Fabaceae – Cassia fistula


The members of the family are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions. There are about 135 genera in the family. The most commonly found members of the family are Cassia fistula (amaltas), Bauhinia (kachnar – flowers used as vegetable), Tamarindus (imli), Poinciana (gul-e-mohr), Parkinsonia (vilayati kikar), Saraca indica (ashok) and Caesalpinia.

Distinguish Features:

Herb, shrubs or tree, paripinnate compound leaves, inflorescence pendulous, flower hermaphrodite, zygomorphic, perigynous, calyx 5 united, corolla 5, stamen ten in number, free, ovary is with single carpal, fruit is a legume.

The representative species is Cassia fistula (Amaltas).

Cassia fistula (Amaltas)

Cassia fistula (Amaltas)

Cassia fistula (Amaltas):


A cultivated tree, root bark, seeds and leaves possess medicinal properties.


Tap root, branched.


Erect, woody, branched, cylindrical.


Ramal and cauline, petiolate, stipulate, (stipules caduceus), alternate, paripinnately compound, pulvinus present at the base of leaf.


4-8 leaflets, opposite, sub sessile, ovate, entire, reticulate unicostate, glabrous.


A simple pendulous raceme.


Bracteate, pedicellate, complete, bisexual, slightly perigynous , zygomorphic, slightly perigynous.


5 sepals, polysepalous, imbricate, slightly petaloid inferior.


5 petals, polypetalous, imbricate, petals clawed and yellow in color, inferior.


Ten stamens, polyandrous, stamens unequal in length, three posterior stamens reduced to staminodes, anthers basfixed, inferior.


Monocaepellary, ovary superior and unilocular with many ovules, placentation marginal, style short, stigma terminal and hairy.

Floral Formula: K5 C5 A3+4+3 G_1

Cassia fistula (Amaltas) Leaves

Cassia fistula (Amaltas) Leaves

Diagnostic characters

  1. Habit: Annual or perennial. I lerbs. shrubs, vines, or tree.
  2. Roots: Fibrous tap root often develops nodules in herbs. Nitrogen Fixing bacteria live in these nodules.
  3. Stem: Herbaceous or Moody; Cylindrical, tendril climbers.
  4. Leaves: Petiolate; alternate: compound of pinnate type. Stipulate, stipules may be modified into leaves or thrones; parallel venation.
  5. Inflorescence: Racemose or cymose, the flowers are clustered in heads.
  6. Flower: Pedicillate; bracteate: actinomorphic or zygomorphic; regular: complete; hermaphrodite; pentamerous; hypogynous but slightly perigynous
  7. Calyx: 5 or sometime 4 sepals: free or fused green S. Corolla: 5 sometimes 4 petals; free or united. colour
  8. Stamens: j 0 or numerous stamens; polyandrous, in some cases
  9. diadelphous, anther basitlxed. .
  10. Carpel: Monocarpillary: ovary superior, placentation marginal.
  11.  Fruits: Legume or sometimes. loment UM. 12. Seed: Non-endospermic seed.
  12. Seed: Non-endospermic seed.
  13. SubfamiliesThe Family is divided into three subfamilies:(a) Papilionaceae

    This sub-family has about 400 genera and 9000 species. The members of this family occur all over the world. particularly \A arm and temperate regions.

    1.  Habit: These are trees. shrubs or herbs.
    2. Stem: It may be herbaceous. woody or climber with tendrils. Tendrils are wiry. coiled and thread like structure.
    3. Leaves: They have compound (rarely simple), alternate and stipulate leaves. The stipules are mostly leafy. Sometimes, these leaves are partially or completely modified into tendrils.
    4. Inflorescence: It may be Racemose or solitary axillary.
    5. Flowers: They have bisexual. zygomorphic, hracteate, pedicillate, perigynous. pentamerous and papilionaceous.
    6. Calyx: ‘They have 5 sepals These petals are mostly united to form tube. These are hairy.
    7. Corolla: They have papilionaceous corolla. 111 this case. there are 5 clawed petals. These petals are not similar.
    8. Standard or Vexillum: It is the upper posterior petal. It is large and conspicuous.
    9. Wings: These are two lateral free petals.
    10. Keel or Carina: These are two anterior most petals. They fuse to form a boat- shaped structure.
    11. Androecium: They have IC) mostly diadelphous stamens. The 9 stamens fused to form a sheath around the pistil. The  posterior stamen is free.
    12. Gynoecium: It has simple pistil. This pistil has single carpel (monocarpellary) with single locule. the ovary is superior. The style is long bent at its base. The placentation is marginal.
    13. Fruit: Fruit is usually a legume or pod.

      Floral formula and floral diagram Papilionaceae

      Floral formula and floral diagram Papilionaceae

      Economic Importance of Papilionaceae

      1. Food: Most of the important pulses are belonged to this family. These pulses are used as food. Pulses are rich in proteins. The common species of pulses are Grain, Pea, and Kidney bean.
      2. Fodders: Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) is one of the best forage crops. Vicia Melilotu and Trifolium are also cultivated as main fodder crops.
      3. Timber: Many plant of this family provide timber for building furniture and fuel. Main timber plants are Butea, Dalbergia etc.
      4. Vegetable oil: The seed of Archis hypogea (peanut) are edible. They are also used for extraction of peanut oil. This peanut oil is hydrogenated and used as vegetable oil.
      5. Dyes: Some of its plants give yellow and indigo dyes.
      6. Medicinal plants: Many plants of this family are used inmedicines. Glycyrrhiza glabra
         is used for cough and cold.
      7. Clitoria ternatea is use against snake bite.

        Ornamental plants: Some important ornamental plants are Lathyrus (pea), Lupinus, Clitoria, Butea etc.

        Papilionaceae Diagram

        Papilionaceae Diagram

        Common Species

        (b) Caesalpiniaceae (Cassia family)

        This family has 152 genera and 2300 species. It has 16 genera and 60 species in Pakistan.

           I. Lathyrus odoratus: Sweet pea

        1. A rachis hypogea: Peanut
        2. Cicer arietinum: Chick pea
          1. Ornamental plants: Bauhinia varigata (kuchnar), Cassia
          2. Stem: It is erect, woody herbaceous or climbing.
          3. Leaves: The leaves are compound (rarely simple), pinnate and
          4. Inflorescence: It may he axillary or terminal raceme or it may
          5. Flower: Flower is bisexual, zygomorphic (rarely
          6. Calyx: Sepals are 5. They are often coloured and free or connate
          7. Androecium: Stamen are 10 or less (rarely numerous). They
          8. Gynoecium: They have one simple carpel. Ovary is superior and Habit: Mostly tree or shrubs. Some are woody climbers, rarely
          9. Fruit: Its fruit is legume.Dalbergia sisso: Shishant(b) Caesalpiniaceae (Cassia family)This family has 152 genera and 2300 species. It has 16 genera and 60 species in Pakistan.
          Floral formula and floral diagram of Fabaceae-Caesalpiniaceae

          Floral formula and floral diagram of Fabaceae-Caesalpiniaceae

          1. 1.Medical importance:The leaves of cassia alata are used to cure ring worm and skin diseases. The leaves of Cassia senna and Cassia obovata giN c a drug called Senna. Senna forms a
            Cytmetera. This oil is applied externally for skin diseases.
          2. Vegetables and fruits: 1he leaves and flower bud of Bauhinia variegate are used as vegetable. The acidic fruit of Tamarintlus indica (JIM) are edible. It is rich in tartaric acid.
          3. Tanning and dyes: The bark of Buahinia and Tamarindus indica is used in tanning.
            Cassia fistula Diagram

            Cassia fistula Diagram

            Common species of Caesalpiniaceae

            • Tamarindus indica
            • Cassia fistula. amaltas
            • Baultinia varigata Kachnar
            • Cas ia senna

            (c) Alimosaceae (Acacia family)

            This famiy 56. genera and about 2800 species. There are 11 genera and in Pakistan

            Familiar Plants

            1.  Habit: Mosly trees or shrubs. Rarely climbers or herbs. Most of them are xecophytes.
            2. Stem: Mostly woody
            3. Leaves: They have pinnate, compound, alternate and stipulate leaves. The stipules are modified into thrones.
            4. Inflorescence: It is spike like or head or umbel. It is rarely racemose or globose umbel.
            5. Flowers: The flower is bisexual, actinomorphic, hypogynous to slightly perigynous and bracteate.
            6. Calyx: They have 5 sepals. These sepals are fused. toothed or lobed.
            7. Corolla: They have 5 petals. These petals may be free or fused.
            8. Androecium: Stamens are live to numerous. They are free. adnate or attached totbase of corolla (epipetalous).
            9. Gynoecium: Thev have simple one carpel. Ovary is unilocular and superior. It has nianv Mlles. Placentation is marginal.
            10. Fruit: Fruit is a legume. The legume may be dehiscent or indehiseent.
              Floral diagram and floral Alimosaceae

              Floral diagram and floral Alimosaceae

              Economic Importance of Caesalpiniaceae

              1.  Wood: Many trees of this family provide commercially important wood, for example, Acacia, Albizzia and Xylia. Their wood is used for construction, for furniture or for fuel.
              2. Gum: Gum is obtained from Acacia nilotica and Acacia senegal.
              3. Dye: A dye Katha is obtained from Acacia catechu.
              4. Medicinal plants: The tender leaves of Acacia nilotica are used as blood purifier.
              5. Ornamental plants: Some common plants are grown for their beautiful flowers. Some cf.these are Mimosa pudica and Acaciavmelanoxylon.
              6. Wind breaking: A few species of Prospis are planted in the arid zones for breaking the wind pressure.

              Common species of Caesalpiniaceae

              1. Acacia nilotica
              2. Albizzia lebbek
              3. Mimosa pudica, Touch me not.
              4. Prosopis glandulosa
              5. Prosopis cineraria

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