Parkia speciosa

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Local names:
Filipino (u’pang), Indonesian (pete,petai papan,peuteuy), Javanese (petai gede,pete,segobang,petai pare), Malay (chou dou,petai,petah,patai,patag,nyiring,cong dou), Thai (sator,sataw,sator dan,sator kow,to dan,to khao)

Parkia speciosa is a tree up to 15-40 m in height and 50-100 cm in diameter. Branchlets are hairy. 

Leaves bipinnate on 2-6 cm long stalks with gland 7-15 mm above stalk base. Pinnae 10-19 pairs, 5-9 cm long, each with 31-38 pairs of opposite linear leaflets, 5-9 mm long and about 2 mm wide, with rounded tip and small pointed lobe or ear at base. 

Flowers small and creamy white, found in densely crowded heads. 

Pods large, 35-55 cm long and 3-5 cm wide, straight or more commonly twisted; dangling in small bundles, green becoming black. Each pod contains 10-18 large seeds. Valves swollen over seeds. Testa soft. 

Robert Brown described the genus Parkia in 1826. He named it after Mungo Park, a Scot who made 2 remarkable journeys of exploration into the interior of West Africa in 1795-97 and 1805. The specific name, ‘speciosa’ is Latin for beautiful, showy.


Parkia occurs in scattered lowland rainforests and sometimes also in tall secondary forest, on sandy, loamy and podzolic soils, also in waterlogged locations, in freshwater swamp forest and on riverbanks. The tropical lowland tree requires some shade when young.

Native range
Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand

Tree management

For optimal growth ample space and light are necessary.

Seeds of P. speciosa loose their viability very rapidly.

Parkia occurs in scattered lowland rainforests and sometimes also in tall secondary forest, on sandy, loamy and podzolic soils, also in waterlogged locations, in freshwater swamp forest and on riverbanks. The tropical lowland tree requires some shade when young.

Farmers collect seedlings of P. speciosa from the wild and plant them in their homegarden or field. About 90% of the soft seeds show rapid germination in 3-15 days. P. speciosa can be successfully propagated from stem cuttings and budding. Trees propagated by cuttings bloom and set fruit after only a few years and thereby provide the means for cross-breeding, selecting preferred clones, and rapid commercializing what had formerly been a wild-gathered fruit.

  Seeds are sometimes used as a vegetable; they have a garlic flavour and a very strong odour. Due to the foul smell of the green seeds, they are sometimes referred to as the ‘evil-smelling bean’. Half-ripe pods are pickled in salt. The young leaves and fresh parts of the flower stalks can also be eaten raw.

Fibre:  The wood is used in the manufacture of paper.

Timber:  Parkia yields a usually lightweight, occasionally medium-weight hardwood with a density of 350-810 kg/m³ at 15% mc. Heartwood white, yellow-white or pale yellowish-brown, with paler and darker streaks in older trees; not clearly differentiated from the rather wide sapwood, which is paler in colour; very occasionally, a darker-coloured core is present. Grain straight or slightly interlocked; texture moderately coarse and uneven. Wood with unpleasant garlic or beanlike odour when fresh. Shrinkage upon seasoning is low; degrading during seasoning is mainly due to insect attack and blue stain; end-checks have been observed in P. speciosa. Air-drying takes 3-4 months for boards 13 mm thick and 4.5-5 months for those 38 mm thick. Wood is non-durable with a service life of about 1 year, but preservative treatment is easy. The wood of Parkia is used locally for temporary light construction, carpentry, furniture and cabinet making, mouldings, interior finish, cladding, concrete shuttering, boxes and crates, matches, clogs, disposable chopsticks and fishnet floats. General utility plywood has been manufactured from the wood.

Shade or shelter: P. speciosa is sometimes planted as a shade tree, for example, for coffee plantations and in nurseries.

Medicine:  The seeds are known to be hypoglycemic (reducing blood sugar level), and is used traditionally for treating kidney pain, cancer, diabetes, hepatalgia, oedema, nephritis, colic, cholera and as an anthelmintic; also applied externally to wounds and ulcers. The seeds are also valued as a carminative.

Essential oil:  Seeds of P. speciosa contain cystine.