Leucaena leucocephala

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For other uses, see Ipil (disambiguation).
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[edit]

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" because it is used for forage production but 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[edit]

The legume provides an excellent source of high-protein cattle fodder.[11] However, the fodder contains mimosine, a toxic amino acid.

In many cases this acid is metabolized by ruminants to goitrogenic DHP [3-hydroxy-4(1H) pyridone] in the rumen,[12][13] but in some geographical areas, ruminants lack the 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 elsewhere.

Green manure and biomass production[edit]

Leucaena leucocephala has been considered for biomass production because 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 favorable 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[edit]

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

Invasive properties[edit]

L. leucocephala is considered one of the 100 worst invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.[9]

It is a highly invasive species in the arid parts of Taiwan, The Bahamas, the Hawaiian Islands, Fiji, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, and northern Australia,[17] as well as in South America and Europe.[18]

The plant is also found in parts of the U.S., including California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.[19]

Leucaena leucocephala's wood and bark

It grows quickly and forms dense thickets that crowd out all native vegetation.[20]

In urban areas, it is an especially unwanted species, growing along arid roadsides, in carparks, and on abandoned land. [21] [22]

Other limitations[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1995-03-24. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  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. 
  4. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Leucaena leucocephala (white leadtree)". PLANTS Database. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  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. 
  6. ^ Ipil-ipil, Leucaena glauca, BPI.da.gov.ph
  7. ^ "Leucaena leucocephala". AgroForestryTree Database. World Agroforestry Centre. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  8. ^ a b Gutteridge, Ross C., and H. Max Shelton. 1998. Forage Tree Legumes in Tropical Agriculture. Tropical Grassland Society of Australia, Inc., 2.1 "Leucaena leucocephala - the Most Widely Used Forage Tree Legume"
  9. ^ a b "Leucaena leucocephala (tree)". Global Invasive Species Database. Invasive Species Specialist Group. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Farmers to grow leucaena for animal feed". Vientiane Times. 2011-06-15. 
  11. ^ "Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) deWit.". hort.purdue.edu. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  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
  17. ^ "Leucaena Leucaena leucocephala". Weed Identification & Information. Australian Weeds Strategy. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  18. ^ Fonseca, N.G. & Jacobi, C.M. 2011. Desempenho germinativo da invasora Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit. e comparação com Caesalpinia ferrea Mart. ex Tul. e Caesalpinia pulcherrima (L.) Sw. (Fabaceae). Acta Botanica Brasilica 25(1): 191-197. Link: http://acta.botanica.org.br/index.php/acta/article/viewFile/1265/427
  19. ^ "Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit white leadtree". United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  20. ^ Kuo, Yau-Lun. "Ecological Characteristics of Three Invasive Plants (Leucaena Leucocephala, Mikania Micrantha, and Stachytarpheta Urticaefolia) in Southern Taiwan." 12 1 2003.http://www.agnet.org/library/eb/541/ (accessed 3 24 2008).
  21. ^ Tree Preservation
  22. ^ Hong Kong Flora and Vegetation
  23. ^ ODI - Alley Farming
  24. ^ Das, Dipannita (8 May 2011). "Activists want Pune Municipal Corporation to allow cutting of subabul trees in city". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 9 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  25. ^ Chou CK, Kuo YL (1986) Allelopathic research of subtropical vegetation in Taiwan. III. Allelopathic exclusion of understory by Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit. J Chem Ecol 12:1431-1448
  26. ^ Hong NH, Xuan TD, Eiji T, Hiroyuki T, Mitsuhiro M, Khanh TD (2003) Screening for allelopathic potential of higher plants from Southeast Asia. Crop Protection 22:829-836
  27. ^ John J, Narwal SS (2003) Allelopathic plants. 9. Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit. Allelopath J 12:13-36 OpenURL
  28. ^ Chai TT, Ooh KF, Ooi PW, Chue PS, Wong FC (2013) Leucaena leucocephala leachate compromised membrane integrity, respiration and antioxidative defence of water hyacinth leaf tissues. Botanical Studies 54: 8.
  29. ^ Wolff, John U. (1972). "byatilis". A Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan. 1. p. 186. 
  30. ^ 台文華文線頂辭典. Tâi-bûn Hôa-bûn Sòaⁿ-téng Sû-tián. [Taiwanese-Chinese Online Dictionary.] Retrieved 25 April 2015. (Min-nan)
  31. ^ Little Jr., Elbert L.; Roger G. Skolmen (1989). "Koa haole, leucaena" (PDF). Common Forest Trees of Hawaii. United States Forest Service. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 

External links[edit]