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Flowers. Copyright CSIRO

Flowers and buds. Copyright CSIRO

Fruit, two side views and longitudinal section. Copyright W. T. Cooper

Scale bar 10mm. Copyright CSIRO

10th leaf stage. Copyright CSIRO

Cotyledon stage, hypogeal germination. Copyright CSIRO

Millettia pinnata



Scientific Name

Millettia pinnata (L.) Panigrahi

Panigrahi, S.G., (1989) Flora Bilaspur District 1: 210 (1989).  

Common name

Pongam; Pongamia Tree; Indian Pongamia; Indian Beech; Pongamia


Bean-like (Phaseolus vulgaris) odour often detectable in the blaze.


Leaflet blades about 6-23 x 4-13 cm. Leaflet stalks slightly swollen and transversely wrinkled. Compound leaf axis grooved on the upper surface.


Calyx about 3 mm long. Corolla about 8-10 mm long. Petals with appressed hairs on the outer surface, but glabrous or sparsely hairy on the inner surface. Stamens 10, the filaments of nine fused and one stamen free. Stamens alternately long and short. Anthers with hairs along the connective on the back of the anther. Ovary with appressed hairs. Ovules, 2 rarely 3.


Pods usually indehiscent, about 55-70 x 20-30 mm. Seeds somewhat flattened, transversely elliptical, about 12 x 9 mm. Testa smooth.


First pair of leaves cordate. At the tenth leaf stage: leaflets ovate, apex acute, base cuneate to truncate, terminal leaflet larger than the lateral leaflets; leaflet petiole slightly swollen and dark in colour. Stipules hairy, about 1-1.5 mm long, apex obtuse. Seed germination time 18 to 29 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in NT, CYP, NEQ and CEQ. Usually grows on beaches or in beach forest close to the sea. Also occurs in the Mascarenes, Asia, Malesia, New Caledonia and other Pacific islands.

Natural History & Notes

This species may have medicinal properties, and has been used as a fish poison.

In Australia the tree's main use has been as an Aboriginal fish poison, but it has been useful medicinally elsewhere, especially in India. Juice from the fresh leaves is regarded as having medicinal value. The roots are regarded as a contraceptive. Cribb (1981).




Pongamia pinnata (L.) Pierre, Flora Forestiere de la Cochinchinensis : Pl. 3 (1899). Pongamia pinnata var. typica Domin, Bibliotheca Botanica 89(3): 787(1926). Cytisus pinnatus L., Species Plantarum : 741(1753), Type: India(?), Plukenet Phytographia, (1691) 104. f. 3. Fide Smith, A. C. Flora Vitiensis Nova 3:170 (1985). Pongamia glabra var. minor Benth., Flora Australiensis 2: 273(1864), Type: Gulf of Carpentaria, Leichhardt; Cape Grafton, A. Cunningham; Port Denison, Fitzalan.

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