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Tamarind fruits were traded widely in ancient times. Records from the eastern Mediterranean show Tamarindus indica was already in cultivation there in the fourth century B.C. On encountering the fruit in western India, Arab sea-traders thought the sticky black pulp and seeds of the fruit resembled their native date palm, so they combined their common name for date palm 'Tamr', along with the Arabic name for India ('hindi'), to arrive at the common name tamrhindi on which the scientific name Tamarindus is based.

Tamarindus indica (tamarind)

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

From the sausage-shaped fruits of the tamarind tree comes the sticky acidic pulp that has been used as a food ingredient for thousands of years.

Tamarind fruits were traded widely in ancient times. Records from the eastern Mediterranean show Tamarindus indica was already in cultivation there in the fourth century B.C. On encountering the fruit in western India, Arab sea-traders thought the sticky black pulp and seeds of the fruit resembled their native date palm, so they combined their common name for date palm 'Tamr', along with the Arabic name for India ('hindi'), to arrive at the common name tamrhindi on which the scientific name Tamarindus is based.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

The origin of tamarind is uncertain as it has been widely cultivated since ancient times. It is apparently native to tropical Africa and Madagascar but is found throughout the tropics. In some areas where it was originally cultivated, it has now run wild (it is naturalised).

Description

Overview: A tree up to 30 m tall with a spreading crown of up to 12 m in diameter.

Leaves:The leaves are up to 15 cm long and are composed of numerous small leaflets, which close at night, arranged in pairs along a central axis.

Flowers: The flowers are about 2.5 cm across and have three petals that are golden with a pattern of red veins as well as two tiny thread-like petals that are barely visible. The flowers are borne on inflorescences up to about 20 cm long.

Fruits: The brown, short-haired, sausage-like fruits contain an acidic pulp which is a much-prized ingredient of confectioneries, curries and pickles.

Threats and conservation

This widely distributed species is not currently of conservation concern.

Uses

From the sausage-shaped fruits of the tamarind tree comes the sticky acidic pulp that has been used as a food ingredient for thousands of years. The pulp was traded widely in ancient times leading to the extensive use and cultivation of tamarind, which in turn has resulted in the widespread tropical distribution of this species.

The edible fruits, and especially the pulp, can be eaten raw or used as an ingredient in curries, pickles, confectionery and in fermented drinks. The seeds can be eaten raw or cooked. Tamarind wood is used as timber, firewood and for charcoal. Other uses of the species include medicines, dyes and for planting as an ornamental.

Cultivation

Tamarindus indica is propagated at Kew using semi-ripe apical or internodal cuttings. Initially these are placed in a misting unit where there is bottom heat and frequent fogging. When rooting has occurred successfully, the plants are potted up into a loam-based or organic compost. They are then placed in a zone where the temperature is maintained at 18 to 28 ˚C. The watering regime keeps the substrate constantly moist but not soggy.

This species is subject to mealy bug, which is removed physically whenever possible. It is hoped that tamarind could be used as a host for the parasite sandalwood in future growth experiments in the Tropical Nursery.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Search Kew's Seed Information Database for further details on Tamarindus indica seeds

Tamarind at Kew

A tamarind from Ethiopia can be seen in Kew's Palm House.

There are also specimens of Tamarindus indica in the Tropical Nursery, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of the Gardens.

Distribution
Madagascar
Ecology
Tropical seasonally dry forest, woodland and wooded grassland, often found along rivers.
Conservation
This widely distributed species is not currently of conservation concern.
Hazards

Flour from the ground seeds can cause asthma and contact dermatitis.

[FZ]

Leguminosae, R.K. Brummitt, A.C. Chikuni, J.M. Lock and R.M. Polhill. Flora Zambesiaca 3:2. 2007

Morphology General Habit
Tree to 25 m; crown rounded; bark rough, grey or grey-black.
Morphology Branches
Young branchlets pubescent to puberulous.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves: stipules free, narrowly ovate, small, early caducous; petiole with rachis 5–12(16) cm long, pubescent; leaflets in 10–18 pairs, (0.8)1.2–3.2 cm long, narrowly oblong, rounded and asymmetric at the base, rounded to truncate or sometimes emarginate at the apex, pubescent or occasionally glabrous except for a tuft of yellowish hairs at the base, venation raised-reticulate on both surfaces.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Racemes 1–15(22) cm long; axis pubescent to densely so; pedicels 3–14 mm long, glabrous to pubescent.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flower buds red.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Hypanthium
Hypanthium 3–5 mm long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals pale yellow inside, reddish outside, 8–12 mm long, elliptic, acute, imbricate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals yellow with red veins, large ones 10–13 mm long, elliptic to obovate-elliptic.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods 3–14 cm long, 2–3 cm in diameter, cylindrical with irregular constrictions, straight or curved, brown-scurfy, 1–10-seeded.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds chestnut-brown, 11–17 × 10–12 mm, rhombic to trapezioid.

[FSOM]

M. Thulin. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1–4 [updated 2008] https://plants.jstor.org/collection/FLOS

Distribution
Native of tropical Africa (doubtfully also Asia), now widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions for ornament and for the fruits.
Morphology General Habit
Evergreen tree 3–24 m high Large petals elliptic or obovate-elliptic, 1–1.3 cm long, golden with red veins
Morphology Leaves
Leaves 5–12(–16) cm long; leaflets c. 10–18 pairs, narrowly oblong, (0.8–)1.2–3.2 x 0.3–1.1 cm, usually glabrous or nearly so
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Racemes 1–15(–22) cm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals 0.8–1.2 cm long, reddish outside
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods (3–)6.5–14 x 2–3 cm, 1–10-seeded
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds chestnut brown, 11–17 x 10–12 mm.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 0 - 1200 m.; Andes, Islas Caribeñas, Llanura del Caribe, Orinoquia, Pacífico, Valle del Cauca, Valle del Magdalena.
Morphology General Habit
Árbol

[FTEA]

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

Morphology General Habit
Tree 3–24 m. high; bark rough, grey or grey-black; crown rounded; young branchlets pubescent or puberulous.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves:petiole with rhachis 5–12(–16) cm. long, ± pubescent; leaflets in 10–18(–21, fide F.C.B.) pairs, narrowly oblong, (0.8–)1.2–3.2 cm. long, 0.3–1.1 cm. wide, rounded to rounded-subtruncate rarely slightly emarginate at apex, rounded and asymmetric at base, glabrous except for a tuft of yellowish hairs at base, sometimes pubescent up midrib and margins, rarely all over both surfaces; venation ± reticulate-raised on both surfaces.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Racemes 1–15(–22) cm. long; axis subglabrous to densely pubescent; pedicels 3–14 mm. long, glabrous to pubescent.
Morphology General Buds
Flower-buds red.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Hypanthium
Hypanthium 3–5 mm. long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Sepals 8–12 mm. long, pale yellow inside, reddish outside.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Large petals 10–13 mm. long, elliptic or obovate-elliptic, gold with red veins.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods curved or sometimes straight, sausage-like, (3–)6.5–14 cm. long, 2–3 cm. in diameter, usually obtuse at base and apex, sometimes irregularly constricted, closely covered outside with brown scurf, 1–10-seeded.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds chestnut-brown, ± rhombic to trapeziform, 11–17 mm. long, 10–12 mm. wide.
Figures
Fig. 32.
Habitat
Woodland, wooded grassland, deciduous bushland; near sea-level to 1520 m.
Distribution
widespread in the tropics of the Old World K1 K2 K4 K5 K6 K7 T1 T2 T3 T4 T5 T6 T7 T8

[ILDIS]

International Legume Database and Information Service

Conservation
Not Threatened
Ecology
Africa: Zambezian woodland, Sudanian woodland, Somalia-Masai forest, Lake Victoria regional transition zone; scrub forest., Zanzibar-Inhambane regional transition zone; bushland and thicket., Cultivated; Indian Ocean: West Malagasy forest.
Morphology General Habit
Perennial, Not climbing, Tree
Vernacular
Amli, Anbli, Imli, Indian Date, Kily, Madiro, Maha-siyambala, Puli, Siyambala, Tamaleni, Tamare, Tamaren, Tamarin, Tamarin des Bas, Tamarind, Tamarindo, Tamarinier, Tamarinier des Bas, Tamerine, Tamrind

[FWTA]

Caesalpiniaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:2. 1958

Ecology
Commonly cultivated; also in savannah, especially on termite mounds.

[KSP]
Use
Food, timber.

[ILDIS]
Use
Chemical products, Domestic, Environmental, Fibre, Food and Drink, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Wood

Doubtfully present in:

Hainan

Native to:

Comoros, Madagascar

Introduced into:

Aldabra, Andaman Is., Angola, Aruba, Assam, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bismarck Archipelago, Bolivia, Burkina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Caroline Is., Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Chagos Archipelago, China South-Central, China Southeast, Christmas I., Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Florida, Galápagos, Gambia, Ghana, Gilbert Is., Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Hainan, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jawa, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Laccadive Is., Laos, Leeward Is., Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaya, Maldives, Mali, Marianas, Marquesas, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico Central, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mozambique, Mozambique Channel I, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Oman, Pakistan, Panamá, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Rodrigues, Réunion, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Socotra, Somalia, Southwest Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sumatera, Tanzania, Texas, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad-Tobago, Tuamotu, Turks-Caicos Is., Uganda, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Windward Is., Yemen, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

English
Tamarind

Tamarindus indica L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Jun 1, 2009 Massuqueto, S.C. [2], Brazil K000931846
Nov 14, 2005 Harley, R.M. [54736], Brazil K000890882
Oct 1, 1999 Bisset, E. [11], Madagascar K000383035
Jan 1, 1997 s.coll. [883], Madagascar K000383039
Jan 1, 1997 s.coll. [7968], Madagascar K000383041
Jan 1, 1997 Randrianasolo [2160], Madagascar K000383042
Jan 1, 1997 Hladik, C.M. [1], Madagascar K000383032
Jan 1, 1997 Tsilizy [6782], Madagascar K000383040
Jan 1, 1997 McWhirter, J.H. [124], Madagascar K000383046
Jan 1, 1997 Ranjokiny [8858], Madagascar K000383038
Jan 1, 1997 Ramamonjisoa [2552], Madagascar K000383043
Jan 1, 1997 Decary, R. [15992], Madagascar K000383033
Jan 1, 1997 Baron, R. [165], Madagascar K000383053
Jan 1, 1997 Baron, R. [4572], Madagascar K000383051
Jan 1, 1997 Boiteau, P. [1018], Madagascar K000383034
Jan 1, 1997 Chauvet, F. [158], Madagascar K000383036
Jun 1, 1988 Phillipson, P.B. [1822], Madagascar K000383031
Mar 29, 1988 Mendonça, R.C. [397], Brazil K000931839
Tanner, R. [333], Tanzania 15508.000
McWhirter, J.H. [124], Madagascar 32133.000
Lewis, G.P., Brazil 51915.000
Owens, S.J., USA 52828.000
Renvoize, S.A. [717], Seychelles 7315.000
Burchell [6253], Brazil K000931840
Glaziou, A.F.M. [2533], Brazil K000931842
Malcomber, S.T. [1115], Madagascar K000383030
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5824] K001122286
Schlieben, H.-.J. [8251], Madagascar K000383047
Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. [14336], Madagascar K000383037
Burchell [5125], Brazil K000931841
Humblot, M. [373], Comoros K000383048
Lewis, G.P. [CFCR7512], Brazil K000931845
Roussel, S. [14], Madagascar K000383055
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5824] K001122287
Lam, H.J. [6114], Madagascar K000383045
Scott-Elliot, G.F. [2626], Madagascar K000383056
Hildebrandt, J.M. [3303], Madagascar K000383049
Eiten, G. [10303], Brazil K000931844
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5824] K001122288
Glocker [153], Brazil K000931843
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5824], Bangladesh K001122283
Hildebrandt, J.M. [3303], Madagascar K000383052
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5824], Thailand K001122284
Ramamonjisoa [11636], Madagascar K000383044
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5824] K001122289
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5824], Thailand K001122285
Barnett, L.C. [273], Madagascar K000383050

First published in Sp. Pl.: 34 (1753)

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Literature

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  • Lewis, G., Schrire, B. Mackinder, B. & Lock, J. M. (eds) (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Flora of West Tropical Africa

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Kew Backbone Distributions

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  • Ananda Rao, T. & Ellis, J.L. (1995). Flora of Lakshadweep islands off the Malabar coast, peninsular India, with emphasis on phytogeographical distribution of plants Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 19: 235-250.
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  • Balick, M.J., Nee, M.H. & Atha, D.E. (2000). Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Belize with Common Names an Uses: 1-246. New York Botanic Garden Press, New York.
  • Barry, J. P. & Celles, J.S. (1991). Flore de Mauritanie 1: 1-359. Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique, Nice.
  • Barthelat, F. (2019). La flore illustrée de Mayotte: 1-687. Biotope éditions.
  • Berhaut, J. (1975). Flore illustrée du Sénégal 4: 1-625. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du développement rural direction des eaux et forêta, Dakar.
  • Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali: 1-465. Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux.
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  • Brako, L. & Zarucchi, J.L. (1993). Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 45: i-xl, 1-1286. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Brunel, J.F., Hiepo, P. & Scholz, H. (eds.) (1984). Flore Analytique du Togo Phanérogames: 1-751. GTZ, Eschborn.
  • Castle, G.E. (1994). Flore des Seychelles Dicotylédones: 1-663. Orstom Editions.
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  • D'Arcy, W.G. (1987). Flora of Panama. Checklist and Index. Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 17: 1-328. Missouri Botanical Garden.
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  • George, A.S., Orchard, A.E. & Hewson, H.J. (eds.) (1993). Oceanic islands 2 Flora of Australia 50: 1-606. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
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  • Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (eds.) (1989 publ. 1990). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 3: 1-659. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
  • Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008). Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela: 1-859. Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela.
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  • Jones, M. (1991). A checklist of Gambian plants: 1-33. Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
  • Jørgensen, P.M. & León-Yánes, S. (eds.) (1999). Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador: 1-1181. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
  • Jørgensen, P.M., Nee, M.H. & Beck., S.G. (eds.) (2013). Catálogo de las plantas vasculares de Bolivia Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 127: 1-1741. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. (2012). Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda: 1-235. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Kumar, S. & Sane, P.V. (2003). Legumes of South Asia. A Checklist: 1-536. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional: 1-289. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
  • Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso: 1-341. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
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  • Leti, M., Hul, S., Fouché, J.-G., Cheng, S.K. & David, B. (2013). Flore photographique du Cambodge: 1-589. Éditions Privat, Toulouse.
  • Lewalle, J. (1970). Liste floristique et répartition altitudinale de la flore du Burundi occidental: 1-84. Université officielle de Bujumbura.
  • Lock, J.M. & Ford, C.S. (2004). Legumes of Malesia a Check-List: 1-295. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lock, J.M. & Heald, J. (1994). Legumes of Indo-China a checck-list: 1-164. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lock, J.M. (1989). Legumes of Africa a check-list: 1-619. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lorence, D.H. & Wagnwe, W.L. (2020). Flora of the Marquesas Islands 2: 413-1135. National Tropical Botanic Garden, Smithsonian, DRPF.
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  • Miller, A.G. & Morris, M. (2004). Ethnoflora of Soqotra Archipelago: 1-759. The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
  • Mosti, S., Raffaelli, M. & Tardelli, M. (2012). Contributions to the flora of central-southern Dhofar (Sultanate of Oman) Webbia; Raccolta de Scritti Botanici 67: 65-91.
  • Pandey, R.P. & Dilwakar, P.G. (2008). An integrated check-list flora of Andaman and Nicobar islands, India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 32: 403-500.
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  • Polhill, R.M. (1990). Flore des Mascareignes 80: 1-235. IRD Éditions, MSIRI, RBG-Kew, Paris.
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  • St. John, H. (1988). Census of the Flora of the Gambier islands, Polynesia Pacific Plant Studies 43: 1-34.
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Flora of Somalia

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Flora of Tropical East Africa

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  • L., Sp. Pl.: 34 (1753).
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International Legume Database and Information Service

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  • Dalziel, J. M. (1937). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa
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  • DuPuy, D. J. & Telford, I. R. H. (1993). Flora of Austalia 50 Oceanic Islands 2:188-236
  • Eggeling, W. J. & Dale, I. R. (1952). The Indigenous Trees of the Uganda Protectorate.
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Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
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Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
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Flora Zambesiaca
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Flora of Somalia
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Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
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International Legume Database and Information Service
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Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
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