My Tree Friend – Pigeon Pea – Canjanus Cajun

My Tree Friend – Pigeon Pea – Canjanus Cajun

Pigeon Pea
Cajanus Cajan

This small shrubby tree makes an excellent friend. It is attractive, gentle but hardy, not very needy, and has many many benefits. It is sure to impress with its fast growing ability, soil stabilising skills and multipurpose foliage. It provides great support and its nutritional legumes make an awesome curry. What’s not to like about the pigeon pea plant?

a) Average expected life of tree, in years, from sprout to death (approx numbers)

The Pigeon Pea is a perennial, evergreen small tree with an average life span of about 5 years, with seed production declining each year.

b) Years until trees first fruit (ie some trees fruit within a few years, others can take decades)

Pigeon Pea plants will germinate in 10 to 15 days, and pods can appear in little as four months. Pods can be picked fresh for fresh peas or left on the tree until they are dry and can then be used as a dried legume. You can also sprout the dried legume and then cook the sprouts for a different flavour.

c) Season of year when productive tree fruits (ie Summer, Autumn, Winter Spring or combo ie Su/Au)

In the tropics (FNQ) the pigeon pea produces an abundance of peas during summer and winter seasons. The pigeon pea prefers a tropical or subtropical climate and is not frost tolerant, however there are some newer varieties that can handle a bit of frost.

d) Expected or average number years tree expected to fruit for once it begins. (ie year 8 to 20 = 12 yrs)

The pigeon pea will fruit throughout its entire life span of up to 5 years, however seed production declines each year.

e) Country/area of origin

The cultivation of the pigeon pea goes back at least 3,500 years. The centre of origin is thought to be peninsular India, where the closest wild relatives occur in tropical deciduous woodlands.

f) Average annual rainfall in area of origin

The annual rainfall for India varies greatly but is thought to be 300–650 millimetres (11.8–25.6 in), however this is very unreliable; as in much of the rest of India, the southwest monsoon accounts for most precipitation. The average rainfall for West Bengal in the Indian Penisula is about 1750mm rain per year.

Pigeon peas are very drought-resistant and can be grown in areas with less than 650mm of annual rainfall.

g) Latin name of tree and family

Latin name: Cajanus cajan

Family: The pigeon pea comes from the family Fabaceae or Leguminosae commonly known as the legume, pea, or bean family.

  1. h) Any other products, benefits, useful or interesting facts about of tree:
    ie good shade tree or wind break, good cabinet, building or fire wood, fire resistant, flood or drought For example in Australia we have a challenge with termites that do a lot of damage eating wooden structures, there are certain woods that are naturally white ant resistant that allow a more reliable building without utilising white ant poison like is often done.

The pigeon pea is a very versatile permaculture plant. Below is a list of some of its uses:

  • The pigeon pea is known for its ability to fix nitrogen levels in the soil where it is planted. However depending on location you may need to inoculate the seeds before planting.
  • Pigeons peas are a staple food crop that provides good protein. You can use the fresh green peas or dry them and use them like any other dried peas (like a split pea or lentil). The peas can also be sprouted to make them more nutritious and they can be ground into a pea flour.
  • The small tree is very attractive to look at, especially when in flower and has a delicate ornate oriental appeal. The leaves are alternate and trifolate with a soft velvety touch.
  • Pigeon peas can be frequently pruned – makes excellent green mulch. Every time you prune them (and also when the plant dies) the root nodules release nitrogen that can be used by other plants.
  • The flowers attract bees.
  • The seed pods, leaves and flowers make an excellent animal fodder.
  • The plant makes a good hedge and wind break.
  • They can make a living trellis for climbing plants.

Some other notes on the pigeon pea:

  • It quickly develops a deep up to 2 meter depth taproot which is poisonous – the rest of the plant is however edible (leaves, stems, flowers, peas).
  • In several countries, home remedies are produced from processing pigeon pea leaves to treat respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It has also been documented that the pigeon pea has been used in India to reduce swelling. In Chinese stores pigeon pea roots are sold to be used in the confection of anthelmintic, expectorants and sedatives.
  • The leaves have been used to relieve toothaches and as oral rinses. It has also been documented that in some countries this plant has been used in confections used during parturition, and to cure diarrhea. The scorched seeds are commonly used as an additive to coffee to relieve headache and dizziness.

i) Height, width and shape of tree at maturity.
Please find measure for both diameter of trunk and also arbour (the tree foliage) Note the profile shape is important for later design work, some trees have an overhanging canopy with bare trunk that can be walked around, others have foliage from base to top and in all sorts of patterns and densities.

There are many varieties of pigeon pea around the world, from tall tree like, to smaller bushes and dwarf varieties.

The most common pigeon pea is a small shrubby tree that usually grows to the height of about 1-2 meters but can reach 2-5 meters high.

It is a highly branched shrub with a woody base, slender stems and trifoliate leaves.

The diameter of the trunk varies from a few to several inches wide.

The arbour depends on the height of the tree and varies greatly.

I have an approx. 3 meter high pigeon pea that is approx. 3 meters wide, there is also another planted around the same time that is approx. 2 meters high, 1 meter wide.

j) challenges or special requirements, such as needing other varieties in order to fruit

  • In monsoonal areas such as the wet tropics in FNQ, pigeon peas require a well-drained position and staking or support may be required during the wet season. If the soil becomes too water logged they may fall over and damage can be done to the tap root.
  • Plants can be grown in soil containing a pH ranging from 4.5 to 8.4.

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