Cassia fistula

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Related Links
© Trade winds fruit
Seeds in pods at Kahului Maui, Hawaii
© Forest & Kim Starr
Seed pods at Kahului Maui, Hawaii
© Forest & Kim Starr
Habit at Kahului Maui, Hawaii
© Forest & Kim Starr

Local names:
Bengali (amultash,sondal,sonali), Cantonese (kakke), English (golden shower,Indian laburnum,pudding pipe tree,purging cassia,purging fistula), French (Bâton casse,casse doux,casse espagnole), Gujarati (Girmala), Hindi (bandarlathi,bharva,suvarnaka,amalta

Cassia fistula is a medium sized deciduous tree, 10 m tall with a straight trunk to 5 m, 1 m diameter and spreading branches. Stem bark pale grey, smooth and slender when young and dark brown and rough when old.

Leaves alternate, pinnate, 30-40 cm long, with 4-8 pairs of ovate leaflets, 7.5-15 cm long, 2-5 cm broad, entire, the petiolules 2-6 mm long.

Flowers bright yellow in terminal, drooping racemes, 30-60 cm long; calyx oblong, obtuse, pubescent; corolla with five subequal, obovate, shortly clawed petals, to 3.5 cm across; stamens 10, upper three with erect filaments to 0.7 cm long and with basifixed anthers; lower three curved and filaments with dorsifixed anthers and the median four stamens with erect filaments, to 1 cm long and with versatile, curved anthers; pistil sessile or stalked, ovary pubescent, style to 0.5 cm long and with terminal stigma.

Fruit an indehiscent pod, 40-60 cm long by 1-2 cm diameter, cylindrical, pendulous and terete, containing 25-100 seeds. The pod develops numerous transverse septa between the seeds. When fresh the pods contain a black pulp which on drying adheres to the septa.

Seeds lenticular, light brown and lustrous.

The generic name is from the Greek name 'kassia'.


This is a tree of deciduous forests ranging from tropical thorn to moist through subtropical thorn to moist forest zones. Indian laburnum is reported to tolerate precipitation of 480-2 720 mm, annual temperature of 18-28.5 deg C, and pH of 5.5-8.7. The tree can withstand moderate amount of shade, is drought resistant, but not frost hardy.

Native range

Tree management

The tree coppices vigorously and produces root suckers freely.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. Seeds survive for at least 13 years in open storage at room temperature. Viability maintained for more than 3 years in hermitic storage at room temperature with 13±2 % moisture content. C. fistula germplasm is under long term storage at IITA Genebank.

This is a tree of deciduous forests ranging from tropical thorn to moist through subtropical thorn to moist forest zones. Indian laburnum is reported to tolerate precipitation of 480-2 720 mm, annual temperature of 18-28.5 deg C, and pH of 5.5-8.7. The tree can withstand moderate amount of shade, is drought resistant, but not frost hardy.

Propagation is by seed. Seeds soaked in concentrated sulphuric acid for 15 minutes and 30 minutes and then thoroughly washed and soaked in water for 24 hours before sowing, started germinating the next day and gave 84 and 90% germination, respectively. Manual scarification can also be employed. Direct sowing or planting out container raised seedlings or stumps prepared from 2-3 years old plants.

 Flowers are consumed by Santal people of India.

Apiculture: Produces yellow flowers in drooping racemes. It yields pollen at this time and bees collect nectar from the extra-floral nectaries located at the base of the leaf-stalk.

The plant has been considered as a fuelwood in Mexico.

Timber:  The reddish wood, hard and heavy, weighing around 800 kg/cu. m is strong and durable, it is suited for cabinetwork, farm implements, inlay work, posts, wheels and mortars. 

Tannin or dyestuff: The bark has been employed in tanning.

Medicine: The drug "C. fistula", a mild laxative, is obtained from the sweetish pulp around the seed. Reported to be aperient, astringent, laxative, purgative, and vermifuge, Indian laburnum is a folk remedy for burns, cancer, constipation, convulsions, delirium, diarrhoea, dysuria, epilepsy, gravel, hematuria, pimples, and glandular tumors. Ayurvedic medicine recognizes the seed as antibilious, aperitif, carminative, and laxative, the root is used for adenopathy, burning sensations, leprosy, skin diseases, syphilis, and tubercular glands, the leaves for erysipelas, malaria, rheumatism, and ulcers, the buds for biliousness, constipation, fever, leprosy, and skin disease, the fruit for abdominal pain, constipation, fever, heart disease, and leprosy. Yunani use the leaves for inflammation, the flowers for a purgative, the fruit as anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, abortifacient, demulcent, purgative, refrigerant, good for chest complaints, eye ailments, flu, heart and liver ailments, and rheumatism, though suspected of inducing asthma. Seeds are considered emetic. Konkanese use the juice to alleviate ringworm and blisters caused by the marking nut, a relative of poison ivy. Leaf poultices are applied to the chilblains so common in the upper Sind; also used in facial massage for brain afflictions, and applied externally for paralysis and rheumatism, also for gout. Zimbabweans use the pulp for anthrax, blood poisoning, blackwater fever, dysentery, and malaria. Ghana natives use the pulp from around the seed as a safe and useful purgative. Throughout the Far East, the uncooked pulp of the pods is a popular remedy for constipation. A decoction of the root bark is recommended for cleaning wounds. In the West Indies, the pulp and/or leaves are poulticed onto inflamed viscera, e.g. the liver. The bark and leaves are used for skin diseases, flowers used for fever, root as a diuretic, febrifuge, for gout and rheumatism. 

Ornamental:  Produces yellow flowers in drooping racemes, making it an extremely showy tree in bloom (being at this time all flowers and no leaves). It is hence widely planted as an ornamental tree.