Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Leucaena leucocephala

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Scientific name
Leucaena leucocephala

Higher classification




Leucaena leucocephala httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommons44

Leucaena, Gliricidia sepium, Legumes, Bitter bean, Thorn trees

Thon phak katin leucaena leucocephala

Leucaena leucocephala is a small fast-growing mimosoid tree native to southern Mexico and northern Central America (Belize and Guatemala), but is now naturalized throughout the tropics.


Leucaena leucocephala Factsheet Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena

Common names include white leadtree, jumbay, river tamarind, Subabul, and white popinac.

The specific name is derived from the Greek words λευκό, meaning "white", and κέφαλος, meaning "head," referring to its flowers.

L. leucocephala is used for a variety of purposes, such as firewood, fiber, and livestock fodder.

Leucaena leucocephala 1 rare unusual exotic hardy seeds for the garden greenhouse conservatory

Use by humans

Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena glauca Mimosa leucocephala Acacia

During the 1970s and 1980s, it was promoted as a "miracle tree" for its multiple uses. It has also been described as a "conflict tree" because it is used for forage production but spreads like a weed in some places.

Leucaena leucocephala Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve Plant Listings Leucaena leucocephala

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

Forage and fodder

Leucaena leucocephala Thon Phak Katin Leucaena leucocephala YouTube

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

Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala White Leadtree Lead Tree Koa Haole Ekoa

In many cases this acid is metabolized by ruminants to goitrogenic DHP [3-hydroxy-4(1H) pyridone] in the rumen, 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, and more recently by inoculating cattle rumina with such organisms cultured in vitro.

Such measures have facilitated Leucaena use for fodder in Australia and elsewhere.

Green manure and biomass production

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

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 and Thailand, where they are known as phak krathin (Thai: ผักกระถิน).

Invasive properties

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

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, as well as in South America and Europe.

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

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

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

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.

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).

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

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. Bioherbicidal activity of L. leucocephala on terrestrial plants and aquatic weed water hyacinth were reported.

Local names

  • Mayan language: Huaxim (washim)
  • Indigenous distribution area:
  • Nahuatl: huāxcuahuitl
  • Spanish: guaje
  • Southeast Asia:
  • Burmese: ဘောစကိုင်း (Burmese: bo: zagain: / bɔ́ zagáĩ)
  • Cebuano: byatilis or luyluy
  • 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)
  • Thai: ผักกระถิน phak kratin (Thai: krà tʰǐn )
  • Vietnamese: keo dậu, keo giậu
  • Elsewhere in the world:
  • Chamorro: tangan-tangan
  • Tamil: சௌண்டல் (Tamil: soundal)
  • Haitian Creole: madlèn
  • Hawaiian: koa haole, meaning "foreign Acacia koa"
  • Hindi: सुबबूल (Hindi: subabūl)
  • Japanese: ギンネム (Japanese: ginnemu).
  • Cayman Islands: wild tamarind
  • References

    Leucaena leucocephala Wikipedia