Pongame Oiltree

Millettia pinnata is a species of tree in the pea family, Fabaceae, native to eastern and tropical Asia, Australia, and Pacific islands. It is often known by the synonym Pongamia pinnata. Its common names include Indian beech and Pongame oiltree. Pongamia Pinnata is one of the few nitrogen fixing trees (NFTS) to produce seeds containing 30-42% oil.

The natural distribution of Pongamia Pinnata is along coasts and river banks in India and Myanmar. Native to the Asian subcontinent, this species has been introduced to humid tropical lowlands in the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, the Seychelles, the United States and Indonesia. It has also been naturalized in parts of eastern Africa, northern Australia and Florida.

Table of Contents


15-25 m


15-25 m

Approximate pH



  • Seed - requires no pre-treatment. The seed is usually sown in situ, germinating within 1 - 5 weeks of sowing. Germination is hypogeal and the radicle develops quickly before the plumule emerge. If sown in a nursery bed, the seed can be planted at a close spacing, as young plants tolerate shade well - a spacing of 7.5 x 15 cm is recommended. Seedlings attain a height of 25 - 30 cm in their first growing season. Transplanting to the field should occur at the beginning of the next rainy season when seedlings are about 60 cm in height. Seedlings have large root systems and soil should be retained around the roots during transplanting.

  • Seed storage behavior is orthodox and seeds remain viable for about a year when stored in air-tight containers.

  • Natural reproduction is profuse by seed and common by root suckers. Spontaneous seedlings and root suckers are produced and may cause serious weed problems.

  • Stump cuttings of 1 - 2 cm root-collar diameter.

  • Branch cuttings.

  • Root suckers.

Plant Care to Grow


It is also a drought resistant plants water requirement is extremely low.


The best growth is found on deep well-drained sandy loams with assured moisture, but it will also grow on sandy soils and heavy swelling clay soils.


It grows in areas where the mean annual temperature ranges from a minimum of 1 - 16°c, up to a maximum of 27 - 38 (exceptionally 50)°c.


Tolerant of shade, it can grow under the shade of other trees, but will also grow well in full sun.


The seeds are poisonous. Pounded and roasted seeds used to be utilized as fish poison.

Diseases and Control Measures


Pongamia is attacked by few diseases.

1.Leaf spot and blight: Leaf spot and blight diseases caused by Fusicladium pongamiae on Pongamia pinnata. The pathogen causes severe leaf deformities. Microstroma pongamiae causes white to cream-coloured spots giving a yellowish appearance to the leaves. Other fungi such as Phyllochora pongamiae, Robillarda makatii and Urohendersonia pongamiae cause leaf spot disease.

Cercospora pongamiae and Sphaceloma pongamiae cause anthracnose spots on leaves, tender shoots and pods resulting in severe damage and early defoliating in young seedlings and trees.

2.Leaf Rust: The rust fungus, Ravenelia hobsoni infects the leaves and produces numerous chest-nut brown teliospore heads on the lower surface of the leaves. Another rust fungus, R. stictica is also known to attack the leaves.

3.Powdery mildew: Powdery mildew disease caused by Oidium sp. was also reported on Pongamia seedlings.

Control Measures

  • Foliar spray of Bavistin fungicidal solution (0.1%) is found to be effective in minimizing the Leaf spot and blight diseases.

  • Dusting or foliar spray of sulphur based fungicide (0.05%) is found to be effective in minimizing the Leaf Rust disease.

  • Foliar spray of Bavistin fungicidal solution (0.01%) is found to be effective in minimizing Powdery mildew disease.


  • Helpful in treating indigestion, the state of incomplete process of digestion.

  • It helps to promote appetite when added to the diet. Loss of appetite is caused due to weak digestion.

  • Relief from symptoms of osteoarthritis such as pain and swelling in joints.

  • It is helpful in managing cough and cold especially whooping cough.

  • It’s oil is used for treating skin disorders such as abscess, boils and eczema with its antiseptic and healing properties.

  • It’s oil helps to manage swelling and inflammation of pile mass when applied externally.

  • It helps to lower pain and also improves healing on rheumatic arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.

  • It helps to lower joint pain.

  • The root juice helps to heal sinus ulcer.

  • It is helpful for skin problems.


Millettia pinnata is well-adapted to arid zones, and has many traditional uses. It is often used for landscaping as a windbreak or for shade due to the large canopy and showy, fragrant flowers. The flowers are used by gardeners as compost for plants requiring rich nutrients. The bark can be used to make twine or rope, and it also yields a black gum that has historically been used to treat wounds caused by poisonous fish. The wood is said to be beautifully grained, but splits easily when sawn, thus relegating it to firewood, posts, and tool handles.

Millettia pinnata seeds generally contain oil (27-39%), protein (17-37%), starch (6-7%), crude fiber (5-7%), moisture (15-20%) and ash content (2-3%). While the oil and residue of the plant are toxic and induce nausea and vomiting if ingested in its natural form, the fruits, sprouts and seeds are used in traditional medicine. Nearly half of the oil content of M. pinnata seeds is oleic acid. Oil made from the seeds, known as pongamia oil, has been used as lamp oil, in soapmaking, and as a lubricant. The oil has a high content of triglycerides, and its disagreeable taste and odor are due to bitter flavonoid constituents, including karanjin, pongamol, tannin, and karanjachromene. It can be grown in rainwater harvesting ponds up to 6 m (20 ft) in water depth without losing its greenery and remaining useful for biodiesel production.

Long used as shade tree, M. pinnata is self-seeding and can spread lateral roots up to 9 m (30 ft) long in 18 years. If not managed carefully, it can quickly become a weed. M. pinnata is broadly distributed across India, Asia, Africa, northern Australia and the Pacific and Caribbean Islands and has been cultivated and transported since the 19th century or earlier. As a result, some literature declares M. pinnata naturalized in Africa and certain parts of the United States, while its status as naturalized or native is uncertain in other regions. This dense network of lateral roots, though, makes this tree ideal for controlling soil erosion and binding sand dunes.

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