Some 3 billion people in the world live outside the cash economy in the world’s poorest nations. Food security and regular supply are their daily concerns. Chronic malnutrition is a leading cause of death and disease for them. Young children are amongst the most affected. One child every 5-10 seconds dies from undernutrition. Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness for someone every minute. Most people in tropical and subtropical countries are iron deficient.
Our goal is to provide information that enables people to choose the right plant for their environment, to give them stable food production and a greater choice of plants to enrich their diets and improve their nutritional wellbeing.
The plant fact sheets listed in this collection are only a small portion of those available from FPI. Please check your plant inquiries in the ECHO Search and reference the FPI plant database for further information.
Most of the plants selected to list here are further described in country-specific publications by Food Plant Solutions (FPS in the Search).
8000 Starchy Staples
6000 Leafy Greens
3000 Nuts, Seeds, Herbs, and other foods
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Edible portion: Leaves, Vegetable, Bark - potash
A large spreading tree. It is deciduous. It grows 12-15 m high but can reach 35 m high. The bark is greyish-brown and flakes off in round woody scales. This leaves pale patches. The leaves are alternate and compound. There are 4-6 pairs of almost opposite leaflets. The leaflets are oblong and 2.3-9 cm long by 1.5-6 cm wide. They are shiny and dark green above and paler underneath. They taper towards the ends and the edges are wavy. The flowers are in simple sprays. The stalks are jointed. The fruit are large, flat, thickly wooded pods. They are 10-17 cm long. Inside the pod is a white pith. There are 6-10 dark brown seeds up to 3 cm long and 1.2 cm wide. They have a scarlet aril.
It is a tropical plant. It grows in lowland woodland and dry forest. It is usually on deep sandy soils. It is very drought resistant but sensitive to frost. It grows in the savannah. In Brisbane Botanical gardens
Edible portion: Seeds
It is a tropical plant. It grows in arid zones.
Edible portion: Seeds, Gum, Roots
A straggling spreading shrub. It keeps its leaves throughout the year. It can grow up to 2-8 m tall. It can spread to 4 m across. The branches are angular and hairy. The bark is smooth and grey. The leaves (phyllodes) are grey green and silvery white. They are carried one after the other along the stem. In wetter locations the leaves are larger and darker green. They are 10-18 (-25) cm long and 1-2 (-9) cm wide. They have 2 or 3 clearly seen veins. These veins run along the leaf and join towards the base. The tip of the leaf has a thick sharp point. The flowers are yellow spikes 3-6 cm long. The flowers are slightly scented. The pods are produced in tight clusters. They are twisted and curled when mature. They are 3-5 cm long by 0.2-0.5 cm wide. The seeds are small and black. Where the seed is attached to the pod it is yellow or red.
It is a tropical plant. It grows in the Kimberleys in Western Australia and also in Queensland. It is often along the edges of streams. It is a tropical plant but adapts to sub tropical places. It is damaged by drought and frost. It often starts the re-growth when an area is cleared. It needs a sunny position. It grows in areas with annual rainfall between 230-2250 mm. It usually grows below 300 m above sea level. It grows in areas with annual average temperatures between 20°-29°C. It can grow in arid places.
Edible portion: Gum, Seeds, Pods
An evergreen tree. It grows 4- 9 m high and spreads 2-4 m across. The stem is erect and the bark rough and flaky. The tree has a somewhat open crown. The branches are angular. The young branches are yellowish. The leaves (phyllodes) are dark green. They are narrow and taper towards each end. They are fairly stiff, leathery and only very slightly curved. The tip is pointed. The leaves are 8-20 cm long by 0.4-1.4 cm wide and there are 3 prominent veins. The leaves occur one after the other on opposite sides of the stalk. The flower heads are bright yellow rods 3-6 cm long. They occur as many together in long spikes. The flower tassels may be 6-10 cm long and make an attractive showy plant. The pods are 8-20 cm long by 0.5-0.6 cm wide. They are wrinkled and tightly constricted between the seeds. They look like a string of beads. The pods are fairly straight and without hairs. They are a light brown colour when ripe. The black seeds are arranged lengthwise along the pod.
A native plant of northern Australia. It prefers light well drained deep soils. Often this is on sandstone soils on slopes or near creeks. It grows best in open sunny positions. It may be damaged by drought and frost. It needs extra watering to maintain a good leaf cover. It cannot tolerate wet and poorly drained soils.
Edible portion: Seeds, Gum
A medium sized shrub 3-8 m tall. It spreads 2-4 m across. The branches have white hairs. The bark can be silvery when young and turns red with age. The leaves (phyllodes) are large and light green. They are 10-15 (-23) cm long by 4-6 cm wide. They are thick and curved and covered with a bluish bloom and white silky hairs. There are veins running along the leaf. The flower heads are bright yellow and rod like. They are 2-4 (-7) cm long and 0.7 cm wide. They have a strong scent. The pods are 12-16 cm long by 1-1.5 cm wide. They are twisted and woody. They are round in cross section but raised over the seeds. They are fragile. The seeds are shiny dark brown. They are arranged lengthwise along the pod.
It occurs in northern Australia. It is often along stream banks. It needs a sunny position. The soil needs to be well drained. It benefits by watering in dry periods. It is grown in the Sahel in Africa. It can grow in arid places.
Edible portion: Flowers, Vegetable
A tree. It grows 30-60 m tall. The branches occur high up. The leaves are twice divided. They are bright red when young and hairy underneath. The leaves are 100 cm long. They have 3-5 pairs of pinnae and these have 4-9 pairs of leaflets each. These are 4-14 cm long by 2-7 cm wide. They taper to the tip. The flowers are in 1-3 clusters and these are 20-25 cm long. The flowers have 5 red petals. The fruit is a long flattened pod. It is 8-15 cm long by 1-2 cm wide and flat. It has narrow wings. The seeds are oval and brown. There are 12-18 seeds.
It is a tropical plant. It grows in lower mountain regions in humid and sub-humid regions that have a short dry season.
Edible portion: Roots, Leaves, Fruit, Seeds, Bark, Sprouts, Flowers, Vegetable
A large tree. It grows up to 25 m tall. It loses its leaves during the year. The branches are thick, angular and spread out wide. The trunk is short and stout and can be 10-14 m around. Often the trunk has deep grooves or is fluted. The bark is smooth and grey but can be rough and wrinkled. The leaves spread out like fingers on a hand. There are 5-9 leaflets. Often the leaves are crowded near the ends of branches. The flowers are large and 12-15 cm across. The petals are white and the stamens are purple. The fruit hangs singly on a long stalk. The fruit has a woody shell. This can be 20-30 cm long and 10 cm across. On the outside of the fruit are green to brown hairs. Inside the fruit are hard brown seeds. They are about 15 mm long. The seeds are in a yellow white floury pulp. The pulp is edible. The thick roots end in fattened tubers.
It is a tropical plant. It grows in the lowlands. It grows in the hot dry regions of tropical Africa. It grows in the Sahel. It survives well in dry climates. It grows where rainfall is 100-1,000 mm a year. It can tolerate fire. It grows where the annual temperatures are between 20°C and 30°C. In most places it grows below 900 m altitude but occasionally grows to 1500 m altitude. It requires good drainage. It can grow in arid places. It grows in Miombo woodland in Africa. It suits hardiness zones 11-12. In Brisbane Botanical Gardens
Edible portion: Seeds, Nut, Leaves, Vegetable
A deciduous tree up to 7-20 m high. It spreads to 4 m across. It loses many of its leaves during the hot dry season of the year. The stem is erect and slender. The bark is smooth and light brown. The leaves are green and divided twice into leaflets. The whole leaf is 30-45 cm long. The leaf is divided into 3-5 pairs of segments 10-15 cm long. Each is divided again into 10-18 alternate oblong leaflets. These are 1.7-4 cm long by 0.8-2 cm wide. These leaflets are dark green on top and paler underneath. The flowers are small and white or yellow. They occur at the ends of branches. The fruit is a long (20 cm) dark brown pod with red seeds. The pod twists up as it opens. The seeds are shiny red and hard and 0.7-1 cm across. The pods remain on the tree long after ripening. It is a legume.
A tropical plant. It grows in the tropical lowlands and up to 600 m. It is often planted as a shade and ornamental tree. It also grows wild in the rainforest. It suits humid locations. It prefers well drained soil and an open sunny position. It cannot tolerate drought and in frost tender. It will grow on most soil types. It suits hardiness zones 11-12. In the Cairns Botanical Gardens. In XTBG Yunnan.
Edible portion: Seeds, Leaves, Shoots, Flowers,
A tree. It grows 18-30 m tall. The trunk can be 1 m across. The leaves are twice divided. They are 8-15 cm long with 4 pairs of pinnae and each one has 6-18 leaflets. The flowers are white. The flowers have several long stamens 3-4 cm long and they have a sweet smell. The fruit is a pod 15-30 cm long and 3-5 cm wide. There are 6 to 12 seeds.
It is a tropical plant. It does not occur on atolls. In Townsville Queens BG.
Edible portion: Leaves, Flowers, Leaves - tea, Vegetable
A tree which grows up to 12 m tall and spreads to 10 m wide. It loses its leaves during the year. The crown tends to be flat. The bark is dark brown and smooth. The leaves are twice divided. Each primary leaflet has 20-30 pairs of secondary leaflets. These are 1.5 cm long. The leaflets fold together at night. The flowers are in round pink heads. The stamens are long and silky. The fruit are seed pods. They are 15 cm long.
It is a temperate to tropical plant. It grows naturally from Iran to China in open sunny ravines, forests and by rivers up to 2100 metres in the Himalayas. It needs a well drained but moist soil but can grow in dry soil. They can tolerate high pH, salty soils, drought and wind. Trees when dormant are hardy to -10°C or in continental climates - 20°C. Young growth is frost tender. It suits hardiness zones 6-12. It grows well in places with cool winters and hot summers. Arboretum Tasmania. in Yunnan.