Prickly sesban (Sesbania bispinosa (Jacq.) W. F. Wight) is a fast growing annual legume. It reaches 2-7 m high. It is well branched and stems are fairly thick. Leaves are pinnately compound with 18-55 pairs oblong leaflets. Leaflets are 1.2-2.5 cm long and 0.3 cm wide. Inflorescences are racemes bearing 1-12 yellow and purple spotted flowers. Flowers are self-fertile, pods are curved, 25-48 seeded. Seeds and bark produce high protein content gum (Ecocrop, 2010; Orwa et al., 2009; Duke, 1983).
Prickly sesban is a multi-purpose shrub. Its stems provide a strong durable fiber, which is used in the paper industry and in water-related activities as it said to be superior to jute fibre. It is grown as a green manure (Arunin et al., 1987; Orwa et al., 2009).
Its leaves are used as fodder for sheep, goats and cattle. They are also used as poultry feed in South Africa (Pugalenthi et al., 2004). Leaves can make silage (Orwa et al., 2009) and it is possible to feed cattle with prickly sesban seed meal (Orwa et al., 2009). Prickly sesban yields up to 12 t fodder or green manure /ha/year (Prasad, 1993). It is possible to make 2 harvests a year in the tropics (Ecocrop, 2010).
The mature seeds are cooked and eaten by the Indian tribals, Katkharis and Ghonds (Siddhuraju et al., 1995). However nutritional information about prickly sesban as human food is still poor (Pugalenthi et al., 2004). Average seed yields range from 600 kg to 1000 kg/ha (Ecocrop, 2010).
Seeds mixed with flour are used in the treatment of ringworm, skin diseases and wounds (Orwa et al., 2009). Recent research reported it to contain high amounts of pinitol, an antidiabetic substance (Misra et al., 2004).