Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rain Tree

Native of Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, this is a rain tree (Samanea saman) of the Mimosaceae (Leguminoceae) family. Commonly known as rain tree, coco tamarind, acacia preta, french tamarind (because its seed pods look very similar to tamarind fruit pods,) saman, monkey pod, this is a large tropical tree that potentially can grow up to 180 ft tall with a crown up to 240 ft broad although they are smaller in the subtropics such as here in Miami.

Rain tree is a wide-canopied tree with a large and beautiful symmetrical crown, not like this one here. I suspect this tree was toppled during some of our very strong hurricanes, and it grew back the best it could, tilted to one side.

The folkloric uses of this tree is amazingly varied. In Venezuela, the roots are used against stomach cancer and in the West Indies, the seeds are chewed for sore throat. It is named rain tree because of the moisture that collects on the ground under the tree, largely the honeydew-like discharge of cicadas feeding on the leaves. The rain trees are champions for absorbing Co2. A large tree is able to recycle tens of tons of Co2 each year.

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