Leucaena leucocephala

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Leucaena leucocephala
Leucaena leucocephala.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Mimosoideae
Tribe: Mimoseae
Genus: Leucaena
Species: L. leucocephala
Binomial name
Leucaena leucocephala
(Lam.) de Wit[1]
  • Acacia frondosa Willd.
  • Acacia glauca (L.) Willd.
  • Acacia leucocephala (Lam.) Link
  • Acacia leucophala Link
  • Leucaena glabra Benth.
  • Leucaena glauca Benth.
  • Mimosa glauca sensu L.1763 Misapplied
  • Mimosa glauca Koenig ex Roxb.
  • Mimosa leucocephala Lam.
  • Mimosa leucophala Lam. [2]
Pods of Leucaena leucocephala in the month of May.
Leucaena leucocephala - MHNT

Leucaena leucocephala is a small, fast-growing mimosoid tree native to southern Mexico and northern Central America (Belize and Guatemala),[1][3] but is now naturalized throughout the tropics. Common names include white leadtree,[4] jumbay,river tamarind, Subabul,[5] and white popinac.[6] The specific name is derived from the Greek words λευκό, meaning "white", and κέφαλος, meaning "head", referring to its flowers.[7] L. leucocephala is used for a variety of purposes, such as firewood, fiber and livestock fodder.

Use by humans

During the 1970s and 1980s, it was promoted as a "miracle tree" for its multiple uses.[8] It has also been described as a "conflict tree" in that it is both promoted for forage production and spreads like a weed in some places.[9]

The legume is promoted in several countries of Southeast Asia (at least Burma, Cambodia, Laos[10] and Thailand), most importantly as a source of quality animal feed, but also for residual use for firewood or charcoal production.

Forage and fodder

The legume provides an excellent source of high-protein cattle fodder.[11] Leucaena fodder contains mimosine, a toxic amino acid which is metabolized to goitrogenic DHP [3-hydroxy-4(1H) pyridone] in the rumen.[12][13] In some geographical areas, ruminants lack rumen organisms (such as Synergistes jonesii) that can degrade DHP. In such cases, toxicity problems from ingestion of Leucaena have sometimes been overcome by infusing susceptible animals with rumen fluid from ruminants that possess such organisms,[14] and more recently, by inoculating cattle rumina with such organisms cultured in vitro.[15] Such measures have facilitated Leucaena use for fodder in Australia and have also been used elsewhere.

Green manure and biomass production

Leucaena leucocephala has been considered for biomass production, as its reported yield of foliage corresponds to a dried mass of 2,000–20,000 kg/ha/year, and that of wood 30–40 m³/ha/year, with up to twice those amounts in favourable climates. It is also efficient in nitrogen fixation, at more than 500 kg/ha/year. It has a very fast growth rate, young trees reach a height of more than 20 ft in two to three years.

Food for humans

The young pods are edible and occasionally eaten with Javanese vegetables salad with spicy peanut sauce and spicy fish wrapped in papaya or taro leaves in Indonesia, papaya salad in Laos[10] and in Thailand, where they are known as phak krathin (Thai: ผักกระถิน).[16]

Invasive properties

L. leucocephala is a highly invasive in the arid parts of Taiwan, The Bahamas, the Hawaiian Islands, Fiji, Hong Kong and northern Australia,[17] as well as in South America and Europe.[18] It grows quickly, and forms dense thickets which crowd out any native vegetation.[19] L. leucocephala is considered one of the 100 worst invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.[9]

In Hong Kong the species is now considered invasive, and unwanted species, growing in arid, roadside areas, carparks, and abandoned land. [20] [21]

The plant is also found in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, and is considered weedy or invasive by some authorities.[22]

Leucaena leucocephala's wood and bark

Other limitations

This species is susceptible to insect infestations. In the 1980s, a widespread loss in Southeast Asia was due to pest attack by psyllids.[23] In India, this tree was initially promoted for afforestation due to its fast-growing nature. However, it is now considered unsuitable for urban planting because of its tendency to get uprooted in rain and wind. Eight of every 10 trees uprooted by wind in Pune are subabuls (Hindi name for L leucocephala).[clarification needed][24]

The seeds contain mimosine, an amino acid known to be toxic to nonruminant vertebrates.[8]

Potential as bioherbicidal agent

L. leucocephala is an allelopathic tree. Phytotoxic allelochemicals, such as mimosine and certain phenolic compounds, including p-hydroxycinnamic acid, protocatechuic acid, and gallic acid, have been identified in the leaves of the species.[25] Bioherbicidal activity of L. leucocephala on terrestrial plants[26][27] and aquatic weed water hyacinth[28] were reported.

Local names

  • Mayan language: Huaxim (washim)
  • Indigenous distribution area:
  • Southeast Asia:
    • Burmese: ဘောစကိုင်း (Burmese: bo: zagain: / bɔ́ zagáĩ)
    • Cebuano: byatilis or luyluy[29]
    • Indonesian: lamtoro, petai cina, or petai selong
    • Javanese: pethet, lamtoro
    • Khmer: កន្ធំ (Khmer: kantʰum)
    • Lao: ກະຖິນ (Lao: ká tʰín)
    • Malay: petai belalang
    • Maranao: ipil-ipil
    • Mon: ဖဝ်ရဂိုန်2 (Mon: phɔrəkɜ̀n)
    • Oriya: nagarjuna
    • Sundanese: peuteuy sélong
    • Tagalog: ipil-ipil, santa-elena, santaelena
    • Taiwanese: 臭青仔 (chhàu-chheⁿ-á/chhàu-chhiⁿ-á), 銀合歡 (gîn-ha̍p-hoan/gûn-ha̍p-hoan)[30]
    • Thai: ผักกระถิน phak kratin (Thai: krà tʰǐn )
    • Vietnamese: keo dậu, keo giậu


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1995-03-24. Retrieved 2010-01-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/ild-105
  3. Hughes, Colin E. (1998). Monograph of Leucaena (Leguminosae-Mimosoideae). Systematic botany monographs v. 55. ISBN 0-912861-55-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  5. Shelton, H.M. & Brewbaker, J.L. "2.1 Leucaena leucocephala - the Most Widely Used Forage Tree Legume". Food & Agricultural Organisation. Retrieved 24 September 2015. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Ipil-ipil, Leucaena glauca, BPI.da.gov.ph
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  12. Hammond, A. C. 1995. Leucaena toxicosis and its control in ruminants. J. Animal Sci. 73: 1487-1492.
  13. Allison, M. J., A. C. Hammond, and R. J. Jones. 1990. Detection of ruminal bacteria that degrade toxic dihydroxypyridine compounds produced from mimosine. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 56: 590-594.
  14. Allison, M. J., W. R. Mayberry, C. S. Mcsweeney, and D. A. Stahl. 1992. Synergistes jonesii, gen. nov., sp. nov.: a rumen bacterium that degrades toxic pyridinediols. Syst. Appl. Microbiol. 15: 522-529.
  15. Graham, S. R., S. A. Dalzell, Nguyen Trong Ngu, C. K. Davis, D. Greenway, C. S. McSweeney, and H. M. Shelton. 2013. Efficacy, persistence and presence of Synergistes jonesii in cattle grazing leucaena in Queensland: on-farm observations pre-and post-inoculation. Animal Prod. Sci. 53: 1065-1074.
  16. ASEAN Biodiversity
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  20. Tree Preservation
  21. Hong Kong Flora and Vegetation
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  23. ODI - Alley Farming
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External links