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Useful Tropical Plants

Leucaena leucocephala

(Lam.) De Wit.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Acacia glauca Willd.

Acacia leucocephala (Lam.) Link

Leucaena glauca Benth.

Leucaena glabra Benth.

Leucaena latisiliqua (L.) Gillis

Mimosa glauca Koenig ex Roxb.

Mimosa leucocephala Lam.

Common Name: Leucaena

Leucaena leucocephala
Pods of a red variety for sale at a market in Taxco, Mexico. The seeds are removed and eaten.
Photograph by: Wicki
Public domain
Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala Leucaena leucocephala

General Information

Leucaena is an evergreen shrub or tree with a fairly open, rounded crown; it can grow from 5 - 20 metres tall. The bole is generally short and can be 10 - 50cm in diameter[
404
Title
Digital Compendium of Forestry Species of Cambodia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.digitalspecies.blogspot.com
Publisher
www.digitalspecies.blogspot.com; Phnom Penh
Year
2008
ISBN
 
Description
A very detailed booklet, produced in PDF format on the internet, giving information on around 100 species of trees.
].
A multipurpose tree, it provides food, medicines and a range of commodities for the local population, Vigorous and fast-growing, it is often cultivated in the tropics as an ornamental and is also used in reforestation projects, as a shade plant for coffee etc[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Known Hazards

The leaves of most forms of this plant contain the unusual amino acid mimosene[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. In large quantities this can be harmful[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. There are low-mimosene cultivars[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Central America, north to Mexico.

Habitat

Dry coastal regions, waste ground[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Edibility Rating *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Tree
Height10.00 m
Growth RateFast
PollinatorsSelf
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

A plant of the tropics, succeed at altitudes up to 1,500 metres, occasionally to as high as 2,100 metres[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. It grows best with a mean annual temperature in the range 25 - 30°c and a mean annual rainfall of 650 - 3,000mm[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. For optimal growth it is limited to areas 15 - 25° north or south of the equator[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. It grows well only in subhumid or humid climates with moderate dry seasons of up to 6 - 7 months[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Prefers a well-drained soil in full sun[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
]. Tolerant of a range of soils, including limestone, wet and dry soils, soils of volcanic origin and those with moderate levels of salt[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7.7, tolerating 5 - 8.5[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Plants are very tolerant of drought and of salt-laden winds[
307
Title
Tropical and Subtropical Trees - A Worldwide Encyclopaedic Guide.
Publication
 
Author
Barwick. M.
Publisher
Thames & Hudson, London
Year
2004
ISBN
0-500-51181-0
Description
A superb book, very concise and well written, giving a wealth of information on 400 or more species including descriptions, habitat, cultivation details and plant uses. A wealth of colour photographs bring each plant vividly to life.
].
This species is an aggressive colonizer of ruderal sites and secondary or disturbed vegetation[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. This has been attributed to its precocious year-round flowering and fruiting, abundant seed production, self-fertility, hard seed coat, and ability to resprout after fire or cutting. It is now naturalized and weedy in many areas such as open (often coastal) habitats, semi-natural, disturbed, degraded habitats, other ruderal sites, and occasionally, agricultural land where it has been planted as a shade tree over cacao[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Plants are deep-rooted[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Plants respond well to coppicing, soon producing dense regrowth[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Tolerates fast fires and can regrow after being burned to the crown by slower fires[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

Edible Uses

Young leaves, pods and flower buds - raw, steamed, in soups, with rice or mixed with chillies and other spices[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. Some caution is advised - see the notes above on toxicity[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Seeds - raw or cooked. The unripe seeds are mixed with grated coconut, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. The mature, but not dried, seeds are eaten raw or cooked as a delicacy[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. Dried seeds are fermented into tempeh lamtoro and dageh lamtoro[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

The dried seed can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
,
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

An edible gum obtained from the plant is used in sauces[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Medicinal

The roasted seeds are emollient[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
].

A decoction of the root and bark is abortifacient[
272
Title
Plants and People of Nepal
Publication
 
Author
Manandhar. N. P.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
2002
ISBN
0-88192-527-6
Description
Excellent book, covering over 1,500 species of useful plants from Nepal together with information on the geography and peoples of Nepal. Good descriptions of the plants with terse notes on their uses.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

Plants are sometimes used in re-reforestation projects[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. It is a fast growing plant with an extensive root system and has been used in land reclamation, for preventing soil erosion and as a shade plant for coffee crops[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. It thrives on steep slopes and in marginal areas with extended dry seasons, making it a prime candidate for restoring forest cover, watersheds and grasslands[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
An aggressive taproot system helps break up compacted subsoil layers, improving the penetration of moisture into the soil and decreasing surface runoff[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Leucaena was one of the first species to be used for the production of green manure in alley-cropping systems. The leaves, even with moderate yields, contain more than enough nitrogen to sustain a maize crop[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The finely divided leaves decompose quickly, providing a rapid, short-term influx of nutrients[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. It has even been suggested that the leaves decompose too rapidly, resulting in leaching of nutrients away from the crop-rooting zone before they are taken up by the crop[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. This also means that they have little value as mulch for weed control[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The tree has the potential to renew soil fertility and could be particularly important in slash-and-burn cultivation, as it greatly reduces the fallow period between crops[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Other Uses

Gum arises from the stems under ill-defined conditions of injury and disease or from sterile hybrids, especially Leucaena leucocephala x Leucaena esculenta. The gum has been analysed and found similar to gum arabic, and of potential commercial value[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Red, brown and black dyes are extracted from the pods, leaves and bark[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

The dried seeds are widely used for ornamentation[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

The heartwoos is a ight reddish-brown; the sapwood pale yellow. It is medium textured, close grained. The wood is strong, hard and heavy (about 800 kg/m), of medium density. It is easily workable for a wide variety of carpentry purposes and dries without splitting or checking. Sawn timber, mine props, furniture and parquet flooring are among increasingly popular uses. However, the use of L. Leucocephala for sawn timber is greatly limited by its generally small dimensions (usually not greater than 30cm diameter), its branchiness, which limits lengths of clear bole available and means wood is often knotty, and its high proportion of juvenile wood. Nevertheless, there is growing use of small-dimension sawn wood in a number of industries such as flooring, which might include L. Leucocephala in the future. Poles are used to prop bananas and as a support for yams, pepper and other vines. Use of short-rotation L. Leucocephala for poles is limited by their lack of durability and susceptibility to attack by termites and woodborers[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
The wood is commonly pulped for its fibre, used to make paper[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The fibre values are similar to those of other tropical hardwoods, and it produces paper with good printability but low tearing and folding strength; the wood-pulp strength is greater than that of most hardwoods, with almost 50% greater ring crush. Its pulping properties are suitable for both paper and rayon production. Also used for particleboard production[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
An excellent firewood species with a specific gravity of 0.45-0.55 and a high calorific value of 4600 cal/kg[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. The wood burns steadily with little smoke, few sparks and produces less than 1% ash. The tree makes excellent charcoal with a heating value of 29 mJ/kg and good recovery values (25-30%)[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
]. Addition of the ground wood to fuel oil for diesel engines was found to involve no harmful agents in the ash[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 24 hours in warm water then sow in containers[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. Seedlings and direct sowing are recommended methods of propagation where soil-moisture conditions permit and economic weed control can be maintained. Seed pre-treatment involves soaking in hot water for 2 minutes or nicking the seed coat at the distal (cotyledon) end, using a sharp tool like scalpel, knife or nail clipper. A germination rate of 50-80% in 8 days can be achieved[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].
Cuttings of semi-ripe wood. Vegetative propagation has been successful in relatively few locations, reflecting critical environmental requirements, or possibly systemic fungi. The use of bare-root cuttings has worked in Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand[
303
Title
World Agroforesty Centre
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.worldagroforestry.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent online database of a huge range of trees giving very good information on each plant - its uses, ecology, identity, propagation, pests etc.
].

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