A small, fast growing, deciduous to evergreen tree that can grow up to 10 m in height.. Crown is umbrella shaped and open. Branches are slender and drooping. Bark is corky and grey in colour. Leaves are compound, leathery and up to 50 cm long with many small leaflets, which are about 1 to 2 cm long. Terminal leaflet, which is obovate in shape, is usually larger than the lateral leaflets. Lateral leaflets are elliptical in shape. Flowers are white or creamy white in colour, fragrant and 1.5 to 2 cm long, borne in axillary inflorescence. Fruit is a pod, pendulous, triangular in cross section, normally 30 to 50 cm in length but some may be as long as 120 cm. Young fruits are green in colour, turning to brown and splitting into three parts when dry. Each pod contains about 20 dark brown, three-winged seeds, which are embedded in pith.
It is adapted to a wide range of soils but grows well in dry sandy soil. It is highly tolerant to drought but foliage production reduces considerably under continuous water stress. It can be easily propagated by stem cutting and seed. Seeds collected from dry pods can be sown directly. Seedlings, which grow very fast, can be raised in a container for outplanting. Stem cuttings of about 1 m long is normally used for planting. It requires protection against high winds.
It is a multipurpose tree and almost every part of the drumstick tree is of value for food. Leaves are used as greens, in soups and salads and in vegetable curries. Pods, which looks like giant beans and taste like asparagus are widely used in curries. Seeds can also be eaten fresh as peas. Flowers are also used as a vegetable. Thickened root of the drumstick tree is used as a substitute for horseradish. Seeds yield sweet high-quality oil called ben oil, which is used in art, salads, and hairdressing and as a lubricant for fine machinery such as that of watches. Leaves, flowers and pods are high in proteins (5 to 10% on average) and rich in vitamins and iron and calcium. Because of the high nutritive value drumstick tree is considered as one of the important trees with reference to nutritional security of rural communities. It is an ideal species for agroforestry in the coastal areas.