Cynometra cauliflora (PROSEA)

From PlantUse English
Jump to: navigation, search
Logo PROSEA.png
Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Cynometra cauliflora L.

Protologue: Sp. Pl.: 382 (1753).
Family: Leguminosae
Chromosome number: 2n= 28(?)

Vernacular names

  • South-East Asia: namnam
  • Indonesia: namu-namu (Menado), kopi anjing (Java), puki (Sunda)
  • Malaysia: puki anjing
  • Thailand: amphawa (central), nang-ai (Bangkok), hima (Pattani).

Origin and geographic distribution

Namnam is only known in the cultivated state from South-East Asia and India. Possibly it originated in eastern Malesia.


The young fruit is very sour, but the acid content decreases with maturity. The mature fruit can be eaten fresh or cooked with sugar to make sweets (compote). It can also be made into a fruit salad, pickled, or be used to prepare a special "sambal" (a condiment based on pounded chili). The tree makes an attractive ornamental plant in home gardens and is also potted and grown as bonsai plant. The wood is not valued, not even for firewood.

Production and international trade

The tree is planted in home gardens and the fruit is sold in the market as an ingredient for traditional medicine.


  • Shrub or small tree, 3-15 m tall, with rather dense crown and with distinctly zig-zag twigs.
  • Leaves 1-jugate with 1 pair of leaflets, petiole 2-8 mm long; leaflets ovate-oblong, very asymmetric, 5.5-16.5 cm × 1.5-5.5 cm, almost sessile, drooping.
  • Inflorescences cauliflorous, 4-5 small racemes crowded together on hard knots on the trunk right down to the ground, rachis 0.5-3 cm long; sepals 4, 2-4 mm long, pinkish-white; petals 5, 3-4 mm long, white; stamens 8-10; style 5-6 mm long.
  • Fruit (pod) kidney-shaped, 3-9 cm × 2-6 cm × 1-4 cm, fleshy, rugose, brownish-green, hanging from the trunk, 1-seeded.
  • Seeds flattened kidney-shaped, 3-6 cm × 2-4 cm, brown.

The seed remains dormant for about 3 months, but thereafter germinates well. The seedling grows vigorously; later on growth slows down and the short internodes and closely-set leaves give the tree a dwarfed appearance. The shoots grow in flushes, the bright yellowish-white flush leaves looking like "dancing handkerchiefs".

Seedling trees start to flower after about 6 years. The main flowering season usually occurs between August and November in Indonesia, though some flowers and pods are formed throughout the year. Floral development proceeds fast: flowers open 2-3 days after the buds emerge and fruit set - which is very low - is effected within 3-5 days after anthesis. The pods mature after about 2 months; the taste resembles that of apples. Some trees produce sour pods, others sweet ones.


Namnam grows well in wet tropical lowlands, but experience in India suggests that it is more fruitful in monsoon climates with a distinct dry season. It prefers full sun but tolerates shade. An annual rainfall of 1500-2000 mm and daily temperatures of 22-35°C are desirable. The tree resists wind.


The tree is always multiplied by seed, although it can be propagated by budding, approach grafting and other methods. The trees get no special attention in the home garden, apart from sackcloth being wrapped around the trunk to protect the pods against rodents and fruit borers. This wrapping does not seem to hinder the progress of flowering and fruit set. Pests and diseases are not serious. The pods are attacked by borers, and the young leaves may be infested by black aphids.

The fruit is picked when the skin turns yellowish-brown; no yield records are available.


Namnam pods are well-liked, but yields in South-East Asia are so low that the tree is grown more for its curiosity than its productivity, and this situation is not likely to change.


  • Knaap-van Meeuwen, M.S., 1970. The Indo-Malesian and Pacific Cynometreae. Blumea 18: 20-21.
  • Otjid Rosjidin, 1975. Namnam (Cynometra cauliflora L.). Bulletin Kebun Raya Bogor 2(1): 15-20.
  • Setijati, S. (Editor), 1987. Buah-buahan [Fruits]. LIPI, Bogor. pp. 94-95.


H. Hendro Sunarjono