Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Leucaena leucocephala
(leucaena)

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Datasheet

Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 06 December 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Leucaena leucocephala
  • Preferred Common Name
  • leucaena
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • L. leucocephala subsp. leucocephala is an aggressive colonizer of ruderal sites and secondary or disturbed vegetation both in Mexico, in the Yucatán Peninsula and in many parts of...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers and foliage. Poon Saan, Christmas Island, Australia, April 2011.
TitleHabit
CaptionLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers and foliage. Poon Saan, Christmas Island, Australia, April 2011.
Copyright©John Tann/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers and foliage. Poon Saan, Christmas Island, Australia, April 2011.
HabitLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers and foliage. Poon Saan, Christmas Island, Australia, April 2011.©John Tann/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers, foliage and some green seed-pods. India. September 2007.
TitleHabit
CaptionLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers, foliage and some green seed-pods. India. September 2007.
Copyright©Dinesh Valke/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers, foliage and some green seed-pods. India. September 2007.
HabitLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); flowers, foliage and some green seed-pods. India. September 2007.©Dinesh Valke/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); leaflet arrangement. Young bipinnate leaf detail. Note the insertion of leaflets on the underside of a secondary rachis, the displacement of the main nerve upwards is clearly visible. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. Agust 2013.
TitleLeaflet arrangement
CaptionLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); leaflet arrangement. Young bipinnate leaf detail. Note the insertion of leaflets on the underside of a secondary rachis, the displacement of the main nerve upwards is clearly visible. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. Agust 2013.
Copyright©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); leaflet arrangement. Young bipinnate leaf detail. Note the insertion of leaflets on the underside of a secondary rachis, the displacement of the main nerve upwards is clearly visible. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. Agust 2013.
Leaflet arrangementLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); leaflet arrangement. Young bipinnate leaf detail. Note the insertion of leaflets on the underside of a secondary rachis, the displacement of the main nerve upwards is clearly visible. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. Agust 2013.©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); young, bipinnate, leaf with glands visible (one is arrowed) in the branches of the secondary rachis. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. August 2013.
TitleYoung leaf
CaptionLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); young, bipinnate, leaf with glands visible (one is arrowed) in the branches of the secondary rachis. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. August 2013.
Copyright©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); young, bipinnate, leaf with glands visible (one is arrowed) in the branches of the secondary rachis. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. August 2013.
Young leafLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); young, bipinnate, leaf with glands visible (one is arrowed) in the branches of the secondary rachis. Águilas, Murcia, Spain. August 2013.©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); rhachis fork, with gland. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. September 2013.
TitleRhachis fork
CaptionLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); rhachis fork, with gland. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. September 2013.
Copyright©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); rhachis fork, with gland. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. September 2013.
Rhachis forkLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); rhachis fork, with gland. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. September 2013.©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); green seedpods. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2017.
TitleSeedpods
CaptionLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); green seedpods. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2017.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2017/via flickr - CC BY 4.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); green seedpods. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2017.
SeedpodsLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); green seedpods. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2017.©Forest & Kim Starr-2017/via flickr - CC BY 4.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); seeds. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. August 2011.
TitleSeeds
CaptionLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); seeds. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. August 2011.
Copyright©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena); seeds. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. August 2011.
SeedsLeucaena leucocephala (leucaena); seeds. Eagles, Murcia, Spain. August 2011.©Philmarin/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit

Preferred Common Name

  • leucaena

Other Scientific Names

  • Acacia frondosa Willd.
  • Acacia glauca (L.) Willd.
  • Acacia leucocephala (Lam.) Link
  • Acacia leucophala Link
  • Leucaena glabra Benth.
  • Leucaena glauca Benth.
  • Leucaena latisiliqua (L.) Gillis
  • Mimosa leucocephala Lam
  • Mimosa leucophala Lam.

International Common Names

  • English: coffee bush; false koa; hedge acacia; horse tamarind; ipel-ipel; ipil-ipil; jumbie-bean; jumpy-bean; lead tree; white popinac; wild tamarind
  • Spanish: acacia bella rosa; acacia pálida; campeche; chamba; guaje; hediondilla; huaxin; peladera; tamarindo silvestre; uaxim; zarcilla
  • French: cassi; faux acacia; faux mimosa; graines de lin; grains de lin pays; l'acacie; leucaene; mimosa; tamarin batard; tamarin cheval
  • Chinese: yin he huan

Local Common Names

  • Australia: cow tamarind; jumbie bean; leadtree; white leadtree
  • Bahamas: jumby bean
  • Belize: wild tamarind
  • Brazil: faux-acacia
  • Cambodia: kanthum theet; kratin
  • Cook Islands: marainu; mara'inu; nito
  • Cuba: aroma blanca; aroma boba; aroma boba; aroma mansa; aroma mansa; soplillo; soplillo
  • Dominican Republic: granadillo; granalino; Grenadillo bobo; lino; lino criollo
  • El Salvador: barba de leon
  • Fiji: balori; vaivai; vaivai dina; vaivai ni vavalangi
  • French Polynesia/Marquesas: atiku
  • Guam: tangan-tangan
  • Guatemala: chalip; guash criollo
  • Haiti: delen; lisina; tchia-tchia marron
  • Honduras: frijol guaje
  • India: kubabul; lasobayal; nattucvundal; subabool; subabul; tagari; vilayati baral
  • Indonesia: lamtoro; lamtoro gung; petai cina
  • Indonesia/Java: klandingan
  • Kiribati: te kaitetua
  • Laos: kathin; kh'oonz; koong khaaw
  • Lesser Antilles: macata; macta-bourse; monval; tamarin bâtard; wild mimosa; wild tamarin
  • Malaysia: lamtoro; petai belalang
  • Marshall Islands: tangan tangan; tangan-tangan
  • Mexico: calguaje; dormilon; efe; guache; guache tierra caliente; guaje; guaje blanco; guaje verde; guas; guash; guash de castilla; guashe; guaslim; guaxin; huaxe; huaxim; huaxin; liliak; tumbapelo; uaxi; uaxim; uaxin; waxim; xaxim
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: tangantangan
  • Nauru: bin
  • Niue: pepe; tavahi kaku
  • Palau: telengtungd; telentund
  • Papua New Guinea: kunai
  • Peru: arabisca
  • Philippines: elena; giant ipil-ipil; ipil-ipil; kariskis; palo marina
  • Puerto Rico: Acacia palida; hediondilla; tantan; zarcilla
  • Samoa: fua pepe; fuapepe; lopa Samoa; lusina
  • South Africa: reuse wattle
  • Thailand: kra thin; to-bao
  • Tonga: siale mohemohe
  • USA: lead tree; white lead tree
  • USA/Hawaii: ekoa; false koa; haole koa; koa-haole; lilikoa
  • Vietnam: bo chet; keo dau; schemu

EPPO code

  • LUAGL (Leucaena leucocephala)

Subspecies

  • Leucaena leucocephala subsp. glabrata
  • Leucaena leucocephala subsp. ixtahuacana
  • Leucaena leucocephala subsp. leucocephala

Synonymized subspecies

  • Leucaena glabrata

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page L. leucocephala subsp. leucocephala is an aggressive colonizer of ruderal sites and secondary or disturbed vegetation both in Mexico, in the Yucatán Peninsula and in many parts of Asia. Binggeli (1999) classed L. leucocephala as highly invasive. In South Africa it is declared a category 2 weed in the Western Cape and a category 2 weed across the rest of the country, according to the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Henderson, 2001). Federal Highway Administration (2001) list L. leucocephala and L. leucocephala var. K-8 as invasive species on Puerto Rico, classing var. K-8 as one of the most problematic invasives on the island. Space et al. (2000) list it among a number of species that are invasive elsewhere in the world and cultivated, common or weedy on the pacific island of Chuuk. L. leucocephala has a number of biological characteristics which are regarded as indicating invasive tendancy and make it difficult to control, e.g. precocious year-round flowering and fruiting, abundant seed production, self-fertility, a hard seed coat, an ability to build up a seed bank, and ability to resprout after fire or cutting.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Mimosoideae
  •                                 Genus: Leucaena
  •                                     Species: Leucaena leucocephala

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Leucaena is a New World genus of 22 species in the legume family (Fabaceae), subfamily Mimosoideae. The accepted taxonomy of the genus is based on the monograph by Hughes (1998a), building on an earlier revision of the Mexican species by Zárate (1994). Taxonomy and field identification are also discussed in detail in Hughes (1998b). This species was long known by the name L. glauca until intensive nomenclatural detective work by de Wit (1961) showed the correct name to be Leucaenaleucocephala (Isely, 1986; Hughes, 1997b). Zárate (1987) described two subspecies that correspond to the well-known agronomic 'varieties', subsp. leucocephala being the 'Common' or 'Hawaiian' shrubby varieties, and subsp. glabrata being the 'Giant' or 'Salvador' arborescent varieties. A third subspecies, ixtahuacana, was also described by Hughes (1997b). While all early (pre-1960) literature refers to the shrubby subsp. leucocephala, more recent agronomic and forestry interest has focused overwhelmingly on the arborescent subsp. glabrata. Both have been widely introduced and the existence of hybrid forms in exotic populations cannot be discounted.

Description

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A small tree, commonly reaching 3-15 m tall and 10-35 cm in bole diameter; and older trees may reach 20 m tall and 50 cm in diameter. Form varies from shrubby and highly branched in subsp. leucocephala to arborescent with a short clear bole to 5 m, upright angular branching and an open, rounded crown in subsp. glabrata. Bark is mid grey-brown with shallow rusty orange-brown vertical fissures; slash reddish. Leaves bipinnate with 4-9 pairs of pinnae per leaf and 13-21 pairs of leaflets per pinna. The leaflets are small, 9-21 mm long, 2-4.5 mm wide, linear-oblong or weakly elliptic, acute at the tip, rounded to obtuse at the base and glabrous except on margins, with a concave, cup-shaped, elliptic petiole gland. Flowers arranged on compact globose heads, the flower heads in groups of 2-6 in leaf axils arising on actively growing young shoots, the leaves developing simultaneously with the flowers, the heads 12-21 mm in diameter with 100-180 flowers per head, the flowers white. Hairy anthers (visible with a hand lens) distinguish Leucaena from all other mimosoid legume genera. Pods are 9-19 cm long, 13-21 mm wide, linear-oblong and flat with papery pod walls, mid- to orange-brown, glabrous and slightly lustrous (subsp. glabrata and subsp. ixtahuacana), or densely covered in white velvety hairs (subsp. leucocephala), arranged in clusters of 3-20, and occasionally up to 45, per flower head.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Tree
Woody

Distribution

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There is no doubt that L. leucocephala originates from Mexico. However, its true natural distribution is extremely difficult to ascertain in detail because it is cultivated throughout Mexico and Central America, and no unambiguously natural populations have so far been located. Thus earlier references to it being native to Guatemala and Belize are not included here, nor are the assertion from USDA-NRCS (2007) that it is native to the USA.

Subsp. leucocephala is distributed mainly in the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Mexican States of Tabasco, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán, extending south into northern Belize. Outlying occurrences include an area of central-north Veracruz, and sporadic occurrences across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec into the State of Oaxaca. Despite the great abundance and widespread occurrence of subsp. leucocephala throughout the Yucatán, it is doubtfully native there (McClay, 1990; Waage, 1990; Hughes, 1998b), possibly introduced in pre-Columbian times for its edible seeds and pods and having since spread following introduction. As an aggressive colonizer of disturbed sites, especially on calcareous soils, its present-day abundance in the Yucatán Peninsula may be as an introduced weed rather than a native species (Hughes, 1998a, b).

The natural distribution of subsp. glabrata is also unclear. Despite intensive field exploration, no unequivocally natural populations have so far been located. Within Mexico and Central America it is extremely common as a cultivated backyard, street and orchard tree and is found in the majority of villages and towns in Mexico, in all tropical and subtropical areas (wet, seasonally dry and semi-arid), except above 2000 m altitude, but is only locally naturalized.

Subsp. ixtahuacana is restricted to a small area of northern Guatemala and the immediate border zone in Mexico. As far as is known, subsp. ixtahuacana has not been introduced elsewhere.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

BahrainPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
BangladeshPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Barua et al., 2001; ILDIS, 2007
BhutanPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
Brunei DarussalamPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
CambodiaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; ILDIS, 2007
Chagos ArchipelagoPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007
ChinaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
-FujianPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GuangdongPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GuangxiPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GuizhouPresentIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2012
-HainanPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007
-Hong KongPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
-MacauPresent Planted CABI, 2005
-YunnanPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007; Weeds of Australia, 2012
Cocos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2007; Weeds of Australia, 2012
IndiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Ghate, 1991; Binggeli, 1997; ILDIS, 2007
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Arunachal PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-AssamPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-BiharPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-ChandigarhPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-ChhattisgarhPresentSingh et al., 2006
-DamanPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-DelhiPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-DiuPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GoaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-GujaratPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-HaryanaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Himachal PradeshPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Indian PunjabPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-KarnatakaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Invasive Planted Ghate, 1991; ILDIS, 2007
-ManipurPresentILDIS, 2007
-MeghalayaPresentILDIS, 2007
-MizoramPresentILDIS, 2007
-NagalandPresentILDIS, 2007
-OdishaPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-RajasthanPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-SikkimPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-TripuraPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
-West BengalPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted ILDIS, 2007
IndonesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Panjaitan, 1988; ILDIS, 2007
-Irian JayaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-JavaPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; Widiarti and Alrasjid, 1987; ILDIS, 2007
-KalimantanPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-MoluccasPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-Nusa TenggaraPresentIntroducedCABI, 2005
-SulawesiPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-SumatraPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
IraqPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
JapanPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller, 1995
-Bonin IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2007
-KyushuPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
LaosPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
LebanonPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-SabahPresentIntroduced Invasive CABI, 2005; ISSG, 2010
-SarawakPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
MaldivesPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005; ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007
MyanmarPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforestry Centre, 2002
NepalPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
PakistanPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
PhilippinesPresentIntroduced1521-1815 Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; Merrill, 1912; ILDIS, 2007
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
SingaporePresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced Invasive Bambaradeniya et al., 2001; ILDIS, 2007
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007; Tsai et al., 2007
ThailandPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
VietnamPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
YemenPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007

Africa

AngolaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
BeninPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
BotswanaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Buss, 2002
Burkina FasoPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
BurundiPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
CameroonPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; ILDIS, 2007
Cape VerdePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
Central African RepublicPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
ChadPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
ComorosPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
CongoPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
DjiboutiPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
EgyptPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
Equatorial GuineaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
EritreaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforestry Centre, 2002
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
GabonPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
GambiaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
GhanaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Holm et al., 1979; ILDIS, 2007
GuineaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
LesothoPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
LiberiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
MadagascarPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
MalawiPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
MaliPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
MauritiusPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; ILDIS, 2007
MoroccoPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
MozambiquePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
NamibiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
NigerPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
NigeriaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; Macdonald et al., 1991
Rodriguez IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; ILDIS, 2007
RwandaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
Saint HelenaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
Sao Tome and PrincipePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
SenegalPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
SeychellesPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
Sierra LeonePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
SomaliaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
South AfricaPresentIntroduced Invasive Henderson, 2001; ILDIS, 2007
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive DAISIE, 2013
SudanPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
SwazilandPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; Cronk and Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2007; Witt and Luke, 2017
-ZanzibarPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
TogoPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
TunisiaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
ZambiaPresentIntroduced Invasive CABI, 2005; Witt and Luke, 2017
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007

North America

BermudaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
MexicoPresentNative Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; World Agroforestry Centre, 2002Native to Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatan. Outside its native distribution this species is considered a weed.
Saint Pierre and MiquelonPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
USAPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2007
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-CaliforniaPresentILDIS, 2007
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Cronk and Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced1864 Invasive Cronk and Fuller, 1995; Binggeli, 1997; ILDIS, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007; Englberger, 2009Highly invasive in arid areas
-TexasPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; ILDIS, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003
Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003
ArubaPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003
BahamasPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
BarbadosPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003
BelizePresentNativePlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2007
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007Anegada, Guana, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola and Virgin Gorda
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012subsps. galbrata and leucocephala
CuraçaoPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003
DominicaPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive IABIN, 2003; Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
El SalvadorPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
GrenadaPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedPlanted, NaturalILDIS, 2007
HaitiPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
HondurasPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
MartiniquePresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
MontserratPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003Saba, St Martin, St Barthelemy, St Eustatius
NicaraguaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
PanamaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Federal Highway Administration, 2001; ILDIS, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007
Saint LuciaPresentNativeKairo et al., 2003; Daltry, 2009; Gardener, 2009; Graveson, 2012Indigenous and introduced germplasm. Planted for charcoal production to protect mangrove
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroduced Planted Kairo et al., 2003
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Kairo et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2007
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003; USDA-NRCS, 2004; ILDIS, 2007St Thomas, St Croix, St John

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
BoliviaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
BrazilPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Cronk and Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2007
-AcrePresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
-AlagoasPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
-AmazonasPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
-BahiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-CearaPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
-Fernando de NoronhaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-MaranhaoPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013; I3N-Brasil, 2013
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
-ParanaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
-PernambucoPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
-PiauiPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted CABI, 2005
-RondoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005; I3N-Brasil, 2013
-Sao PauloPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005; I3N-Brasil, 2013
-SergipePresentIntroduced Invasive I3N-Brasil, 2013
ChilePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
-Easter IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
ColombiaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
EcuadorPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Mauchamp, 1997; ILDIS, 2007
French GuianaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
GuyanaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
ParaguayPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
PeruPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
SurinamePresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007
UruguayPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced Planted ILDIS, 2007

Europe

CyprusPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
PortugalPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2007; DAISIE, 2013
SpainPresentIntroducedDana et al., 2005; DAISIE, 2013Naturalising

Oceania

American SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2013
AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Cronk and Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2007
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007
Caroline IslandsPresentIntroducedCABI, 2005
Cook IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2007
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007Highly invasive in arid areas
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2013
-MarquesasPresentIntroducedpre 1893 Invasive Binggeli, 1997; ILDIS, 2007
GuamWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Denslow, 2002; ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007; Englberger, 2009Highly invasive in arid areas
KiribatiPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2013
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2013
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2002; Englberger, 2009Invasive in Pohnpei. Widespread in Yap
NauruPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2013
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007
NiuePresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2007
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Weeds of Australia, 2012
Northern Mariana IslandsWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2013
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2007
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2007
SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2007
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2007
TokelauPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
TongaPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes, 1998a; Hughes, 1998b; PIER, 2007
TuvaluPresentIntroduced Planted PIER, 2002
VanuatuPresentIntroduced Invasive Hughes and Styles, 1989; ILDIS, 2007; PIER, 2007
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted PIER, 2007

History of Introduction and Spread

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Although many details of the history of introduction of L. leucocephala across the tropics remain obscure, it is clear that the shrubby 'Common' or 'Hawaiian' type belonging to subsp. leucocephala was introduced much earlier than the 'Giant' or 'Salvador' type of subsp. glabrata. Subsp. leucocephala is reported to have been introduced to the Philippines aboard one of the annual Spanish government galleons that sailed between Acapulco and Manila between 1521 and 1815 (Merrill, 1912). L. leucocephala is recorded in Blanco's 1845 Flora of the Philippines (cited in Merrill, 1918), but beyond this, the precise date of introduction is not known, although some speculate that it may have been introduced in the 1600s (Brewbaker et al., 1972; Brewbaker and Hutton, 1979; Pound and Martínez-Cairo, 1983). Reviewing the literature of spread in Asia, Tuda et al. (2009) suggest that introductions date back to as early as 1645 in Taiwan, approximately 1920 in continental China (Guangdong), prior to 1815 in the Philippines, prior to 1867 in Japan and during the Sukhothai Period (1238–1378) in Thailand.

By the late 1800s, subsp. leucocephala had spread or been introduced through much of Africa, Asia and the Pacific and it is now pantropical, recorded from the majority of tropical and subtropical countries. Invasive tendencies in the Pacific were also noted as early as 1943 in Nuie, and now it is the most prevalent invasive weed in the region and a serious problem on Tonga (PIER, 2007) and the Galapagos Islands.

Subsp. leucocephala is an aggressive colonizer of disturbed sites and is spreading naturally. It has been recorded as a weed in more than 20 countries scattered across all continents except Antarctica. All early (pre-1960) agronomic investigation, most flora treatments, and references to naturalization and weediness refer to subsp. leucocephala, which is pantropically distributed and much more widely naturalized than subsp. glabrata. The latter has been widely introduced outside Mexico and Central America only in the last few decades, but following active promotion of the species it is also now distributed virtually pantropically in cultivation. It is invasive in Guam, Mauritius and La Réunion (Macdonald et al., 1991). In Ghana, there are problems where the species has been introduced for alley cropping (Cobbinah JR, Forestry Research Institute of Ghana, personal communication, 2002). Binggeli (1997) lists it as a rapidly spreading weed in India. Similarly, Ghate (1991) reports that it was introduced to the Western Ghats in India in the late 1800s and is now reported to be expanding rapidly in all habitats. Small populations of the plant exist on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and whereas Mauchamp (1997) did not report the species behaving invasively, it was believed that it constituted a high risk. L. leucocephala is invasive in Florida, USA but not yet thought to have altered habitats (Miller et al., 2003). A record in St Louis, Missouri, USA (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007) is likely to be a protected botanical specimen. It is also considered invasive in Bermuda (de Silva H, Bermuda Zoological Society, personal communication, 2003).

Herbarium specimens recorded by ILDIS (2007) recorded presence on the Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira and on the mainland although the exact locations and frequency are not known. L. leucocephala has also been positively recorded in southern Spain from field surveys (Dana et al., 2005), and was noted to be “naturalised or on the way to naturalization”; further information on spread and risk of invasion is provided. Thus, L. leucocephala could pose a risk of invasion in more frost-free areas around the Mediterranean, and other more frost-tolerant species or hybrids would also be likely to have a further increased risk of spread.

Risk of Introduction

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This species has been so widely introduced that its range is now pantropical. It has become naturalized or invasive in many countries and due to the extent of its introduced range it is likely to be reported invasive in more countries in the future. Hughes (1998a) recommends that it should not be introduced to other countries without a risk assessment. A further risk is the tendency of this species to form spontaneous, invasive hybrids (Hughes, 1998a, b).

In South Africa it is declared a category 2 weed in the Western Cape and a category 2 weed across the rest of the country, according to the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Henderson, 2001). Federal Highway Administration (2001) list L. leucocephala and L. leucocephala var. K-8 as invasive species on Puerto Rico, classing var. K-8 as one of the most problematic invasives on the island. Space et al. (2000) list it among a number of species that are invasive elsewhere in the world and cultivated, common or weedy on the pacific island of Chuuk. A risk assessment on L. leucocephala (PIER, 2007) confirmed too little of what had become clear decades before, that it should not be imported into Australia and was likely to be of high risk in the Pacific.

Habitat

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L. leucocephala is now naturalized and weedy in many areas (Cronk and Fuller, 1995; Hughes, 1998b). It is a weed of open, often coastal habitats, semi-natural, disturbed, degraded habitats, other ruderal sites (e.g. roadsides, abandoned fields and waste ground), and occasionally agricultural land where it has been planted as a shade tree over cocoa (Hughes, 1998a). In Sri Lanka, it is invading dry-mixed evergreen forests (Bambaradeniya et al., 2001). Weediness can be a problem in many agricultural situations or where it has been planted and used in land rehabilitation, or even in intensive systems such as forest nurseries (Verma et al., 2005).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Principal habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Principal habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Arid regions Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Arid regions Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Arid regions Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Coastal areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural

List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed Sign
Digestive Signs / Excessive salivation, frothing at the mouth, ptyalism Sign
General Signs / Lack of growth or weight gain, retarded, stunted growth Sign
General Signs / Laryngeal, tracheal, pharyngeal swelling, mass larynx, trachea, pharynx Sign
General Signs / Neck swelling, mass cervical region Sign
General Signs / Underweight, poor condition, thin, emaciated, unthriftiness, ill thrift Sign
General Signs / Weight loss Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Sign
Ophthalmology Signs / Cataract, lens opacity Sign
Reproductive Signs / Abortion or weak newborns, stillbirth Sign
Reproductive Signs / Female infertility, repeat breeder Sign
Reproductive Signs / Small litter size Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Alopecia, thinning, shedding, easily epilated, loss of, hair Sign

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

L. leucocephala is a self-compatible tetraploid of probable hybrid origin. Harris et al. (1994a) showed that the most likely maternal parent species is L. pulverulenta but the paternal parent remains uncertain. Lack of natural populations of L. leucocephala, along with increasing realization of the extent and importance of indigenous domestication of Leucaena as a minor food in Mexico, led Hughes and Harris (1995) and Hughes (1998b) to speculate that L. leucocephala might have arisen in cultivation in pre-Columbian times, possibly in Veracruz, Mexico. Isoenzyme studies (Harris et al., 1994b) have revealed only limited genetic diversity within L. leucocephala. Brewbaker and Sun (1996) found that all 'Common' or 'Hawaiian' type subsp. leucocephala material of the Pacific and indeed of the world outside Mexico, are of a single genotype. It is widely acknowledged that the varieties of subsp. glabrata used in cultivation are also derived from an extremely narrow genetic base (Brewbaker, 1980, 1985; Hughes, 1989, 1998b).

High yield has been a major factor prompting the promotion and adoption of L. leucocephala, following the discovery and distribution of the so-called 'Giant' or 'Salvador' arborescent varieties, now assigned to subsp. glabrata (National Research Council Board on Science and Technology for International Development, 1984; Brewbaker, 1987). The 'Giant' varieties have consistently out-yielded the pantropically naturalized shrubby 'Common' or 'Hawaiian' varieties belonging to subsp. leucocephala by 20-100% in leaf production and up to 250% in wood production (e.g. Bray et al., 1988; Brewbaker et al., 1972; Brewbaker, 1980; Gray, 1967).

On the basis of trials in Hawaii (Brewbaker et al., 1972) and Australia (Gray, 1967), one of the then newly tested 'Giant' or 'Salvador' accessions, designated with the name 'K8', was formally released by the University of Hawaii (Brewbaker, 1975). This accession has dominated planting alongside a handful of others (e.g. K28, K67 and K72). The so called 'Peru' type, which is fast-growing with large leaves like the 'Giant' type, but also branchy like the shrubby 'Common' or 'Hawaiian' type was also used in some areas. The first bred line, cv. 'Cunningham', is an artificial hybrid between the 'Salvador' and 'Peru' types. It was developed in Australia specifically for fodder production and combines the vigour of the 'Salvador' type with the greater branchiness of the 'Peru' type. These accessions (K8, K67, Peru, Cunningham) have subsequently been widely promoted and used throughout the tropics for reforestation (Pound and Martínez-Cairo, 1983; National Research Council, 1984), despite concerns over the genetic vulnerability of only a handful of self-fertile lines, several of which originate from cultivated material, in single 'variety' plantations (Brewbaker, 1980, 1985; Hughes, 1989). Considerable efforts have been devoted to identifying and field testing additional accessions of subsp. Glabrata, however, very little variation in yield or resistance to the Leucaena psyllid pest has been detected (Brewbaker et al., 1972; Wheeler et al., 1987). One accession, K636, sometimes referred to as cv. 'Tarramba', shows greater psyllid tolerance and yield than the widely used K8, K28, K67 and K72 varieties. Three organizations, the University of Hawaii (UH), USA; CSIRO, Australia; and, the Oxford Forestry Institute (OFI, now the Department of Plant Sciences, Oxford University), UK, house important Leucaena germplasm collections (Hughes et al., 1995) including large numbers of accessions of L. leucocephala. A Leucaena germplasm catalogue has been compiled, cross-referencing all collections (Bray et al., 1997).

Artificial hybridization has been the main thrust of breeding efforts to overcome the limitations of L. leucocephala and its inherent lack of genetic and useful diversity (Brewbaker and Sorensson, 1990). L. leucocephala has been the most important parent in hybrid programmes. Useful hybrids between L. leucocephala and other tetraploid species such as L. diversifolia (hybrid KX3) and L. pallida (hybrid KX2) have been produced and are now being used (Sorensson, 1995). L. leucocephala has also been crossed with different diploid species such as L. esculenta, L. pulverulenta and L. trichandra to produce a series of impressive seedless triploid hybrids, but wider use of these hybrids is limited by lack of efficient seed production or vegetative propagation techniques (Sorensson, 1995; Hughes, 1998b).

High crossability within Leucaena (Sorensson and Brewbaker, 1994) means that L. leucocephala may also form spontaneous interspecific hybrids when brought into contact with other species of Leucaena in cultivation. Two such hybrids, the L. leucocephala X L. esculenta (L. X mixtec) hybrid, documented and named by Hughes and Harris (1994) and the L. leucocephala X L. diversifolia (L. X spontanea) identified by Hughes and Harris (1995), are relatively common.

Physiology and Phenology

L. leucocephala is self-fertile and produces prodigious quantities of seed from the first year, more or less continuously throughout the year as moisture permits, across a wide range of environments (Gonzalez et al., 1967; Pan, 1988; Hughes, 1998b). Fruits ripen in 10-15 weeks. It is slightly or completely deciduous depending on the length and severity of the dry season. If the plant is damaged by burning, then regeneration is possible from basal shoots (Cronk and Fuller, 1995).

Reproductive Biology

Generalist pollinators may pollinate this species (Hughes, 1998). L. leucocephala is self-fertile and produces seed from the first year, (Gonzalez et al., 1967; Pan, 1988; Hughes, 1998b). There are between 15,000 and 20,000 seeds per kilogram. Fruits ripen in 10-15 weeks. Seeds are dispersed mainly by gravity and though some are moved by insects and rodents this is a relatively minor process (Hughes, 1998a, b). The hard coats of seeds allow a persistent seedbank to develop (Hughes, 1998a, b).

Environmental Requirements


L. leucocephala is essentially a tropical species requiring warm temperatures of 25-30°C for optimum growth, tolerating temperature maxima as high as 48°C (Hocking, 1993), and with poor cold tolerance and significantly reduced growth during cool winter months in subtropical areas (Brewbaker and Sorensson, 1987; Williams, 1987). Therefore, it grows best in areas below about 1500 m altitude and up to 15-25° north or south of the equator, although it can survive over a much wider range to about 2000 m and to 30° north or south of the equator. L. leucocephala sheds its leaves even after light frosts; heavy frosts kill all above-ground growth, although trees often resprout after dieback. Similarly, L. leucocephala grows well only in sub-humid or humid climates (650-3000 mm) with moderate dry seasons of up to 6-7 months, although it can survive in climates with as little as 300-500 mm rainfall. It grows better in areas with a well-defined dry season (Lascano et al., 1995). A modified description of climatic requirements was prepared by CSIRO (see Booth and Jovanovic, 2000).

L. leucocephala grows well only on freely-drained, neutral, or slightly alkaline soils and is well adapted to soils derived from calcareous parent material including coral. It is known to be intolerant of soils with low pH (below pH 5), low phosphorus, low calcium, high salinity, high aluminium saturation or waterlogging and has often failed under such conditions (Brewbaker, 1987; Shelton and Brewbaker, 1994; Blamey and Hutton, 1995).

Associations

L. leucocephala has the ability to form a symbiotic association with Rhizobium root nodule bacteria, which are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Effective nodulation has been lacking in certain environments due to lack of suitable strains of Rhizobium in the soil and inoculation may be required (Halliday and Somasegaran, 1983). Rhizobium strain TAL1145, developed by NifTAL (Nitrogen Fixation by Tropical Agricultural Legumes) has been shown to be an elite strain for L. leucocephala (Somasegaran and Martin, 1986). For other plant and animal associations, refer to Hughes (1998b).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Tolerated < 860mm precipitation annually
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Tolerated Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 16 2000

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 3
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 19 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 25 36
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 10 20

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration06number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall6503000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Summer
Uniform
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • medium

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Herbivores and pathogens of L. leucocephala have been reviewed by Lenne (1991) and Boa and Lenne (1995). The most important pest of commercial plantings is the insect defoliator, Heteropsylla cubana. Two important diseases caused by fungal pathogens, Camptomeris leaf spot and gummosis have been reported, and a set of lesser-known rusts and other diseases of currently minor importance, listed by Boa and Lenne (1995). Finally, seeds of L. leucocephala are predated by a range of seed-feeding bruchids and other beetles.

L. leucocephala is susceptible to the psyllid defoliator H. cubana, being small, jumping, sap-sucking, plant-lice which damage L. leucocephala trees by feeding on developing shoots and young foliage. The psyllid causes limited tree mortality, but there is severe and cyclical defoliation, deformation, stunting and dieback. H. cubana is a classic example of a natural enemy catching up with an exotic crop species after many years of herbivore-free existence, through its accidental movement to a new area (Beardsley, 1986). Ever since the first reports of H. cubana spreading in 1984, considerable research effort has been mobilized to provide options for its control and management in association with commercial plantings (e.g. Withington and Brewbaker, 1987; Napompeth and MacDicken, 1990; Ciesla and Nshubemuki, 1995). General overviews of the psyllid problem were provided by Napompeth (1990), Bray (1994) and Geiger et al. (1995) and of the biology of H. cubana by Beardsley (1986), Waterhouse and Norris (1987), Hodkinson (1989) and Muddiman et al. (1992). The rapid spread of the psyllid westward from Central America in 1985 to almost encircle the globe within a decade is documented in detail by Muddiman et al. (1992) and Bray (1994). Attempts to document and quantify the impact of psyllid damage have been made by Mella et al. (1990) and Oka (1990), and the severity and scale of damage caused by H. cubana is extremely variable. Damage is often severe in the first two years following arrival of the psyllid, but as local, native control agents adapt and adjust, there is evidence that psyllid populations decline and the damage that they cause decreases with time. However, severe damage in Asia has been attributed, at least in part, to the extremely narrow genetic base of the handful of self-pollinated varieties of L. leucocephala that have been used (e.g. Brewbaker, 1985; Bray, 1994; Geiger et al., 1995). The possibility of identifying and using psyllid-resistant genetic material within Leucaena was proposed by Sorensson and Brewbaker (1987), Bray and Sands (1987) and Bray (1994) as one option to deal with the psyllid problem, alongside other measures such as biological control (reviewed by Mitchell, 1987; Nakahara et al., 1987; McClay, 1990; Waage, 1990). It is continuing to spread, with a first record for Chile in 2002 (Olivares and Burckhardt, 2002), and is likely to reach all countries where L. leucocephala is present).

Camptomeris leaf spot is caused by the fungus Camptomerisleucaenae, which causes leaf spotting (black spots or patches on the underside of the leaflets) and chlorosis, loss of leaflets or whole leaves, and some dieback often associated with secondary pathogens (Lenne, 1980). It is a potentially serious disease causing reduced forage yields and quality particularly in areas with rainfall >2000 mm (Lenne, 1980, 1991). Camptomeris is widespread in Latin America and the Caribbean and has also been reported from Taiwan, the Philippines and India (Boa and Lenne, 1995). L. leucocephala is apparently one of the more susceptible species in the genus (Lenne, 1980).

The cause of gummosis remains uncertain, but appears to be a canker caused by a fungus in the genus Fusarium. Gummosis is described as the most serious disease of L. leucocephala in India (Dutt, 1982) and Sri Lanka, and has also been noted in Hawaii (van den Beldt and Hodges, 1980) and Taiwan.

High proportions of seeds of L. leucocephala in Latin America are eaten by five different bruchid beetles including three species of Acanthoscelides and two species of Stator (Hughes and Johnson, 1996). So far only one bruchid, Acanthoscelides macrophthalmus has been accidentally introduced outside Latin America, into Australia (Jones, 1996), but deliberate introduction for biological control of weedy L. leucocephala is being considered in South Africa (Neser, 1994, 1996). Outside Latin America, Leucaena seeds may be heavily predated by other seed beetles. Records include the square-necked grain beetle Cathartus quadricollis reported on L. leucocephala in the Dominican Republic (Pound and Martínez-Cairo, 1983), Araecerus levipennis in Hawaii (Sherman and Tanashiro, 1956), and Araecerus fasciculatus on L. leucocephala in India (Singh et al., 1981) and the Philippines (Braza and Salise, 1988).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Seeds are dispersed by gravity, assisted by ground living insects (Cronk and Fuller, 1995), though insect and rodent movement of seeds may be a relatively minor form of dispersal in this species (Hughes, 1998a, b). Rain and water are also likely to be important means of longer range dispersal, especially via floodwaters.

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Germplasm Yes Yes
Livestock Yes
Water Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None

Impact

Top of page No precise information on economic impacts is available. Reduction in land area for activities such as farming when the species becomes weedy on abandoned cultivated land or pasture, and control operations carry an economic cost.

Economic Impact

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No precise information on the negative economic impacts due to invasions of L. leucocephala are available. Reduction in land area for activities such as farming when the species becomes weedy on abandoned cultivated land or pasture, and control operations carry an economic cost, but being a nitrogen-fixing species may means that farmers prefer it as a fallow. While highly useful as a fodder plant, it is toxic to livestock if it is used in too great a quantity in the diet.

Environmental Impact

Top of page As a nitrogen fixing species, L. leucocephala raises soil nitrogen levels with possible negative impacts on nutrient balances and cycling in invaded natural systems, as well as the well-known positive impacts on managed agricultural systems, either in spatial or temporal combinations. Much less reported, however, are possible allelopathic effects. Almost without exception, L. leucocephala is recorded as having only positive impacts on neighbouring crops in, e.g. alley cropping systems. Xuan et al. (2006) found that leaf extracts had significant herbicidal effects on a range of plant species sufficient to merit further studies incorporating the plant extract mimosine as a potential bioherbicide.

Impact on Biodiversity

When L. leucocephala forms dense thickets, other vegetation is outcompeted, with a consequent reduction in species diversity (Weber, 2003). Henderson (2001) classes it as a potential habitat transformer. Cronk and Fuller (1995) report that it L. leucocephala is degrading Metrosideros-Diospyros forest and Erythrina sanwichensis on Hawaii. Hughes (1998a,b) collates a number of examples of where monospecific thickets of L. leucocephala are degrading the indigenous flora, e.g. in the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha it is affecting the endemic Ficus noronhae and Oxalis noronha and in Ghana where it is competing with rare endemic species Commiphera dalzielii and Hunteria ghanensis. Denslow (2002) reports that its introduction to Guam was for reforesting bombed areas, but the species is now preventing the establishment of indigenous species. It is one of a number of species that are preventing the regeneration of native forest vegetation in Mauritius (A Hamilton, WWF International, personal communication, 2002).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Euphorbia kuwaleana (`akoko)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998b
Hylaeus assimulans (assimulans yellow-faced bee)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014a
Hylaeus facilis (easy yellow-faced bee)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014b
Isodendrion pyrifoliumCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationNatureServe, 2010
Lobelia niihauensis (Niihau lobelia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998b
Melanthera tenuifolia (Waianae Range nehe)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998b
Nototrichium humile (kaala rockwort)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008a
Panicum fauriei (Carter's panicgrass)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011c
Panicum niihauense (Niihau panicgrass)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008b
Partula gibba (humped tree snail)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species; Northern Mariana IslandsEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2015
Partula radiolata (Guam tree snail)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2015
Peucedanum sandwicense (makou)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesHawaiiCompetition - shadingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011b
Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis (ulihi phyllostegia)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995
Plantago hawaiensis (Hawai'i plantain)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service,
Poa mannii (Mann's bluegrass)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010a
Santalum freycinetianum var. lanaienseNo DetailsHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011d
Scaevola coriacea (dwarf naupaka)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010d
Schiedea adamantis (Diamond Head schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008c
Schiedea apokremnos (Kauai schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010e
Schiedea hookeri (sprawling schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011e
Schiedea kealiae (Waianae Range schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010b
Schiedea spergulina var. leiopodaNational list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010f
Sesbania tomentosaNational list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010g
Silene hawaiiensis (Hawaii catchfly)USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesHawaiiCompetition - shadingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996a
Silene lanceolata (Kauai catchfly)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010h
Spermolepis hawaiiensis (Hawaii scaleseed)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010i
Sylvilagus palustris hefneri (Lower Keys marsh rabbit)National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2007
Tetramolopium filiforme (ridgetop tetramolopium)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010j
Tetramolopium capillare (pamakani)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1997
Tetramolopium remyi (Awalua Ridge tetramolopium)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995
Vigna o-wahuensis (Oahu cowpea)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alteration; Pest and disease transmissionUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011a
Viola lanaiensis (Hawaii violet)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995
Wilkesia hobdyi (dwarf iliau)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010c
Zanthoxylum dipetalum var. tomentosumCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - smothering; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009
Chrysodracon hawaiiensis (hala pepe)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998a

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition - strangling
  • Competition
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Interaction with other invasive species
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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L. leucocephala has been used for soil improvement, soil conservation and erosion control in diverse agroforestry combinations and systems including alley farming, live-barriers on terrace boundaries, shelterbelts or windbreaks, or simply as dispersed trees over crops. Leaves of L. leucocephala are widely recognized as a valuable green manure in cropping systems. It has also been used in wider land rehabilitation and revegetation efforts in some areas, sometimes using aerial seeding, e.g. in Guam.

The wood properties of L. leucocephala have been thoroughly investigated and documented (Bawagan, 1983; Pound and Martínez-Cairo, 1983; van den Beldt and Brewbaker, 1985). Most authors have emphasized the potential to use L. leucocephala wood for a wide range of products including domestic and industrial fuel (including electricity generation), poles, posts, sawn timber, furniture, parquet flooring, particle board and pulp. However, the potential to use L. leucocephala for sawn timber is limited by its generally small dimensions usually not greater than 30 cm diameter, its branchiness which limits the lengths of clear bole available and means that the wood is often knotty, and its high proportion of juvenile wood. Nevertheless, there is increasing use of small dimension sawn wood in a number of industries such as flooring, which might mean that there is a larger market for L. leucocephala sawn wood in the future. In practice, the wood is primarily used as a low to medium quality fuelwood and charcoal for domestic household or local industrial use (e.g. lime or pottery kilns), and for small dimension poles. Use of short-rotation L. leucocephala for poles is limited by lack of durability and susceptibility to attack by termites and wood borers (Timyan, 1996). It is a popular fuel, often competing with alternative local species in areas where fuelwood is in short supply (National Research Council, 1984), but not with the higher quality fuelwood obtained from species of Acacia or Prosopis. The promised potential for large-scale use of Leucaena in pulp production or dendrothermal energy plantations has not come to fruition. Indeed, despite much discussion about its wood production potential, L. leucocephala has not become an established or widely cultivated plantation species that is able to compete with the species of Pinus, Eucalyptus or Acacia which dominate tropical plantation forestry.

L. leucocephala has been one of the foremost tropical fodder trees, often being described as the 'alfalfa of the tropics' (Bray, 1986; Pound and Martínez-Cairo, 1983; National Research Council, 1984; Brewbaker, 1987; Shelton and Brewbaker, 1994). L. leucocephala is, in most respects, one of the highest quality and most palatable fodder trees of the tropics (Jones, 1979, 1994; Pound and Martínez-Cairo, 1983; Brewbaker, 1987; Shelton and Brewbaker, 1994; Norton et al., 1995). Leaf quality of L. leucocephala compares favourably with alfalfa (Medicago sativa) in feed value except for its higher tannin content (Jones, 1979) and mimosine toxicity to non-ruminants (Bray, 1995). Leaves of L. leucocephala have high nutritive value (high palatability, digestibility, intake and crude protein content), resulting in impressive animal production with 70-100% increases in animal live-weight gains compared with pure grass pastures (Shelton and Brewbaker, 1994; Jones, 1994). In addition, L. leucocephala is very persistent over several decades of cutting or grazing, is very productive, recovers quickly from defoliation, combines well with companion grasses and can be grazed with minimal losses due to trampling or grazing (Jones, 1994). L. leucocephala has also been used for leaf meal which is milled, pelleted and sold internationally for incorporation in commercial poultry and pig feed providing a significant source of rural income in parts of Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand (Manidool, 1983; Jones et al., 1992, 1997).

The undesirable (toxic) effects of feeding Leucaena fodder are largely attributed to the non-protein amino acid, mimosine which is converted to DHP (3-hydroxy-4-1(H)-pyridone) in the rumen (reviewed by Jones, 1979, 1994). Mimosine toxicity can be avoided by limiting feed intake of L. leucocephala to less than 30% of the diet (Bray, 1986). However, for ruminants, a much more effective and elegant solution is the introduction of the rumen microbe Synergistes jonesii which is capable of detoxifying mimosine and DHP (reviewed by Jones, 1994). This has largely solved the mimosine problem for ruminants. As a result, interest in the quest for low mimosine Leucaena varieties and hybrids has waned. However, mimosine remains a significant problem for non-ruminants, restricting the use of Leucaena, and is the main disadvantage of Leucaena in leaf meal production compared with alfalfa (Bray, 1995). Work to develop low mimosine varieties and hybrids was reviewed by Bray (1984, 1986, 1995), Bray et al. (1988) and Hutton (1985).

Leaves of L. leucocephala have also been widely used as a green manure in cropping systems. The value of Leucaena leaf litter as a fertilizer from trees maintained over crops is recognized by farmers in Central America, Indonesia and the Philippines (Dijkman, 1950). In parts of Indonesia and the Philippines, L. leucocephala has been used for several decades to create contour hedgerows or live-barrier terraces for erosion control, but with widely recognized benefits in terms of soil fertility (Parera, 1983). More recently, L. leucocephala was one of the first species to be successfully adapted to formal alley farming (Kang et al., 1981, 1985). L. leucocephala leaves are fragile and decompose quickly providing a very rapid, short-term influx of nutrients related to a low C:N ratio (Weeraratna, 1982; Hocking, 1993). It was also found by Torres (1983), Kang et al. (1985), Mureithi et al. (1994) and Palm (1995) that maize yields can be maintained in Leucaena alley farming in the absence of fertilizer inputs. However, because leaves of L. leucocephala decompose so rapidly, they have little value as mulch for weed control which is widely recognized as one of the main benefits of alley farming, particularly in the humid tropics.

In Mexico, L. leucocephala is an important food plant (Casas and Caballero, 1996; reviewed by Hughes, 1998b). Subsp. glabrata is widely cultivated in backyards, gardens and small orchards for the production of edible unripe pods and seeds which are consumed and widely marketed throughout the country. Its unripe pods and seeds are preferred over most other species of Leucaena for food use, due to abundant and virtually year-round production of large pods, the large seed size and its 'sweeter' flavour. L. leucocephala and L. esculenta are the most widely cultivated and marketed species of Leucaena within Mexico. Unripe pods and seeds of Leucaena are also used for food in parts of Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, (National Research Council, 1984; Brewbaker and Hutton, 1979; Manidool, 1983; Pound and Martínez-Cairo, 1983; Brewbaker, 1987; Jones et al., 1992, 1997; Sampet et al., 1995). Food use of Leucaena in Asia has been further adapted to local culinary practices through use of young leafy shoots as vegetables and in soups (Manidool, 1983), young seedling sprouts (roots of 3-day-old seedlings), and preparation of fermented tempe from Leucaena seeds in parts of Java, Indonesia (Jones et al., 1992, 1997).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage

Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Amenity
  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Land reclamation
  • Landscape improvement
  • Revegetation
  • Shade and shelter
  • Soil conservation
  • Soil improvement
  • Windbreak

Fuels

  • Charcoal
  • Fuelwood
  • Miscellaneous fuels

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Research model

Genetic importance

  • Gene source

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora
  • salad
  • Seeds
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Fertilizer
  • Fibre
  • Green manure
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Mulches
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical

Ornamental

  • Potted plant

Wood Products

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Charcoal

Furniture

Roundwood

  • Building poles
  • Posts

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Beams
  • For heavy construction

Prevention and Control

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Control

Cultural control

Hughes (1994) reports an example in Java, Indonesia where a sterile hybrid of L. leucocephala was planted instead of reproductive individuals after problems of weediness were encountered when the species was planted as a plantation shade tree elsewhere in the region.
 
Being a highly palatable species, grazing could be used as a means of control, and grazing by goats was found to control L. leucocephala in Hawaii (PIER, 2007).
Where Leucaena is a weed in forest nurseries in India, solarization was found to be 100% effective in killing all plants and seeds (Verma et al., 2005), whereby a plastic sheet was used to cover moist soil for one month, increasing soil temperatures by 10-12°C.

Best practice guidelines are being developed and implemented in parts of Australia where the species is cultivated as a fodder, with the aim of reducing the risks of escape, spread and invasion of neighbouring habitats. If found to be effective, such a model could be attempted in other countries where it is cultivated.

Mechanical control

Like most agroforestry trees it will resprout vigorously after cutting and some or all of the root mass must thus be removed. Weber (2003) reports that pulling or digging is appropriate for young plants, whereas cutting followed by herbicide is used for older plants, and this combination has been used effectively in Hawaii (PIER, 2007).

Chemical control

PIER (2007) notes that chemical control is possible, with triclopyr applied to foliage, tebuthiuron applied to the soil, or triclopyr ester, 2,4-D in diesel and to a lesser extent diesel alone as a basal bark treatments. In combination with mechanical cutting, treatment of cut stumps is effective with picloram but not with dicamba, and with triclopyr ester applied to stump bark.

Biological control

This was first contemplated in Hawaii (Smith, 1985) and South Africa (Neser, 1994), but is made more difficult by the economic importance of L. leucocephala. Proposals to release the seed-eating bruchid Acanthoscelides macrophthalmus in South Africa were pursued (Neser, 1994) and the organism has been released (Henderson, 2001), beginning in 1999 (Sharatt and Olckers, 2012). This seed predator has since itself invaded the Far East through the South Asian tropics and subtropics, presumably along with the introduction of its host (Tuda et al., 2009) and has also been accidentally introduced into Australia. In South Africa, subsequent study of specificity of the bruchid has confirmed that the decision to release it was justified (Shoba and Olckers, 2010), and the beetle has become widely established in KwaZulu-Natal (where releases were mostly made), but also in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the North West Provinces (Olckers, 2011). Sharatt and Olckers (2012), however, report that the modest levels of seed damage in their study in South Africa appear insufficient to regulate populations of L. leucocephala. Ramanand and Olckers (2013) suggest high egg mortality as one of several factors limiting efficacy of the beetle in South Africa.

Wu et al. (2013) examine the biology of A. macrophthalmus in relation to its potential for use in integrated control of L. leucocephala in Taiwan.

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Contributors

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23/09/13 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

22/11/2007 Updated by:

Nick Pasiecznik, Consultant, France

Distribution Maps

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