Perennial Peanut
Arachis pintoi

Perennial Peanut "Golden Glory" in an organic orchard on O'ahu. Photo: Radovich

Also known as: Pintoi Peanut, Amarillo Peanut

Benefits and Costs of Using Perennial Peanut as Living Mulch for Fruit Trees in Hawai‘i (downloadable .pdf)


Common Name

Its common name is perennial peanut or pinto peanut (Hensley). According to Cook, the common name is pinto peanut or thua lisong tao (Thailand).

Scientific Name

The scientific name is Arachis pintoi Krap. & Greg., nom. nud. (Cook).


Two popular cultivars are ‘Golden Glory’ which is a popular landscape ground cover in Hawai`i and ‘Amarillo’ which was developed in Australia for forage and cover crop uses (Hensley). CIAT accessions are used primarily as pasture legumes. Several peanut cultivars are being grown at the Mealani Experiment station on the Big Island (Fukumoto and Yamasaki). There are numerous synonyms and some confusion over varietal names. (Cook et al.).

Seed Description

Seeds are light brown, 8-11 mm x 4-6 mm (Cook).

Seedling Description

Perennial peanut seedling

Seedlings germinate in 7-10 days. With adequate resources, they grow rapidly and develop a deep tap root. Stolons of ‘CIAT 17434‘ seedlings begin to extend at 30 days after planting (Mitschele).

Mature Plant Description

Perennial or pinto peanut species and cultivars are low growing,  about 8 inches (20 cm) high, non-twining, nitrogen-fixing legumes. The plants have four oval leaflets on each petiole and light to dark yellow, pea-like flowers. Varieties can differ slightly in leaf size, shape and color. The seed is an underground nut, one per pod, which is not edible. Plants flower year round (Hensley). Stems grow along the ground and root at the nodes (Glover).


Perennial peanut is adapted to the tropics (Cook).

Origin and Geographic Range

Perennial peanut originates from central Brazil (collected from the mouth of the Jequitinhonha River). It has since been distributed to Argentina, Australia, Colombia, the United States, and more recently to South East Asia, Central America and the Pacific (Cook).


Central Brazil’s climate is humid tropical, with rainfalls ranging from 1800-2000 mm (70-80 in) from October to May and 200 mm (8 inches) from June to September. Perennial peanut grows naturally in red sandy-loam alluviums under low forest with a fairly dense canopy (Cook).


Perennial peanut grows best in areas receiving an annual rainfall of 40 inches (1000 mm) or more. It can withstand 3-4 months of drought, but will shed many of its leaves (Glover). It is adapted to low areas (with sandy loam soils) that are wet to flooded in the wet season. It will not persist on waterlogged, poorly structured clays (Cook). Irrigation is especially critical if cuttings are being used for establishment.


Perennial peanut originates from central Brazil and is adapted to that region. It tolerates soils with low fertility (it is a legume and fixes its own nitrogen). It tolerates soils with 70% or greater Al saturation. It performs best with >3% organic matter in the soil (Glover). In pot experiments it has shown a tolerance to Mn (Cook).

Soil pH

Although naturally adapted to areas of lower pH, under cultivation it can adapt to pH ranges from low to neutral (Cook). Whitening or chlorosis of new growth may occur at alkaline pH (Hensley et al.)

Soil Type

Perennial peanut's native habitat is in red, sandy loam alluviums, seasonally wet to flooded. Under cultivation it has proven adaptable to soils ranging from sand to clay texture. It will not persist on seasonally waterlogged, poorly structured clays (Cook). In a greenhouse study in Hawaii, seedlings of ‘CIAT 17434‘ grew better in a relatively fertile mollisol (Waialua series) than a weathered oxisol (Wahiawa series) when plants were not inoculated or fertilized. However, this difference in growth was not observed when seeds were inoculated with cowpea strain rhizobia (Mitschele).

Shade Tolerance

Perennial peanut reportedly grows well under heavy (70-80%) shade (Glover). However, this contradicts observations on several orchards in Hawaii that peanut biomass decreases as tree canopies close.

Salinity Tolerance

Perennial peanut has a low tolerance for salinity (Cook).

Herbicide Sensitivity

The herbicides Dual® , Balan Granular® , Treflan Granules® , Snapshot Granular® , Fusilade II® , and Vantage® are reported not harmful to pinto peanut at recommended label rates. Ronstarä can yellow the leaves and kill the plant (Hensley).

Life Cycle

Seedlings develop quickly with good growing conditions when planted at a rate of several plants per square meter. Complete ground cover can be reached by about 6 months via a network of stolons. Flowering begins 3-4 weeks after emergence and continues through the growing season. Flowering intensifies after rain or irrigation. Seeds remain viable in the ground for more than one season (Cook).

Seeding Rate

Planting perennial peanut

Although rates as low as 17-22 lbs./acre (15-20 kg/ha) have been recommended (Glover), higher seeding rates (40-50 lbs/acre) may be prefered to hasten groundcover establishment in fruit tree orchards (Radovich and Sugano).

Seeding Depth

1-2 inch deep (Hensley) to 1 inch (2-3 cm) deep (Glover).

Seeding Method

Drill if possible. For small areas, seed may be drilled with a hand planter. Seed can be broadcast and covered or rolled. Consider seeding with a nurse crop of buckwheat or alfalfa to control weeds during establishment (Glover).

Seeding Dates

Year round in Hawai`i. To reduce the need for irrigation during establishment, seeding should be done just prior to the rainy season.


Inoculate all propagation material (seedpods, seed, stolons) with cowpea type rhizobia (Hensley, Glover).

Seed Cost

As of 2/09/09, seed was locally available for $15/lb. 

Seed Availability

Readily available.

Days to Flowering

Flowering commences 3-4 weeks after emergence and continues through the growing season (Cook).

Days to Maturity

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Seed Production

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Seed Storage

Seed should be dried and stored under cool conditions with low humidity (Cook).

Perennial Peanut under sago palms (photo: DeFrank)

Growth Habit

Low growing and non-twining. Once established, crowds out weeds effectively. It will compete with other groundcovers (Hensley).

Maximum Height

Perennial peanut grows to a maximum height of about 8 inches (20 cm). (Cook).

Root System

It is stoloniferous and will develop a strong taproot (see above) on the older crowns as well as large numbers of nodules on both the taproot and subsidiary roots (Cook).


Perennial peanut can be established by seed, by cuttings or by stolons. Superior rates of biomass production and leaf area are reported in plants from seed compared with those of vegetative material (Kerridge & Hardy; Mitschele).

Cuttings: Cuttings should be 4-8 inches long and partially buried 3-5 inches deep in soil in pots or a prepared seedbed. For quick soil cover, plant cuttings 10-15 inches apart. Do not allow cuttings to dry out before, during or after planting (Hensley).

Stolons (runners, sprigs): Remove stolon section from the mother plant and place 1/2 - 1 inch deep in the soil at 10-12 inch spacing. Do not allow cuttings to dry out before, during or after planting (Hensley).


Irrigate as needed or plant at the beginning of the rainy season (Glover).


Mow at 2-3 inches the first year to reduce weeds and stimulate lateral growth. Subsequent mowings should be at 6-8 inch height (Glover).


Not applicable. Not generally used as a green manure.


Not generally harvested, although taller growing accessions can be used for hay making or cut-and-carry forage systems (Cook).


No information is available in this database on this topic.

Perennial peanut as groundcover in papaya orchard



No information is available in this database on this topic.


Above ground biomass in established (3+ years) peanut plots ranges widely (0.2 kg - 4.0 kg per square meter), depending on plant density, season, management, soil type and other factors (Mitschele). Above ground biomass production at the Waimanalo experiment station one year after planting was 1.75-4.25 kg per square meter, depending on planting material and density (Radovich and Sugano, 2009).

N Contribution

Perennial peanut may reduce nitrogen availability in the soil during establishment. Soil solution nitrate levels under perennial peanut at the Poamoho and Waimanalo experiment stations was 30-60% lower than under black weed mat one year after peanut planting (Radovich and Sugano, 2009). This effect was not observed under older, well established peanut (Mitschele).

Non-N Nutrient Contribution

No significant influence of peanut on total organic carbon in the soil has been observed in orchards on Oahu. P, K and Ca have have been observed to be lower under peanut compared to black plastic mat or bareground (Mitschele; Radovich and Sugano).

Effects on Water

Soil water retention has been reported to be higher under perennial peanut than bare ground or black plastic mat (Mitschele; Radovich and Sugano).

Effects on Soil

Soil bulk density has been observed to increase with perennial peanut density, likely a result of improved moisture retention (Mitschele).

Evolution of CO2 in soils (soil respiration) under 1 year-old stands of peanut was higher than that under black plastic mulch, indicating higher microbial activity under the peanut (Radovich and Sugano). Free-living nematode levels were low 7 months after establishment. No other data directly quantifying or qualifying soil microbial populations is available.

Effects on Livestock

Perennial peanut is used as a pasture legume in tree plantations and as an intensively managed grass/legume pasture. In vitro digestibility varies from 60-76%, N concentrations from 2.5-3.0% and P concentrations from 0.18-0.37%. It is well accepted by cattle at all growth stages (Cook).

Pest Effects, Insects

Slugs and snails can be a problem during establishment and may require control via pesticide baits. Chinese rose beetles may become a problem later on (Hensley).

Pest Effects, Nematodes

‘Amarillo’ has moderate to high resistance to various root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) but is susceptible to the root-lesion nematode (Pratylenchus brachyurus) (Cook).

Pest Effects, Diseases

‘Amarillo’ is reported to be resistant to major groundnut diseases, rust (Puccinia arachidis) and leaf-spot (Mycosphaerella spp.). Other fungi have been isolated from leaf-spots, but no long-term or serious damage has been reported (Cook).

Pest Effects, Weeds

During establishment, weed control is needed (via mowing, hoeing, hand weeding, herbicides). Consider seeding with a nurse crop of buckwheat or alfalfa to control weeds during establishment (Glover). Once a good stand of perennial peanut is in place, weed suppression is excellent (Hensley).

Pest Effects, Vertebrates

Rats and mice are attracted to the nuts and can be a problem (Cook).

Uses in the Pacific Region

Perennial peanut under royal palms (photo: DeFrank)

Uses in Hawaii

For More Information

Benefits and Costs of Using Perennial Peanut as Living Mulch for Fruit Trees in Hawai‘i

Perennial Peanut Groundcover

Arachis pintoi Fact Sheet

Perennial Peanut Demonstration Garden


Clement, C.R.; DeFrank, J. 1998. The use of ground covers during establishment of heart-of-palm plantations in Hawaii. HortScience. Vol 33, Issue 5. pp 814-815.

Cook, B.G., Pengelly, B.C., Brown, S.D., Donnelly, J.L., Eagles, D.A., Franco, M.A., Hanson, J., Mullen, B.F., Partridge, I.J., Peters, M. and Schultze-Kraft, R. 2005. Tropical Forages: an interactive selection tool., [CD-ROM], CSIRO, DPI&F(Qld), CIAT and ILRI, Brisbane, Australia.

Cook, R.G. 1992. Arachis pintoi Krap. & Greg., nom. nud. In:’t Mannetje, L. & Jones, R.M. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 4. Forages. Pudoc-DLO, Wageningen, the Netherlands. pp. 48-50.

Fukumoto, G. and M. Yamasaki. 2001. Perennial Peanut Demonstration Garden. Cooperative Extension Service. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Hensley, David, Yogi, Julie, & DeFrank, Joseph. October 1997. Perennial Peanut Groundcover. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, USA. 2 pp. Free publication available at CTAHR Website:

Kerridge, Peter C. & Hardy, Bill (Editors), 1994. Biology and Agronomy of Forage Arachis, (CIAT Publication; No. 240), Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia. 209 p.

Glover, Nancy. August 1994. Perennial Peanut (Arachis pintoi), ADAP Integrated Farm Development Project, University of Hawai`i, 1994, 4 p.

Mitchele, B. 2007. Rapid Evaluation and Screening of Archis pintoi contributions to soil nitrate and select soil quality Characteristics as a Living Mulch System. M.Sc. Thesis. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Radovich, T.J.K and J. Sugano. 2009. Enhancing Soil Quality and Fruit Tree Growth with Arachis pintoi Cover Crops in Hawai’i Orchards. HFBF project Final Report.

Funders HOFA logo Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation Hawaii Cooperative of Organic Farmers Hawaii Department of Agriculture Western SARE UH Cooperative Extension Service

Text last updated 09/10/2009.

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These webpages were originally generated under a grant program from Western SARE entitled ""Covering New Ground: Tropical Cover Crops for Improving Soil Quality"" EW98-012 (1998-2002).