi-xerophytic woodland and shrubland, thorn scrub and desert, on sandy plains or hills, ravines and along dry stream beds
S America (31 spp. centred in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay to E Bolivia, Uruguay and S Brazil with a minor centre in the tropical Andean region from Peru, Ecuador and Colombia; 2 spp. widespread in Neotropics; 7 spp. in Mexico-SW USA); SW to C Asia (3 spp.), one extending to N Africa; Africa (1 sp. in Sudanian region); cultivated and naturalised worldwide
While generic limits and the division into 5 sections are generally accepted, debate continues over the relative rank of species; Burkart (1976) raised many earlier infraspecific taxa to species level and some species complexes and hybridisation still cause taxonomic problems. Placed here in the Prosopis group and poorly supported at the base of the Dichrostachys and Piptadenia groups in the analysis of Luckow et al. (2003). Although this and other genera in the Prosopis group are not resolved as monophyletic by molecular data (Luckow et al., 2003), the Prosopis group is retained here pending further study

The tribe Mimoseae (sensu Bentham, 1875) is retained here simply as a matter of convenience. All recent phylogenetic analyses indicate that Ingeae and Acacieae are derived from within Mimoseae (Chappill & Maslin, 1995; Käss & Wink, 1996; Luckow et al., 2000; Bruneau et al., 2001; Luckow et al., 2003; Herendeen et al., 2003a), making it a paraphyletic group at best. The most recent studies indicate that it may not even be monophyletic with respect to the Caesalpinioideae (Luckow et al., 2000; Bruneau et al., 2001; Luckow et al., 2003).

Although the outline of a new tribal classification of the mimosoids is emerging, we await better-supported phylogenies (based on more extensive data) before formalising new stable and useful groups. Some parts of the classification proposed here are better supported than others. Notably, the basal branches in Fig. 24 are poorly supported in most analyses and the relationships among the groups are likely to change as we acquire more data. As presently indicated (Luckow et al., 2003), the type genus Mimosa falls within the derived Piptadenia group which is in turn sister, and basally branching, to elements of Acacia and Ingeae (Fig. 24). A more narrowly circumscribed Mimoseae sens. strict. will thus leave the bulk of Mimoseae sens. lat. (i.e., as treated here) in need of new tribal allocation. The most conspicuous difference between the classification presented here and that of Lewis & Elias (1981) is the inclusion of tribe Parkieae within Mimoseae. The former was circumscribed based on imbricate aestivation of the calyx, and was considered the basal tribe within the Mimosoideae (Elias, 1981a). Recent phylogenetic analyses (Chappill & Maslin, 1995; Luckow et al., 2000; Bruneau et al., 2001; Luckow et al., 2003; Herendeen et al., 2003a), indicate that the two genera in the Parkieae, Parkia and Pentaclethra, are not sister taxa (Fig. 24). Pentaclethra is nested within Mimoseae in Luckow et al. (2000), but is either sister to caesalpinioid taxa in Bruneau et al. (2001) and Herendeen et al. (2003a), or part of a basal polytomy with Mimoseae and caesalpinioid taxa (Luckow et al., 2003). Both Parkia and Pentaclethra are included in the tribe Mimoseae pending additional data and tribal recircumscription.

Recent work (Luckow et al., submitted a) also indicates that the monospecific tribe Mimozygantheae should be subsumed in the Mimoseae near Piptadeniopsis and Prosopidastrum, currently in the Prosopis group. Otherwise, the informal groups within the Mimoseae recognised by Lewis & Elias (1981) are relatively well-supported by current phylogenies and only a few departures have been made from their system. Where relationships are either poorly supported or unresolved, the classification of Lewis & Elias (1981) is retained. The Xylia group is dismantled and the Adenanthera group recircumscribed to include Calpocalyx and Xylia . Desmanthus has been removed from the Dichrostachys group, as has Neptunia, in agreement with recent molecular and morphological phylogenetic studies (Harris et al., 1994; Hughes, 1998; Luckow, 1995, 1997). A new group is erected to accommodate Piptadeniastrum which is well separated from Newtonia in the most recent phylogeny (Luckow et al., 2000; 2003), and another to accommodate Cylicodiscus, which is more closely related to the clade containing the Prosopis, Leucaena, Dichrostachys, and Piptadenia groups than it is to the Newtonia group. Neptunia is well supported as sister to Prosopidastrum in recent analyses (Luckow et al., 2003) and is included in the Prosopis group here. Relationships of genera in the Prosopis group are not resolved, but the group is retained here as there is no evidence that it is not monophyletic. Genera newly described since 1981 include Alantsilodendron, Calliandropsis, Kanaloa, and Lemurodendron. Alantsilodendron and Calliandropsis are placed in the Dichrostachys group, and Kanaloa in the Leucaena group based on phylogenetic analyses (Hughes, 1998; Luckow, 1997; Luckow et al., 2000). Lemurodendron is tentatively included in the Newtonia group as suggested by Villiers & Guinet (1989). As treated here the Mimoseae comprises 40 genera and from (859)– 869–(879) species.

Used since ancient times as human food and drink (from the sweet fleshy pods), timber (e.g., for construction, fence posts and furniture), livestock fodder, charcoal, firewood, shade trees, ornamentals, gums, dyes for tanning, medicine, coffee substitute, bee plants and desert reforestation; major species are P. juliflora (Sw.) DC. and P. pallida (Humb. & Bonpl. ex Willd.) Kunth, known as mesquite, algarroba and screw bean ; some species are invasive and pernicious weeds

Native to:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Argentina South, Arizona, Arkansas, Aruba, Bahamas, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil West-Central, Burkina, California, Cameroon, Central African Repu, Chad, Chile Central, Chile North, Colombia, Colorado, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Galápagos, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf States, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kansas, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Kuwait, Lebanon-Syria, Leeward Is., Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Netherlands Antilles, New Mexico, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sinai, Sudan, Tadzhikistan, Texas, Togo, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uruguay, Utah, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Windward Is., Yemen, Zaïre

Introduced into:

Andaman Is., Ascension, Assam, Bangladesh, Botswana, Canary Is., Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Free State, Gilbert Is., Hawaii, Jawa, Kenya, Madagascar, Marianas, Mauritius, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Guinea, New South Wales, Nicobar Is., Northern Provinces, Northern Territory, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Réunion, Socotra, Somalia, South Australia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad-Tobago, Victoria, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Zimbabwe

Prosopis L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status Has image?
Oct 1, 1971 Palmer, E. [245], Mexico K000478626 No
Pennington, T.D. [13268], Bolivia 57427.000 No
Pennington, T.D. [13253], Bolivia 57451.000 No
Loureiro, R.L. [158], Mato Grosso do Sul K000849240 Yes
Eggers, H. [15413], Ecuador K000504800 Yes
Hughes, C.E. [689], Mexico K000563020 No
Palacios, R. [2402], Mexico K000563022 No
Loureiro, R.L. [157], Mato Grosso do Sul K000849241 Yes
Hughes, C.E. [164], Mexico K000563019 No
Hughes, C.E. [698], Mexico K000563021 No

First published in Mant. Pl.: 10 (1767)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. Scientific Data 8: 215.


Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • Benth. in Trans. Linn. Soc. 30: 376 (1875).
  • —F.T.A. 2: 331

Flora of Somalia

  • Flora Somalia, Vol 1, (1993) Author: by M. Thulin [updated by M. Thulin 2008]

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Mant.: 10 (1767)

  • Flora of Somalia

    Flora of Somalia

  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

  • Legumes of the World Online