Seed of the Week: Tipu Tree

I have to admit I had to have help identifying last week’s mystery seeds. Steve P. identified the tree as the tipu tree, Tipuana tipu. Thanks Steve!

The tipu tree is originally from South America, but now it is planted as a shade tree throughout the world.

Although it is in the bean or legume family, Fabaceae, its seeds look like maple keys.

This type of seed is a samara, and it flies through the air like a helicopter. Most legumes have seeds in pods that resemble beans, so this is a very unusual plant.

The flowers are bright yellow.

They seem to be popular with bees.

So, now you know about a legume with seeds like a maple.

Have you ever seen a tipu tree?


  1. lindielee

    We have several young Tipu trees in our yard about 12 ft tall and this year they have seed pods and one of them is droping the seeds. I want to plant the seeds so could you tell me when to plant and how deep. I’m in San Diego county zone 10.

  2. Roberta


    You might have to do some experimentation, but try these general instructions:

    1. Make sure you have fresh, fully ripe seeds

    2. Cut off the wing or samara, without damaging the seed

    3. Plant in potting soil about 1/4 inch deep and keep moist.

    4. I frankly don’t know when would be best there, but Tipu is sensitive to frost. I doubt you have frosts? In any case, if you start them indoors in pots you can plant the seedlings in the spring.

    Good luck!

  3. DeAlana

    I decided to try to germinate a couple of the seeds from the Tipu tree, they are at least a dozen growing in my neighborhood and the seeds are everywhere.

    So…what I did was break the wing off the seeds, then soak them in filtered water for 24 hours, then a couple days in a damp paper towel in a close container, until roots emerge, then they can be placed in a small planter and they should sprout in a few days.

    Keep in mind, not all seeds will germinate, but it’s really fun to keep trying and very exciting when they do.

    There are numerous videos on YouTube about germinating seeds and it’s really trial and error. Enjoy.

  4. Roberta

    Thanks DeAlana.

    The Tipu are beautiful trees.

  5. Debra

    I have tipu tree! Thanks for the info on what kind of tree it us; initially we thought it was a Niger seed plant because we are on a golf course and use lots of Niger in feeding gold finches! Would love to post a photo but not sure how to get it to you!

  6. Robert Gipson

    I want to buy some tipu tipuana seeds or several small trees already growing. I live in the Houston, TX area. Can anyone tell me where I can find either of these?

  7. Roberta


    Our local Lowe’s carries Tipuana tipu trees for sale.

  8. Irene

    I live in South Africa and have a Tipuana Tipu in my garden!

  9. Roberta

    Cool! Thanks for letting us know.

  10. Leanne

    I live in western australia and we have tipuanas everywhere. Carparks, street trees, gardens. Ive found the best method to propagate from dry seed is to clip off the wing and then cut into the hard seed at the top or bottom till you see a different coloured part. Cut about a mm or so from the edge. These will become the roots. Then pour very hot water over them and soak until you see little nubs coming out. Pot these up and they will soon sprout. It can be hit or miss though.

  11. Roberta

    Thank you for the information!

  12. Nigel Innis

    I have started to propagate 7 tipu seeds, on tissue paper kept very moist. The strange thing is that there are what looks like two sets of roots. Unusual??
    As a kid in school one of or projects was to grow beans the same way but there was only one root.
    Looking forward to your reply.

  13. Roberta

    Oops, I thought I already answered this.

    Different plants have different-shaped roots. Some are single tap root, like a bean, but others may look like a mop. We just don’t usually see the differences when the plants grow in the soil.

    Good luck with your project.

  14. Marissa Kemp

    These things are annoying they are following out of the trees in the woods. They are landing in my vegtable garden and planting themselves. Making themselves right at home. I have to to uproot which ones have sprouted right after I blow the other ones away . The are truly a headache

  15. Daniel M Wenzl

    Robert, I can send you some seeds, just give me your address

  16. Roberta

    That comment was from 4 years ago, but if the commenter responds I will get you in touch.

  17. Charlene Campbell

    Any tips on how to prune a young tipu? I started from seed a little over 2 years ago and this summer the tree grew more than 7ft. So now it’s about 15 ft tall. The trunk isn’t strong enough to hold all the weight so it bends, unless we have supports in place. Anyways I’m wondering if we should cut it down to a shorter height so the trunk can get stronger and grow straighter. I worry the tree will always bend.

  18. Roberta

    Cutting off the top of a tree or topping may cause distorted growth and excessive branching. Is there something shading the tree? Sometimes they will grow in a certain direction to get more sunlight. If it is in full sun, allowing a young tree to flow with the wind actually strengthens it faster than artificial supports. Is it leaning? That could mean it hasn’t established its roots or the soil is too wet. This article is pretty good about how to compensate:

    Good luck!

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