Sesbania sericea (silky sesban)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Sesbania sericea (Willd.) Link, 1822
Preferred Common Name
- silky sesban
Other Scientific Names
- Agati sericea (Willd.) Hitchc
- Coronilla sericea Willd.
- Sesban sericeus (Willd.) Britton & P. Wilson
- Sesbania aculeata var. sericea Baker
- Sesbania polyphylla Miq.
- Sesbania pubescens DC.
International Common Names
- Spanish: coronilla; papagayo
Local Common Names
- Dominican Republic: tamarindillo
- Indonesia: turi
- Lesser Antilles: danglepod
- Venezuela: papagallo
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
S. sericea is a fast-growing, short-lived woody shrub of frequently disturbed areas. It is commonly planted in agroforestry systems to be used as green manure, animal forage, and for soil improvement (Ipor and Oyen, 1997). However, each plant is able to produce large amounts of seeds, allowing the species to escape from cultivated areas and colonize new habitats. Seeds may survive in the soil for several months (up to one year) waiting for suitable conditions to germinate. Once established in new areas, S. sericea grows forming dense thickets and competing aggressively with grasses and native vegetation (Francis, 2000). It is included in the Global Compendium of Weeds as a natural and agricultural weed (Randall, 2012).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Faboideae
- Genus: Sesbania
- Species: Sesbania sericea
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The legume genus Sesbania is placed in the Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae (USDA-ARS, 2012). The genus comprises about 60 species of herbs, shrubs, or small trees (Mabberley, 1997) distributed in tropical and subtropical regions. The centre of diversity of this genus is located in Africa, where more than 30 species occur (Masrahi et al., 2012). Most of the species within this genus are nitrogen-fixers, which enables these plants to grow vigorously on nutrient deficient soils. Consequently, the species Sesbania cannabina, S. grandiflora, S. exalta, S. sesban and S. sericea have been used extensively in agroforestry as fodder, green manure, and soil-improver plants (Ipor and Oyen, 1997).
DescriptionTop of page
Annual or biennial shrub, commonly 1 to 3 m tall but growing up to 6 m and with basal diameters reaching 10 cm under favourable conditions. Leaves are pinnately compound, 5 to 25 cm long and support (5)10 to 20 leaflet pairs. The leaflets are oblong to elliptic, rounded at both ends, mucronate at the apex, base slightly asymmetric, with a silky pubescence below. Stems often with minute prickles and often hidden among the hairs. The racemes have 2 to 8 flowers, peduncle up to 2 cm long, softly silky or pilose; pedicel 3-8 mm long, sparsely silky pilose; calyx 3-5× 3 mm, tube glabrous, teeth triangular, up to 0.7 mm long; corolla yellow, greenish-yellow, or orange. The brown pods that develop after flowering are 10 to 20 cm long, 3 mm broad, cylindrical, linear, long-tipped at apex, containing 20 to 30 seeds. Seeds 2- 3 mm long, 1.5 mm broad, cylindrical, brown to reddish-brown, with tiny blackish spots (Gillett et al., 1971; Ipor and Oyen, 1997).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
The native distribution range of S. sericea is uncertain. While for some authors this species is native to Sri Lanka (Howard, 1988), other authors refer the native distribution range of this species to South East Asia and Africa (Long and Lakela, 1976). For this datasheet, we refer to the USDA-ARS GRIN Database that considers the native distribution range of S. sericea to be tropical Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and South-east Asia (USDA-ARS, 2012). Currently, this species is widely distributed in tropical and subtropical areas including Florida, Guatemala, the Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Lesser Antilles, Trinidad and Tobago, Surinam, French Guiana, and Venezuela, (Liogier, 1988).
Distribution TableTop of page
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.Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Reported by I. Urban in his book Symbolae Antillanae (1903-1911); First reported: 1903-1911|
|Bahamas||Present||Introduced||1903||Date of introduction based on Smithsonian Herbarium Collections|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||1911||Date of introduction based on Smithsonian Herbarium Collections|
|Guadeloupe||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Reported by I. Urban in his book Symbolae Antillanae (1903-1911); First reported: 1903-1911|
|Haiti||Present||Introduced||1911||Date of introduction based on Smithsonian Herbarium Collections|
|Jamaica||Present||Introduced||1905||Reported in 1920 as apparently spontaneous by Fawcett & Barton-Rendle, 1920. Date of introduction based on Smithsonian Herbarium Collections|
|Martinique||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Reported by I. Urban in his book Symbolae Antillanae (1903-1911); First reported: 1903-1911|
|Netherlands Antilles||Present||Introduced||1909||St. Martin|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Introduced||1884||Invasive||Also on Vieques Island. Date of introduction based on Smithsonian Herbarium Collections|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Canouan|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present||Introduced||1921||Date of introduction based on Smithsonian Herbarium Collections|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||1879||Invasive||St. Croix and St. Thomas, St. John|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Florida||Present||Introduced||Date of introduction based on C.F. Millspaugh, 1907; First reported: 1900-1904|
|Venezuela||Present||Introduced||Carabobo, Miranda, Nueva Esparta, Sucre|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
S. sericea has been widely introduced in tropical and subtropical countries to be used in agroforestry systems. It is a nitrogen-fixing species commonly used as animal fodder, green manure, and for soil improvement. S. sericea was collected in Florida as early as 1904 and was reported as an introduced species growing in disturbed areas by C.F. Millspaugh in his book Flora of the Sand Keys of Florida (Millspaugh, 1907).
For the West Indies, this species was first reported in 1879 by H.F.A. Eggers as an “uncommon species” growing in thickets near to the coast on the island of St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands). Later, this species appears in herbarium collections made in 1884 in Puerto Rico, 1903 in the Bahamas, 1905 in Jamaica, and 1911 in Hispaniola (Smithsonian Institution, 2012). For the islands of Antigua, Guadalupe, and Martinique, this species was first reported between 1903-1911 by Ignaz Urban in his book Symbolae Antillanae (volume IV, 1903-1911) and by 1909, it was reported as “established” by I. Boldingh for the island of St. Martin (Boldingh, 1909).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
The risk of introduction of S. sericea is moderate to high. The species is an aggressive competitor and each plant is able to produce large amounts of seed that can be easily dispersed by wind, water, grazing animals, and by human activities. Seeds can remain viable on the soil for several months and they can also germinate in high rates on moist bare soil (Francis, 2000). Thus, the probability of colonizing new habitats remains high.
HabitatTop of page
S. sericea is highly intolerant to shade and it germinates and grows best on disturbed soil and areas exposed to open sunlight. This species can be found growing on low fertility and poorly drained soils along roadsides, disturbed areas, waste ground, coastal forest, riparian areas, secondary forest and scrublands near cultivated areas (Francis, 2000).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Present, no further details||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
S. sericea has 2n = 24 chromosomes (Long and Lakela 1976).
Sesbania flowers are hermaphroditic and open for 2-3 days. Flowers are visited by insects, mainly bees. Species within this genus are self- and cross-compatible, but under natural conditions, outcrossing is probably the common method of reproduction. In the case of isolated trees, substantial selfing might occur to ensure reproduction (Heering, 1993).
S. sericea is a short-lived plant species. Plants live from 8 months to one year, depending on environmental conditions (i.e., soil humidity). After germination, seedlings are about 10 cm tall by the end of the first month and they can reach heights ranging from 2 to 6 metres in about 6 months. Plants die when their seeds are mature (Francis, 2000).
S. sericea prefers to grow in seasonally wet environments mainly in tropical areas. This species develops best in tropical temperatures (around 25-30°C), with annual rainfall varying from 500 to 2000 mm. S. sericea is very tolerant to drought, but does not tolerate frost (even light frost generates damage in plants). It is adapted to grow on seasonally waterlogged soils and it can also grow on clay, moderately acid and alkaline soils (Ipor and Oyer, 1997). It can grow on soils with low fertility and tolerates moderate amounts of salts in the soil (Francis, 2000).
ClimateTop of page
|Af - Tropical rainforest climate||Preferred||> 60mm precipitation per month|
|Am - Tropical monsoon climate||Preferred||Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||40|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||5|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||500||2000||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
The species Mesoplatys ochroptera (Chrysomelidae: Coleoptera) and Coptosoma sp. (Plataspidae: Heteroptera) have been reported feeding on S. sericea in natural stands and agroforestry systems in southern Malawi (Sileshi et al., 2000).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
S. sericea spreads by seeds that allow this species to easily escape from cultivated areas. Each plant is able to produce hundreds of seeds that can be easily dispersed by wind, water, grazing animals, and adhered to agricultural machinery. Germination rate is very high and seeds are able to remain dormant for several months (up to years) on the soil (Francis, 2000).
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Animal production||Used as fodder||Yes||Yes||Ipor and Oyen (1997)|
|Crop production||Used as green manure||Yes||Yes||Ipor and Oyen (1997)|
|Digestion and excretion||Used as fodder||Yes||Yes||Ipor and Oyen (1997)|
|Disturbance||Seeds germinate on disturbed areas||Yes||Yes||Francis (2000)|
|Forage||Yes||Yes||Ipor and Oyen (1997)|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
S. sericea has the potential to grow forming dense thickets which can displace native vegetation and wildlife. Thickets and dense stands created by this species can also impact habitats along river and stream banks because they can decrease water flows (Francis, 2000). On the island of St Croix (US Virgin Islands) this species negatively impacts the nesting areas of the sea turtle species Eretmochelys imbricate, Dermochelys coriacea, and Chelonia mydas. On this island, for these three sea turtle species, the access to nesting areas in upper beach areas has been eliminated by the establishment of dense stands of S. sericea in mid-beach areas. Consequently nests laid in the lower beach area are often too close to the high water mark and can be washed away during heavy tides or because of natural beach erosion cycles. In addition, roots of S. sericea can infiltrate nests decreasing nest moisture levels causing unnaturally low hatch success (Lombard, 2006).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Chelonia mydas (green sea turtle)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species||United States Virgin Islands||Rooting||Lombard (2006)|
|Dermochelys coriacea||VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)||United States Virgin Islands||Rooting||Lombard (2006)|
|Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtle)||CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species||United States Virgin Islands||Rooting||Lombard (2006)|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Highly mobile locally
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Soil accretion
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Transportation disruption
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - smothering
- Rapid growth
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
UsesTop of page
As with other Sesbania species, S. sericea is a nitrogen-fixing species commonly planted in agroforestry systems to be used as green manure, animal fodder, and for soil improvement. It is also planted in some areas for firewood. In Southeast Asia, seeds are used to produce natural gum and resin. The endosperm of 100 g of seeds contains 25-30 g of gum made up of galactose and mannose. This gum is water-soluble and produces a smooth, light colored, coherent and elastic film used for sizing textiles and paper products and for thickening and stabilizing solutions (Ipor and Oyer, 1997).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Green manure
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Mechanical control prior to seed set will be helpful in controlling future infestations, but this process must be practiced over a several year period as dormant seeds will continue to germinate. Seedlings and young plants should be hand-pulled and removed from treated areas, while large plants should be cut with specialized equipment (Ipor and Oyer, 1997).
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
- Reproductive biology and breeding system
- Studies on the distribution within its native and introduced ranges as well as the history of introduction are needed.
- Studies focused on evaluating the impact of this exotic species on native plants are needed.
- Recommendations for management and control in natural areas invaded by this species are also needed.
ReferencesTop of page
Acevedo-Rodríguez P, 1996. Flora of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, 78:1-581.
Acevedo-Rodríguez P; Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm
Adams CD, 1972. Flowering Plants of Jamaica. University of the West Indies, 267.
Boldingh I, 1909. The Flora of the Dutch West Indian Islands St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Martin. Leiden, Netherlands: Late E.J. Brill Ltd, 594 pp.
Broome R; Sabir K; Carrington S, 2007. Plants of the Eastern Caribbean. Online database. Barbados: University of the West Indies. http://ecflora.cavehill.uwi.edu/index.html
Correll DS; Correll HB, 1982. Flora of the Bahama Archipelago. Vaduz, Germany: J. Cramer, 1692 pp.
Eggers HFA, 1879. The Flora of St. Croix and the Virgin Islands. Washington, USA: Washington Government Printing Office, 148 pp.
Fawcett W; Rendle AB, 1920. Flora of Jamaica: containing descriptions of the flowering plants known from the island. London, UK: British Museum, 369 pp.
Francis JK, 2000. Wildland Shrubs of the United States and its Territories: Thamnic Descriptions. General Technical Report - International Institute of Tropical Forestry, IITF-WB-1. http://www.fs.fed.us/global/iitf/wildland_shrubs.htm
Funk V; Hollowell T; Berry P; Kelloff C; Alexander SN, 2007. Checklist of the plants of the Guiana Shield (Venezuela: Amazonas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro; Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana). Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 584 pp.
Gillett JB; Polhill RM; Verdcourt B, 1971. Flora of tropical East Africa. Leguminosae (Part 3) Subfamily Papilionoideae (1); Leguminosae (Part 4) Subfamily Papilionoideae (2) [ed. by Milne Redhead, E.\Polhill, R. M.]. London, UK: Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, 1108 pp.
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Heering JH, 1993. The reproductive biology of three perennial Sesbania species (Leguminosae). Euphytica, 74:143-148.
Hokche O; Berry PE; Huber O, 2008. New catalogue of the vascular plants of Venezuela (Nuevo Catalogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela). Caracas, Venezuela: Fundacion Instituto Botanico de Venezuela.
Howard RA, 1988. Leguminosae. Flora of Lesser Antilles (Dicotyledoneae-Part 1), 4. 334-538.
Ipor IB; Oyen LPA, 1997. Sesbania sericea. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia, No. 11. Auxiliary Plants [ed. by Faridan-Hanum, I. \Maesen, L. J. G. van der]. Bogor, Indonesia: PROSEA Foundation, 236-240.
Liogier AH, 1988. Flora of Puerto Rico and Adjacent Islands: A Systematic Synopsis. Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico.
Lombard CD, 2006. Protecting endangered sea turtle nesting habitat through invasive vegetation removal, St. Croix USVI. 2006 Grants Report: Volunteers Working With Invasives, US Fish and Wildlife Service. http://www.fws.gov/refuges/IS/2006/IGR_display_IGR_Internet_2006.cfm?ID=69
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Millspaugh CF, 1907. Flora of the Sand Keys of Florida. Fieldiana: Botany, 118(5):59 pp.
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Perkins J, 1907. The Leguminosae of Porto Rico. In: Contributions from the US National Herbarium, 10 (4) 220 pp.
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ContributorsTop of page
11/03/13 Original text by:
Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
Distribution MapsTop of page
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