Sesbania bispinosa

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Local names:
English (sesbania pea,pricky sisham,prickly sesban,dunchi fibre,danchi,canicha), French (sesbane), Hindi (dhaincha,danchi,canicha), Lao (Sino-Tibetan) (sanô), Swahili (msalia-Nyuma,mrindazia), Thai (sano-khangkhok), Vietnamese (r[us]t)

Sesbania bispinosa is a herb, sometimes suffrutescent, (min. 0.6) 1-3 m tall; young stem glabrous or nearly so, sparsely to rather densely aculeate.

Leaves with axis usually aculeate, to about (min. 5.5) 9.5-29.5 (max. 35) cm long, 20-100 foliate; stipules linear lanceolate, 5-10 mm long, adaxially pubescent, pilose on margins and above, late caducous; petiole 2-20 mm long; leaflets oblong to oblong linear, 0.75-2 (max. 2.6) cm x 1.5-3 (max. 5) mm, obtuse, mucronate, glabrous on both surfaces, in (min. 10) 20-50 (55 max) pairs; base obtuse; apex obtuse, emarginate, usually apiculate, glabrescent; stipels minute, caducous; inflorescence and pedicels often aculeate; bracts and bracteoles linear, caducous.

Raceme (min. 1) 2.5-15 (max. 16.5) cm long, 1-12 (max. 14) flowered; peduncle (min. 0.5) 1.5-4 (max. 6) long, glabrous; flowers 10-12 (max. 13) mm long; pedicels 6-11 mm long; calyx about 3-5 mm long, 3-4 mm wide, glabrous except when puberulent along the margin and inside teeth; teeth triangular 0.5-1 mm long; corolla yellow with brownish markings; vexillum with wedge-shaped, truncate basal appendages within; standard rounded to obovate, 1-1.5 cm x 8-14 mm, pale yellowish, spotted brownish or purplish; wings oblong, 1-1.25 cm x 2.5-3 mm, yellow; keel straight, 1-1.3 cm x 3.5-5 mm; staminal tube up to 12 mm long, free filament parts 2-4 mm long; pistil glabrous; style 2-3 mm long; stigma capitate.

Fruit a glabrous pod, somewhat curved, about 12.5-25 cm long, 2-3 mm wide, beaked, 28-45 seeded, constricted between the seeds, with septa about 5 mm apart; seeds pale brown, olive-green or greenish-black, ellipsoid, about 3 x 1.5 x 1.1 mm.

Ecology

S. bispinosa is adapted to wet areas and heavy soils that do not require much preparation. Under waterlogged conditions, the stem produces a spongy mass of parenchyma. It thrives in low to medium elevations, along streams, in open wetlands or often as a weed in rice paddy fields. The species also grows along waterways, in marshes and often on disturbed sandy soils. It ranges from subtropical moist through tropical dry to moist forest zones. Leaves of sesbania follow the direction of sunlight and fold at night.

Native range
China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda

Tree management

As S. bispinosa is usually raised as a rainfed crop, it does not need irrigation. S. bispinosa plants are normally spreading shrubs, but in dense stands they branch less. Because of its very fast growth, it competes well with weeds and may even suppress Imperata cylindrica on sites where moisture is adequate, hence it does not require weeding. Sesbania can produce a green manure crop in 2-3 months and a fuelwood crop in 5-6 months. In some areas, it is considered a weed. If used as green manure for rice, it should be ploughed in just before the rice is planted out, and delaying the rice planting may lower its response to the green manure.

Seeds are dried in the sun to maintain their viability and to protect them from fungal attack and grain pests like weevils. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox; a germination rate of 24% has been recorded following 41 years of open storage at room temperature.

S. bispinosa is adapted to wet areas and heavy soils that do not require much preparation. Under waterlogged conditions, the stem produces a spongy mass of parenchyma. It thrives in low to medium elevations, along streams, in open wetlands or often as a weed in rice paddy fields. The species also grows along waterways, in marshes and often on disturbed sandy soils. It ranges from subtropical moist through tropical dry to moist forest zones. Leaves of sesbania follow the direction of sunlight and fold at night.

S. bispinosa is propagated by seeds, which require no pretreatment. The plants can easily be established by direct seeding. When S. bispinosa is grown as a sole crop for green manure, the seed required per hectare is about 90-100 kg when broadcast, or 20-60 kg when drilled in rows.

The tree is capable of growing in soils where few or no other crops can grow, such as alkaline or saline soils of low fertility and poor texture. It therefore plays a role in the reclamation of such soils.

  The mature seeds of S. bispinosa are cooked and eaten by Indian tribal sects: the Katkharis and the Ghonds.

S. bispinosa is used as fodder for sheep, cattle and goats and can also be made into silage. Meat and milk production in cattle has reportedly increased when these animals have been fed with S. bispinosa. S. bispinosa gum could be a source of a sizable amount of a highly proteinous seed meal for cattle feed.

S. bispinosa yields light, small-sized firewood. When fully grown and dried, it provides good fuel with a calorific value of 4281 kcal/kg.

Fibre:  The fibre is said to be very useful and durable when used in water-related activities. In Bengal, fishing nets and ropes are made from this fibre. In durability and strength, it is reputed to be even superior to jute fibre. It can also be a good source of pulp and paper.

Shade or shelter:  S. bispinosa is planted as a temporary shade, windbreak or as a hedge.

Medicine:  Leaves and flowers are prepared as poultices for external application or taken as a decoction for internal ailments. Due to S. bispinosa’s astringent properties, preparations made from it can be used against inflammation, bacterial infections and tumours. In traditional medicine, seed mixed with flour is used to treat ringworm and other skin diseases and worms.

Gum or resin:  S. bispinosa seed has been found to be a potential source of cheap galactomannan gum, as the plant can be cultivated on substandard soils without extra care or investment.

Nitrogen fixing:  Root nodules that effectively fix atmospheric nitrogen are formed with Rhizobium.

Soil improver:  S. bispinosa has remarkable sustaining quality on soils of poor fertility and texture. It improves soil permeability. The leftover stalks, roots and fallen leaves enrich the soil further by adding organic matter. It is also an important green manure crop; rice yields after a S. bispinosa green manure crop ploughed in 60-70 days after planting are equal to those obtained with the application of about 80 kg N/ha of chemical fertilizer.

Intercropping:  S. bispinosa has been incorporated in agroforestry practices in farmlands as single trees, on farm boundaries or in alley-farming systems.