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CLOSE THIS BOOKNitrogen Fixing Trees Highlights (Winrock, 1990-1997, 100 p.)
VIEW THE DOCUMENT(introduction...)
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia koa - Hawaii's most valued native tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia leucophloea - shade and fodder for livestock in arid environments
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAlnus acuminata: valuable timber tree for tropical highlands
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAlbizia saman: pasture improvement, shade, timber and more
VIEW THE DOCUMENTCasuarina junghuhniana: a highly adaptable tropical casuarina
VIEW THE DOCUMENTEnterolobium cyclocarpum: the ear pod tree for fasture, fodder and wood
VIEW THE DOCUMENTErythrina variegata: more than a pretty tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTInga edulis: a tree for acid soils in the humid tropics
VIEW THE DOCUMENTPithecellobium dulce - sweet and thorny
VIEW THE DOCUMENTPterocarpus indicus - the majestic n-fixing tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTRobinia pseudoacacia: temperate legume tree with worldwide potential
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia nilotica - pioneer for dry lands
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia saligna - for dryland fodder and soil stabilization
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia senegal: gum tree with promise for agroforestry
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia seyal - multipurpose tree of the Sahara desert
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia tortilis: fodder tree for desert sands
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAlnus nepalensis: a multipurpose tree for the tropical highlands
VIEW THE DOCUMENTCasuarina equisetifolia: an old-timer with a new future
VIEW THE DOCUMENTCasuarina glauca: a hardy tree with many attributes
VIEW THE DOCUMENTChamaecytisus palmensis: hardy, productive fodder shrub
VIEW THE DOCUMENTDalbergia latifolia: the high-valued Indian rosewood
VIEW THE DOCUMENTDalbergia melanoxylon: valuable wood from a neglected tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTErythrina edulis: multipurpose tree for the tropical highlands
VIEW THE DOCUMENTErythrina sandwicensis - unique Hawaiian NFT
VIEW THE DOCUMENTHippopha rhamnoides: an NFT valued for centuries
VIEW THE DOCUMENTLeucaena diversifolia - fast growing highland NFT species
VIEW THE DOCUMENTLeucaena: an important multipurpose tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTOlneya tesota - a potential food crop for hot arid zones
VIEW THE DOCUMENTHoney mesquite: a multipurpose tree for arid lands
VIEW THE DOCUMENTPongamia pinnata - a nitrogen fixing tree for oilseed
VIEW THE DOCUMENTGuazuma ulmifolia: widely adapted tree for fodder and moreli
VIEW THE DOCUMENTFaidherbia albida - inverted phenology supports dryzone agroforestry
VIEW THE DOCUMENTGleditsia triacanthos - honeylocust, widely adapted temperate zone fodder tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAndira inermis: more than a beautiful ornamental tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTErythrina poeppigiana: shade tree gains new perspectives
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAlbizia procera - white siris for reforestation and agroforestry
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAlbizia odoratissima - tea shade tree
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAdenanthera pavonina: an underutlized tree of the humid tropics
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia mangium: an important multipurpose tree for the tropic lowlands
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia auiculiformis - a multipurpose tropical wattle
VIEW THE DOCUMENTPentaclethra microphylla: a multipurpose tree from Africa lwith potential for agroforestry in the tropics
VIEW THE DOCUMENTMyroxylon balsam and much more
VIEW THE DOCUMENTOugeinia dalbergioides: a multipurpose tree for sub-tropical and tropical mountain regions
VIEW THE DOCUMENTProsopis alba and prosopis chilensis: subtropical semiarid fuel and fodder trees
VIEW THE DOCUMENTSesbania sesban: widely distributed multipurpose NFT
VIEW THE DOCUMENTProsopis cineraria: a multipurpose tree for arid areas
VIEW THE DOCUMENTJuliflorae acacias: new food source for the sahel
VIEW THE DOCUMENTSesbania grandiflora: NFT for beauty, food, fodder and soil improvement
VIEW THE DOCUMENTAcacia aneura - a desert fodder tree

Andira inermis: more than a beautiful ornamental tree

Andira inermis (Sw.) Kunth ex DC (Berendsohn 1989) is a nitrogen fixing tree that is commonly grown as an ornamental. It has a handsome spreading crown, evergreen foliage, showy pink flowers and responds easily to management. In El Salvador it is known as almendro de rio or river almond because its fruits are similar to the fruits of Terminalia catappa (beach almond). Andira inermis is a multiple use tree that has not been extensively used in agroforestry or other reforestation programs because of relatively slow growth rates; however, it offers refuge for wildlife year-round and could be used as fodder for ruminants and other domestic animals.


This tree is a legume that belongs to the Papilionoideae subamily. It grows to 35 m in height and more than 90 cm in diameter (Allen and Allen 1981, personal observations). It has pink flowers in racemes that are self-incompatible and outcrossers (Bawa 1974). It has a dense and spreading crown with bright tan young leaves and shiny green mature leaves with entire margins. Leaves are pinnately compound with 7 to 17 leaflets. The stem has a rough outer surface. It has a drupelike fruit with one seed that does not open at maturity, an exception among the legumes (Witsberger et al. 1982, Little and Wadsworth 1964). In the Pacific plains of Guatemala, the trunk frequently forms buttresses up to 3 m tall (Standley and Steyermark 1964).

Synonyms include Andira jamaicensis (W. Wright) Urban and Geoffroya inermis W. Wright (Little and Wadsworth 1964).

The number of common names that Andira inermis has is related to its widespread distribution, many uses and botanical characteristics. Names include Almendro de rio (river almond) and amendro macho in El Salvador, Guacamayo in Honduras, came asada in Costa Rica, moca blanca in Puerto Rico, and cabbage angelic, partridge wood or cabbage bark in the United States (Witsberger et al. 1982, Little and Wadsworth 1964).


Andira inermis is found in riparian zones, along rivers and in areas with a high water table. It grows in alluvial forests in Central America but may be found in drier areas. It is found along roadsides, river banks, woodlands and pastures, from sea level to 900 m above sea level (Witsberger et al. 1982, Little and Wadsworth 1964). It requires low light for establishment and high light for development. It is an evergreen tree with the foliage continually being replaced throughout the year, especially before flowering (personal observations). In Puerto Rico, two flowering seasons are observed, one between January and February and the second one, between May and September (Little and Wadsworth 1964). In Barro Colorado Island, Panam, trees may flower for nine months under suitable moist conditions (Croat 1978). This pattern is also observed in trees growing in urban areas in El Salvador where trees flower between December and July (personal observations).

Andira inermis. From: Witsberger et al.1982


Andira inermis is native from southern Mexico to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It has been introduced in the Antilles, Caribbean islands, Florida and Africa (Witsberger et al. 1982).



Planted in parks and yards Andira inermis is a very attractive tree with a dense, spreading crown. showy pink flowers and bright colored leaves.


It is used as a shade tree in coffee plantations because it has a spreading crown and responds well to pruning (Witsberger et al. 1982).


Bats eat the fruits. Flowers are visited by bees, birds, and butterflies (Allen and Allen 1981; Janzen 1976; Little and Wadsworth 1964).


Preliminary studies by scientists at the University of El Salvador showed that the foliage is edible and palatable for ruminants. Research is now being done with rabbits (Jacob Palacios, personal communication).


The wood is very hard, heavy (0.77g/cm³), and very resistant to attack by fungi and termites (Guzmn 1947; Little and Wadsworth 1964; Behrendt et al. 1968; Allen and Allen 1981). Andira inermis lumber has been used for bridges, railroad tracks and waterfront docks and also to make furniture, billiard-cues, umbrella handles and boats (Little and Wadsworth 1964).

Other uses.

The bark is reported to have vermifuge, purgative and narcotic properties (Guzmn 1947). Prunings from shade trees in coffee plantations are good firewood. In the wild, this tree also offers a suitable environment for some plant epiphytes like orchids, bromeliads, mosses and ferns. In conservation programs, it has been used to restore degraded watersheds where moist conditions are prevalent (El Salvador Forest Service, personal communication).



Mature fruits are collected and kept under cool conditions. The hard seeds need to be scarified before planting. The El Salvador Forest Service recommends making a cut on the hard fruit endocarp with a file and then planting them in seed beds or plastic bags.

A recent seed treatment study for A. inermis compared seeds that were scarified with a file; placed in hot water at two temperatures (70°C and 80°C) for 5, 10, and 15 seconds; or non-treated (Navarrete and Orellana, unpublished).

Seeds started to germinate at week five. Maximum germination for all treatments was observed at week 16. Germination was 43% to 56% for all treatments. The lowest germination recorded was 43% and 46% from seeds at 80°C for 15 seconds and non-treated control, respectively.


One-year-old plants, 50 cm tall or more, can be transplanted during the rainy season. Andira inermis can also be direct seeded. Two or three seeds, per site, are planted directly in the field (El Salvador Forest Service, personal communication).


In the field, little or no management is done. Occasionally lower branches are pruned to induce faster growth and a straight trunk. In landscaping, top branches are pruned to control height growth.


Allen and Allen (1981) reported nodulation of A. inermis in Hawaii. In Brazil, Faria et al. (1987b, 1986) found that A. inermis and six more Andira species showed nitrogenase activity with the acetylene reduction assay. They also report that isolated rhizobial strains showed an infective-host range within the cowpea miscellany.


Andira inermis does not grow well in areas with a marked dry season. It grows very slowly even with suitable moist conditions (Little and Wadsworth 1964). Bark and seeds are reported to be poisonous (Guzmn 1947).

Processed wood is attacked by borer insects when used under saltwater (Behrendt et al. 1968). Fruits are attacked by the weevil, Cleogonis sp. (Janzen 1976) with possible effects on seed germination.

Related Species

There are approximately 30 Andira species distributed in Tropical America and one in Africa (Pennington 1995). Some important species in Brazil are A. racemosa Lam., A. fraxinifolia, A. nitida Mart, A. frondosa, A. legalis and A. anthelmia (Vell.) Macbr. (Faria et al. 1987a, 1987b, 1986). Andira galeothiana Standl. and A. vermifuga Mart. are used as fish poison, vermifuge, narcotic or vomiting agents. Andira retusa HBK and A. inermis yield the alkaloids berberine and angelin. Andira araroba, is the source of a fungicide (chrysarobin) used to treat skin diseases (Allen and Allen 1981).

Research Needs

Studies are needed to determine the amount of nitrogen Andira inermis provides to crops in agroforestry systems. Provenance and propagation studies are also needed.

Selected References

Behrendt, G., J.D. Brazier., and G.L. Franklin. 1968. Maderas nicaraguenses Caractersticas y uses potenciales. FAO y Min. de Ag. y Ganaderia Honduras. pp 21-22.

Berendsohn, W.G. 1989. Listado bsico de la flora salvadorensis. Dicotoyledonae. Familia 118:Leguminosae. Cuscatlania (El Salvador) 1(2): 118-8.

Faria S.M.,J. Sutherland, and J. Sprent. 1986. A new type of infected cell in root nodules of Andira spp. (Leguminosae). Plant Science 45:143-147.

Guzmn, D.J.1947. Especies tiles de la flora salvadorea Mdico-agricola-industrial. Imprenta Nacional. San Salvador, El Salvador. p.506.

Little, E.L. and F.H. Wadsworth. 1964. Common trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Agriculture Handbook No.249.
USDA Forest Service. p.l88-190.
Witsberger, D., D. Current, and E. Archer.1982. Arboles del Parque Deininger. Ministerio de Educatin, El Salvador. p. 146-147.

For a complete set of references write to the FACTNet. The author acknowledges the assistance of the FacuItad de Ciencias Agronmicas, Universidad de El Salvador.

FACT 96-06 September 1996