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Gagnebina commersoniana

A small shrub from Madagascar, Gagnebina commersoniana was named in honour of the 18th century French naturalist J.-P. Commerson.
Gagnebina commersoniana flowers

Gagnebina commersoniana in flower (Photo: David Du Puy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Gagnebina commersoniana (Baill.) R.Vig.

Common name: 

alimboro, alomborana, famoalambo, fandriosy, fandrohody, hafodramena, hazondalitra, komy, pitepiteka, pitepiteky, roy, tefamila (Malagasy)

Conservation status: 

Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.


Thickets, secondary vegetation, shrubby savannah and dry woodlands.

Key Uses: 

Paper production.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Leguminosae/Fabaceae - Mimosoideae
Genus: Gagnebina

About this species

A member of the pea and bean family (Leguminosae/Fabaceae), Gagnebina commersoniana is native to Madagascar. It was named in honour of the French naturalist Joseph-Philibert Commerson who was in Madagascar in 1771. He once wrote: ‘Madagascar is truly the naturalist’s promised land. Here nature seems to have withdrawn into a private sanctuary in order to work on designs which are different from those she has created elsewhere’.

The generic name Gagnebina honours Swiss physician and botanist Abraham Gagnebin de la Ferrière (1707–1800). The genus Gagnebina only occurs in the Indian Ocean region (from Aldabra to Reunion).


Desmanthus commersonianus Baill., Dichrostachys commersonianus (Baill.) Drake, Piptadenia leptoclada Baker.


Discover more

Geography and distribution

Gagnebina commersoniana flowers and fruits
Flowers and fruits of Gagnebina commersoniana

Gagnebina commersoniana is native to Madagascar, where it occurs in Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga and Toliara provinces.

It grows in thickets, secondary vegetation, shrubby savannah and dry woodlands and on limestone, sand, gneiss or lateritic soils.

There is also a variety, Gagnebina commersoniana var. aldabrensis, on the island of Aldabra.


Overview: Small shrub up to 3 m tall. Leaves are bipinnate (divided into pinnae that are themselves divided again into leaftets).

Flowers: Flowers are borne in distinct clusters. Lower flowers are sterile, with white or pale pink staminodes (sterile male organs that do not bear pollen). Pale yellow upper flowers are bisexual. However, the inflorescences are pendent so the sterile, showy staminodal flowers are displayed uppermost.

Fruits and seeds: Pods (fruits) are narrowly oblong to oblong (elongated with parallel sides). Seeds are olive-brown, 3.0×1.5 mm, with a central, open pleurogram (a u-shaped line on both lateral faces of the seed).

Gagnebina commersoniana specimen
Herbarium specimen of Gagnebina commersoniana

Threats and conservation

Gagnebina commersoniana is widespread and common in Madagascar. No major threats are known, and populations are believed to be stable at present. Gagnebina commersoniana seeds are stored in the Millennium Seed Bank as an ex situ conservation measure.

Conservation assessments carried out by Kew

Gagnebina commersoniana is being monitored as part of the 'IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants' project, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.


Gagnebina commersoniana is used in the production of paper in Madagascar.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Nine collections of Gagnebina commersoniana seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

Further information on Gagnebina commersoniana seeds can be found on Kew’s Seed Information Database.

This species at Kew

Gagnebina commersoniana is grown in Kew’s behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery.

Pressed and dried specimens of Gagnebina commersoniana are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

View details and images of specimens

References and credits

Contu, S. (2010). Gagnebina commersoniana. Sampled Red List Index (SRLI) Project. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 

Du Puy, D. J., Labat, J.-N., Rabevohitra, R., Villiers, J.-F., Bosser, J. & Moat, J. (2002). The Leguminosae of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Lewis, G. P. & Guinet, P. (1986). Notes on Gagnebina (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae) in Madagascar and neighbouring islands. Kew Bulletin 41: 463–470.

Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, M. (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Moat, J. & Smith, P. (2007). Atlas of the Vegetation of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kew Science Editor: Malin Rivers and Sara Contu
Kew contributors: Gwilym Lewis
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell

Although every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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