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Scientific Name: Prosopis cineraria

Local Name: Ghaf tree

Common Name: Ghaf Khejri tree/spunge tree

Conservation Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed


A large shrub or a medium sized tree up to 10 m tall, branches prickly, prickles curved, compressed. Leaves alternate, bipinnate, rachis 1.2-5 cm long; pinnae 1-2 pairs, 2.5-8.0 cm,. long, leaflets 7-12 pairs, more or less sessile, c. 3-5 mm long and c. 2-4 mm broad, oblong, oblique, apex usually mucronate, base rounded, 3 nerved. Flowers creamy white in pedunculate spikes, nearly 5-12.5 cm long, peduncle 1.0-2.5 cm long. Calyx c. 1-1.5 mm long, cup-shaped, truncate or obscurely 5 toothed. Petals 3-4 mm long, oblong, tips recurved. Stamens 10, free, shortly exserted, anthers tipped with deciduous glands. Pods 12.5-25 cm long, c. 5-8 mm broad, slender, pendulous, cylindric, turgid, exocarp coriaceous, mesocarp pulpy, endocarp papery. Seeds 10-15, oblong, compressed.

Prosopis cineraria is one of the most drought-tolerant tree species and thrives in hot, arid regions with an annual rainfall of less than 500 mm. it is is the national tree of the United Arab Emirates, where it is known as Ghaf. Through the Give a Ghaf campaign its citizens are urged to plant it in their gardens to combat desertification and to preserve their country’s heritage. A large and well-known example of the species is the Tree of Life in Bahrain – approximately 400 years old and growing in a desert devoid of any obvious sources of water. Prosopis cineraria, called Shami, is highly revered among Hindus and worshipped as part of Dasahra festival. Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi- shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Physical Characteristics

Prosopis cineraria is an evergreen Tree growing to 6.5 m (21ft) by 5 m (16ft) at a medium rate. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.



Seed – germinates best if the hard seed coat is softened first to allow the ingress of water. This can be done by adding a small amount of almost boiling water to the seed (which should cool down quickly enough so that it does not cook the seed!). Then soak the seed for 12 – 24 hours prior to sowing. Alternatively, carefully abrade an area of the seed coat, being careful not to damage the embryo. The seeds retain their viability for at least one year[303 ]. The seed retains its viability for decades[269 ]. The tree reproduces freely by root suckers[303 ].

Habitat and Distribution:

It is native to Western Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, UAE

It is also the national tree of the United Arab Emirates. A large and well-‐known example of the species is the Tree of Life in Bahrain approximately 400 years old and growing in a desert devoid of any obvious sources of water. Its presence indicates a deep water table in the area (often saline).


Parts Used:

Flowers, bark, pods, seeds


Traditional and Medicinal Use:

Edible Uses


Edible Parts:

Inner bark and seed pod
The pods are used as vegetable in the dried and green form[303 ]. Rich in protein[418 ]. During India’s Rajputana famine (1868 – 69), many lives were spared by using the sweetish bark as a food[303. It was ground into flour and made into cakes[303 ].


Medicinal Uses:

Aventura parks can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

The bark was used to treat cough, cold, asthma and respiratory disorders, bleeding disorders, diarrhea, and worm infestation. Flowers were used to treat eye disorders, to avoid unexpected abortion and as a remedy for rheumatism. Pots are antibacterial and can be used also as an antidepressant, muscle relaxant, and for hair removal. Bedouins used to cook the seeds and eat them.

The plant is reported to be astringent, demulcent, and pectoral[303 ]. It is a folk remedy for various ailments[303 ]. The flowers are mixed with sugar and used to prevent miscarriage[303. The ashes are rubbed over the skin to remove hair[303 ]. The bark is considered to be anthelmintic, refrigerant, and tonic[303 ]. It is used for treating asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, leucoderma, leprosy, rheumatism, muscle tremors, piles, and wandering of the mind[303 ]. Smoke from the leaves is suggested for eye troubles[303 ]. The pod is said to be astringent[303 ]. Although recommended for scorpion sting and snakebite, the plant has not proved to be effective[303 ].


Other Uses

Agroforestry Uses: Owing to the deep root system, a mono-layered canopy and the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, the tree is compatible with agri-horticultural crops. It boosts the growth and productivity of other plants growing nearby. In addition, it does not compete for moisture with crop plants, which can, therefore, be grown close to its trunk[303 , 414 ]. The trees are planted to stabilize and reforest sand dunes[303 , 310 , 414 ]. They can withstand periodic burial by the sand[414 ]. It increases fertility under its canopy[303 ]. Other Uses The tree yields a pale to amber coloured gum with properties similar to the gum acacias (Acacia senegal)[303 ]. The bark and leaf galls are used for tanning[303 ]. Containing 31% soluble potassium salts, the wood ash may serve as a potash source[269 ]. The wood is used for making boat frames, houses, posts, and tool handles; the poor form of unimproved trees limits its use as timber[303 ]. In the Punjab, its rather scanty, purplish brown heartwood is preferred to other kinds for firewood[491 ]. It is an excellent fuel, also giving high-quality charcoal (5,000 kcal/kg)[303 ]. Attracts Birds, Butterflies, Low Water Use. Windbreak. Fodder: Pod, Bank.



Prosopis trees are often used as sand binder or windbreak. They often create a community, growing together connected by strong roots, even underground trunks. Its pods containing seeds are also a great source of nutrients for the Ghaf tree community. Its leaves are smaller in size to reduce transpiration and there are sharp thorns on the branches protecting the tree from being grazed.