Pithecellobium dulce (Roxb.) Benth.

Etymology Genus Monkey ears, likely to refer to the arching shape of the fruit
Species Sweet, referring to taste of the edible aril around the seed
Family Fabaceae
Synonyms Mimosa dulcis Roxb., Pithecollobium dulce (Roxb.) Benth.
Common Names Madras Thorn
Status Exotic: Casual
Form Tree
Native Distribution Tropical America


The form of the Madras Thorn is so distinctive that a trained eye can easily recognise it from a distance. The ends of branches are always straggling.

Interesting Facts:

Pithecellobium dulce used to be commonly planted, but many have been removed because of mass infestations by caterpillars during the 1970s (Wee, 2003). However, a form with varigated leaves is presently popularly cultivated as a shrub.The lobing fruits are compressed tightly around the seeds. They turn pink upon ripening and reveal a thick covering of edible white pulp around the seed.

A nice specimen of Madras Thorn showing its distinctive form in the now defunct Bidadari Cemetery.

The leaflets are asymmetrical and arranged in pairs.

The white flowers are small and pom-pom like.

The straggy branches makes it an easy species to identify from afar.

The unripe fruit pod (left) and one which have splited (right).

Seeds are dark brown and flat.


Wee YC. (2003) Tropical Trees and Shrubs: A Selection for Urban Planting. Sun Tree Publishing, USA. 392 pp.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2012-12-30 / Modified: 2017-12-25