Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Calliandra houstoniana var. calothyrsus



Calliandra houstoniana var. calothyrsus (calliandra)


  • Last modified
  • 13 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Calliandra houstoniana var. calothyrsus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • calliandra
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus, native to Central America, has been widely introduced in agroforestry systems in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is a fast growing nitrogen-fixing tree toleran...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Calliandra houstoniana var. calothyrsus (Meissner) Barneby

Preferred Common Name

  • calliandra

Other Scientific Names

  • Anneslia acapulcensis Britton & Rose
  • Anneslia calothyrsus (Meisn.) Donn.-Sm.
  • Anneslia confusa (Sprague & Riley) Britton & Rose
  • Anneslia similis (Sprague & Riley) Britton & Rose
  • Calliandra acapulcensis (Britton & Rose) Standley
  • Calliandra calothyrsus Meissner
  • Calliandra confusa Sprague & Riley
  • Calliandra similis Sprague & Riley
  • Feuilleea calothyrsa Kuntze

International Common Names

  • English: powderpuff; red calliandra

Local Common Names

  • : barbe jolote; barbe sol; barbillo; cabellito; cabello de angel; clavellino; pelo de angel
  • Brazil: caliandra
  • Indonesia: kaliandra; kalliandra merah
  • Malaysia: kaliandra
  • Mexico: barbe jolote; barbe sol; barbillo; cabellito; cabello de angel; clavellino; pelo de angel
  • Philippines: calliandra
  • Samoa: kaliana

EPPO code

  • CDACA (Calliandra calothyrsus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus, native to Central America, has been widely introduced in agroforestry systems in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is a fast growing nitrogen-fixing tree tolerant to repeated cutting and poor and acid soils. This species is so hardy and reproduces so easily that it has become a weed in woodland, along riverbanks and roadsides, in wasteland, and in undisturbed open forests (Barneby, 1998). It is an aggressive colonizer of disturbed habitats and it has become invasive in Hawaii, Uganda, and the Dominican Republic (Kairo et al., 2003; Parker and Parsons, 2012). C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is highly adaptable and able to grow in a wide variety of soil and environmental conditions (Macqueen, 1992; Palmer et al., 1994). Due to its rapid growth rates and high densities achieved when grown under favourable conditions, this species has the potential to suppress competing plants very quickly when competing for water and nutrients (CONABIO, 2001).

Noting its growth characteristics and now pan-tropical presence, it is possible that this species may also become invasive in other countries in the future, especially in natural ecosystems. However, being highly valued, it is probable that in developing countries it could be controlled by heavy utilization.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Mimosoideae
  •                                 Genus: Calliandra
  •                                     Species: Calliandra houstoniana var. calothyrsus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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At the present, the genus Calliandra includes about 150 species placed within the subfamily Mimosoideae (Stevens, 2012). There has been a considerable confusion regarding the taxonomy of the genus Calliandra due to the morphological similarity of several species and observed hybridization between C. grandiflora and C. houstoniana (Hernandez, 1991; Palmer et al., 1994). Significant work was conducted on the taxonomy of Calliandra in the 1990s in response to its growing use as an agroforestry species, alongside similar detailed work on other legumes trees native to Central America such as Leucaena species. For example, a revision of the taxonomy of Calliandra series Racemosae was undertaken by Macqueen and Hernandez (1997), and a series of publications was produced by Chamberlain (1998).

The species Calliandra houstoniana var. calothyrsus was first described as Calliandra calothyrsus Meissner in 1848. This original description was based on introduced material collected in Surinam (Barneby, 1998). Confusion has been also generated by the use of two later synonyms: Calliandra confusa Sprague & L.Riley and Calliandra similis Sprague & L.Riley, described simultaneously from Guatemala and Costa Rica in 1923 (Macqueen, 1992). In recent years, studies of herbarium collections have led to the conclusion that all these names have to be placed as synonyms of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus (Macqueen, 1992; ILDIS, 2014).

As this is by far the most widespread and most important species in the genus, it is not unreasonable that it has taken the genus name calliandra as the vernacular name – in the same way that leucaena has become the default common name for Leucaena leucocephala. Spelling may vary, however, such as kaliandra in South-East Asia. Also, due to its showy red flowers, it is also sometime known as red calliandra in order to differentiate it from other species in the genus. Another name, the powderpuff tree, is however, also applied to a number of other species with similar flowers and so can cause confusion.


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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is a small, thornless, often multistemmed shrub or small tree. Under optimum conditions it can attain a height of 12 m and a trunk diameter of 30 cm, but its average height is 5-6 m and diameter 20 cm. Leafstalks of larger leaves 8-15 cm, their longer interpinnal segments 6-10 (-12) mm; rachis of longer pinnae (4) 5-8.5 cm; longer leaflets linear acute 4-9(-10) × 0.65-1.9 mm, either straight or gently incurved. Inflorescence-axes either glabrous, or puberulent, or pilose, but the peduncles at most thinly so; peduncles (3-)4-12(-15) mm; pedicels 2-4.5 mm ; perianth commonly glabrous, rarely micropuberulent; calyx 1.6-2.3 x 2.2-3.2 mm, the teeth 0.25-0.6 mm; corolla (6-)6.5-9.5(-11.5) mm, the lobes as long as tube or separating to rim of stemonozone; androecium 40-52-merous, usually crimson throughout, occasionally pallid proximally and pink distally. Pods in profile 8-11 (-12) × 1.1-1.6 cm, commonly glabrous or micropuberulent, less often strigulose or even pilose (Barneby, 1998; Orwa et al., 2009). 

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated


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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is native to humid regions of Mexico and Central America (ILDIS, 2014). The northern limits of its range are on the Pacific coast of Mexico at Colima, due west of Mexico City, with an outlying population in Veracruz in the east on the Gulf of Mexico. The southern limit of its native range is on the Pacific coast of central Panama (Macqueen and Hernandez, 1997). It has been introduced in India, Indonesia, Africa, South America, the West Indies, and on several islands in the Pacific Ocean (see distribution table for details, Barneby, 1998; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). 

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


IndiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedMash-Hady, 1991
-GujaratPresent Planted
-KarnatakaPresentIntroducedKushalappa, 1989
-KeralaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-MaharashtraPresent Planted
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-JavaPresentIntroduced1936Zuhri and Mutaqien, 2013; ILDIS, 2014
-Nusa TenggaraPresentIntroducedMendra et al., 1995
-SulawesiPresent Planted
-SumatraPresent Planted
LaosPresent Planted
PakistanPresent Planted
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedBraza, 1991
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedLiyanage, 1993; PROTA, 2014
TaiwanPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2014
ThailandPresent Planted
VietnamPresent Planted


BotswanaPresent Planted
CameroonPresentIntroducedDuguma and Mollet, 1997; PROTA, 2014
EritreaPresent Planted
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedKahsay and Berhe Tothill, 1995; PROTA, 2014
GabonPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2014
KenyaPresentIntroducedHeineman et al., 1997; BioNET-EAFRINET, 2014; GBIF, 2014Naturalized
MadagascarPresent Planted
MalawiPresent Planted
NigeriaPresentIntroducedLarbi et al., 1998
RéunionPresentIntroducedCattet, 1996
RwandaPresentIntroducedBurren and Glatz, 1992; Orwa et al., 2009
SenegalPresentIntroducedLesueur, 2000
South AfricaPresent Planted
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedBioNET-EAFRINET, 2014Naturalized
TogoPresentIntroducedLehmann and Schroth, 1993
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive BioNET-EAFRINET, 2014
ZambiaPresent Planted
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedMafongoya and Nair, 1996

North America

MexicoPresentNativeILDIS, 2014Chiapas, Colima, Jalisco, Oaxaca, Veracruz
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Parker and Parsons, 2012; PIER, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentNativeILDIS, 2014
Costa RicaPresentNativeZamora, 2010
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003
El SalvadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
GuatemalaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
HaitiPresentIntroducedBarneby, 1998
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
JamaicaPresentIntroduced1980McDonald et al., 2001Cultivated
NicaraguaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
PanamaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentCrespo et al., 2011
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedGraveson, 2012Naturalized

South America

BoliviaPresentIntroducedPalmer et al., 1994
BrazilPresent Planted
ColombiaPresent Planted
EcuadorPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
French GuianaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014
GuyanaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2014
PeruPresent Planted
SurinamePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2014
VenezuelaPresent Planted


American SamoaPresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn, 2000Cultivated
AustraliaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Csurhes and Edwards, 1998; PIER, 2014
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedShelton et al., 1996
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedShelton et al., 1996
FijiPresent Planted
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedMacKee, 1994Cultivated
NiuePresentIntroduced Not invasive Space et al., 2004; PIER, 2014Cultivated
PalauPresentIntroduced Not invasive Space et al., 2003; PIER, 2014Cultivated
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedBrook, 1992
SamoaPresentIntroducedRosecrance et al., 1992; PIER, 2014
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive PIER, 2014
TongaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Space and Flynn, 2001; PIER, 2014Cultivated
VanuatuPresent Planted

History of Introduction and Spread

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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus has been widely introduced in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It was introduced by Dutch botanists from Guatemala to Java, Indonesia in 1936 as a possible source of green manure and shade for coffee plantations. The species is now found throughout the Indonesian archipelago. During the 1970s, sponsored by the Indonesian State Forest Corporation, this species was planted in many areas of Java and elsewhere in Indonesia (Palmer et al., 1994). In the 1980s it was also introduced to other areas of Southeastern Asia and in Africa, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Hawaii (Ella et al., 1989). In Jamaica, it was also introduced in the 1980s for its value for erosion control in agricultural systems (McDonald et al., 2001).

Although naturalised in many parts of Indonesia it was occasionally reported as spreading but not invading. However, there was a recent report of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus invading into Mt Gede Pangrango National Park, western Java, which was thought to have escaped from the non-native plant species collection in Cibodas Botanical Garden (Zuhri and Mutagien, 2013).

It is reported as naturalized on Maui and Lanai Islands, Hawaii (Imada, 2008) and as having become invasive in Hawaii (PIER, 2014), but the date of introduction has not been verified.


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Indonesia Guatemala 1936 Forestry (pathway cause) Yes Palmer et al. (1994)
Jamaica Central America 1980 Habitat restoration and improvement (pathway cause) Yes McDonald et al. (2001)

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is high. This species is commonly used in agroforestry systems and still widely commercialized around the world. In addition, it is a robust small tree with rapid early growth and high reproductive potential (Palmer et al., 1994). It had a very high score of 11 in an invasive risk assessment (PIER, 2014). Noting how it continues to be promoted as a valuable agroforestry and fodder species, it is very likely to be further introduced, with a high likelihood of escaping from cultivation and colonizing new areas. 


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Within its native distribution range C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus grows in humid and semi-humid habitats in primary, secondary or disturbed lowland to pre-montane, seasonally dry to wet sub-tropical forests, oak forests, pine forests, and brush-woodland (Chamberlain, 2001). It also occurs along stony riverbanks, on roadsides, and in wastelands (Barneby, 1998; CONABIO, 2001). Outside its range, this species can be found in secondary vegetation, often in thickets and woodlands. It is an aggressive colonizer on disturbed sites such as recent landslides and roadsides (Orwa et al., 2009). It has been also reported growing in a monsoonal environment in northeast Thailand (Palmer et al., 1994). Where introduced, it is grown in and around cultivated fields and pastures, is particularly common in the humid tropical uplands, and has become naturalised in some countries.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for Calliandra is n = 11 (Chamberlain, 2001). Studies evaluating the isozyme electrophoresis of 23 loci across 17 populations of this species from Mexico, Central America, Indonesia and Kenya indicated that the majority of genetic diversity was partitioned between populations and heterozygosity within-population was low (mean H. = 0.057). Naturalized populations (Kenya and Indonesia) had lower than expected heterozygosities and were most similar to material from a natural population in southern Guatemala supporting the introduction from Guatemala to Indonesia by Dutch botanists in 1936 (Chamberlain, 1998, 2001). These studies also suggested that there were four groups of populations within Calliandra calothyrsus (synonym of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus) from four geographical regions (Chamberlain, 2001):

1.  South-east Mexico, Guatemala and the north coast of Honduras (group 1)

2.  Costa Rica and Panama (group 2)

3.  Dry inland valleys of Honduras and Nicaragua (group 3)

4.  Pacific coast of Mexico (group 4)

Reproductive Biology

C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus has a mixed mating system. It flowers after 6-12 months and produces flowers which open during the early evening and last for one night. Each raceme can flower for 2-3 months. Seed production is determined largely by the pollination system of the species and appropriate climatic conditions. The principal pollinating agents are nectivorous bats, mostly species in the genus Glossophaga, which require free movement around the crown and are not present in all areas. However, even in regions where bats are endemic it may take some time for them to identify and begin to visit new populations of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus. Moths are also known to pollinate C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus and pollination is known to occur where bats are rare or not present. C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus produces clusters of pods which dry and dehisce to disperse seed. A full account of seed production is given in Chamberlain (1998).

This species shows protandrous flowers and the difference in length between stigma and style suggests outcrossing (Palmer et al., 1994).

Vegetative propagation by stem or stump cuttings is possible (Dick et al., 1996; Tchigio and Duguma, 1998), but vegetative propagation in nature is unlikely to occur.

Physiology and Phenology

C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is a small to medium-sized tree, which can be either single or multi-stemmed depending upon the seed source. It is a natural colonizer of disturbed sites but does not appear to pose a significant threat as a weedy species, possibly because it does not produce large quantities of seed. It can tolerate only partial shade and grows best when in open situations. However, it is tolerant of repeated lopping and also browsing at ground level. Anecdotal reports of suckering require further investigation.

The flowering period of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus can extend all over the year if sufficient moisture is available, but it peaks between October and January within its native range in Mesoamerica and during September to December in Sri Lanka (Chamberlain, 2001). Flowering will cease over the dry season where greater than 4 months of dry conditions occurs (Cook et al., 2005). Leaves can be shed in areas which experience dry periods greater than four months.


C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is a nitrogen fixing species and grows in association with Rhizobium bacteria. Roots are able to grow in infertile soil because of the symbiosis with Rhizobium and a symbiosis with mycorrhizas (Orwa et al., 2009). When planted deliberately, inoculation should be encouraged and appears to be particularly important for marginal sites (Ibrahim et al., 1996; Leuseur et al., 1996).

Environmental Requirements

C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus occurs from sea level to 1860 m in areas where the annual precipitation ranges from 700 to 4,000 mm, 3-6 months of drought season, and mean annual temperature between 22 to 28°C. It is able to grow on a wide range of soil types but prefers light textured, slightly acidic soils. It can tolerate infertile and compacted or poorly aerated soils but does not tolerate waterlogged and alkaline soil (Palmer et al., 1994; Chamberlain 2001, CONABIO, 2001; Cook et al., 2005; Orwa et al., 2009). The species is frost susceptible but possesses considerable cool tolerance for a tropical species.


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A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
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]))
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])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
19 9 0 1850

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 5
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 22 28
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 19 30
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 9 26


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration06number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall7004000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Myllocerus viridanus Herbivore All Stages not specific
Pachnoda ephippiata Herbivore Adults not specific
Sahyadrassus malabaricus Herbivore All Stages not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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In east Africa, particularly Uganda, C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is affected by the scale insect Pulvinarisca jacksoni. Fungal diseases such as Phanerochaete salmonicolor and Xylaria spp. infect and kill stems (Cook et al., 2005). In India, it is attacked by the teak sapling borer Sahyadrassus malabaricus. In Kenya a coleopteran, Pachnoda ephippiata, feeds on the fruits, flowers and foliage, causing floral abortion and failure of seed production. The degree of infestation seems to be aggravated by prolonged dry spells when insect populations on the plants are high. In India, the polyphagous leaf feeder Myllocerus viridanus is responsible for considerable defoliation (Orwa et al., 2009).

Two insects were noted attacking C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus in the Philippines, a beetle species, Leucopholis irrorata (Chev.) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae), and an undetermined tussock moth (Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae) (Braza, 1991).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus spreads by seeds. Seeds are dispersed from the unpalatable pods by explosive apical dehiscence when the pods dry, releasing seed over a range of up to 10 m (Macqueen, 1992). Seeds can be secondarily dispersed by water and livestock (Chamberlain, 2001), and by small mammals and insects. The species has been widely introduced deliberately as a fodder tree.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal production Yes Yes
Digestion and excretion Yes
Disturbance Yes
ForestryOften planted in agroforestry systems Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Habitat restoration and improvementNitrogen fixing and soil improver species Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Hedges and windbreaksUsed in hedgerows in Jamaica Yes Yes McDonald et al., 2001
Ornamental purposesPlanted for its red flowers Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesSeeds Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
Water Yes

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus has proved to be a valuable fodder and agroforestry species in the humid and sub-humid tropics, especially uplands in its Central American native range and where introduced in Central/East Africa, South/South-East Asia and the Pacific. It is also used as a shade tree, and C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus has been planted for commercial seed production in Australia, Kenya, and Indonesia. Thus, C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is regarded as a highly economically beneficial species within locations of deliberate introduction.

Environmental Impact

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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is a weed and an aggressive colonizer of riverine areas, woodlands, and disturbed sites. Because it grows so rapidly and densely, it suppresses competing plants very quickly (Barneby, 1998). Once established, plants are so hardy and reproduce so easily that it may become a weed which is very difficult to keep in control. It can also negatively impact biodiversity by displacing native species.

Because C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is a nitrogen fixing tree and has an extensive and deep root system, it has been repeatedly used as soil improver. However, due to these features, this species is also able to alter soil nutrients and soil water availability and outcompete native plants (Palmer et al., 1994; BioNet-EAFRINET, 2014).  

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • 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
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Hybridization
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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The only recorded use of the wood is for fuel. In Java, where C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus has been managed for fuelwood for many years, initial yields of 5-20 m3/ha per year have been recorded while rotations over 15-20 years have produced yields of 25-65 m3/ha year, usually at dense spacings of 1 x 1 m or 1 x 2m (Kartasubrata, 1996). Although density data at around 720 kg per cubic metre indicate that the wood may be suitable for other purposes, the generally poor form of the species suggests that there is limited scope for its use in light construction. Pulp characteristics are reported by Basuki (1990).

The principal value of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is as an agroforestry tree providing fodder for livestock and fuelwood, particularly in areas where low pH is a major limitation to planting other tree legumes. Direct browsing of the species may lead to stem breakage, however, unless the trees are cut at ground level and allowed to re-sprout.

Animal fodder from the foliage of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is used wherever the tree has been introduced. The leaves are highly palatable (Palmer and Schlink, 1992; Paterson et al., 1996; Shelton et al., 1996) and the feed value has been compared favourably to other popular tree legumes such as L. leucocephala (Chamberlain, 1998). In a trial in Puerto Rico, C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus foliage had a dry matter content of 36%, 14% crude protein, 46% foliage neutral detergent fibre content and 36% acid detergent fibre (Crespo et al., 2011). Fodder productivity when grown in double rows in several African countries was reported to range from 0.8 to 8.2 kg of dry matter per metre length of hedge by Paterson et al. (1996).

The nectar produced is attractive to bees and where large numbers of trees are present, as in the naturalised populations in Indonesia, honey production can be considerable. Minor uses include production of green manure, as a shade tree with tea, etc., support for perennial crops, and production of shellac (Chamberlain, 1998). The showy flowers have also made several Calliandra species popular although ornamental planting of C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is limited. This species is known for its beautiful red ‘powder puff’ flowers (McDonald et al., 2001), which give it one of its common names.

Planting designs vary greatly depending upon the use of the tree and can vary from single rows with 30 cm between trees where fodder is harvested frequently, dense plantings at 1 x 1 m spacing, to 20 x 20 m when used as medium shade for tea.

Because it is a nitrogen fixing species, C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is used to rehabilitate erosion-prone areas and recover land exhausted by agriculture (Sebuliba et al., 2012). Finally, because it is compatible with crops, with both deep roots and extensive fibrous roots, it is also planted as an “intercropping tree” in coconut, maize, and banana plantations and as a support tree for climbing beans (Palmer et al, 1994; Cook et al., 2005; Kaho et al., 2007; Orwa et al., 2009). 

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage


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


  • Fuelwood


  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora


  • Green manure


  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Wood Products

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  • Building poles

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is similar in appearance to other species in the genus and can easily be confused by those without experience. C. haematocephala andCalliandra surinamensis are both recorded as invasive species in the Pacific: the former in Micronesia, the latter in Hawaii, and both in single locations in Australia, although both had only a low score on their respective weed risk assessments (PIER, 2014).C. surinamensis is also recorded as naturalized but not invasive in Puerto Rico by Kairo et al. (2003), though is not recorded as present there by USDA-NRCS (2014) nor by several other reliable sources.

C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus can also be mistaken with species from other genera when not in flower or fruit. It is, for example, often confused with Leucaena diversifolia in the central African highlands where both are grown together as agroforestry species.

C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus is less invasive than L. leucocephala. It was introduced into Cameroon because L. leucocephala, in spite of its soil fertility restoration potential, rapidly became a noxious weed, and farmers have asked for a less invasive species (Kanmegne and Degrande, 2002).

Prevention and Control

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No specific means for controlling C. houstoniana var. calothyrsus has been reported. Being highly palatable, grazing could be a possible means for control, particularly after cutting. As they resprout after cutting, roots must be removed by pulling or stump removal, or treatment by herbicides. It is very unlikely that biological control will be considered, noting how valued it is over most of the tropics.


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25/11/14 Updated by:

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

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

07/05/14 Updated by:

Nick Pasiecznik, Agroforestry Enterprises, Villebeuf, Cussy en Morvan, France


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