Dichrostachys cinerea (sickle bush)
- 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
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Wood Products
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn.
Preferred Common Name
- sickle bush
Other Scientific Names
- Cailliea cinerea (L.) Macbr.
- Cailliea dichrostachys (Pers.) Guill. et al.
- Cailliea glomerata (Forssk.) Macbr.
- Cailliea nutans (Pers.) Skeels
- Cailliea platycarpa (Welw. ex Bull) Macbr.
- Dichrostachys arborea N. E. Br.
- Dichrostachys glomerata (Forssk.) Chiov.
- Dichrostachys nutans (Pers.) Benth.
- Dichrostachys platycarpa Welw. ex Bull
- Mimosa cinerea L.
- Mimosa glomerata Forssk.
- Mimosa nutans Pers.
International Common Names
- English: Chinese latern tree; marabu thorn; mazabu
- Spanish: mazabu
- French: acacia saint domingue; mimosa clochette
Local Common Names
- Burkina Faso: agarof; kurkur
- Cape Verde: espinho cachupa; spinho cachupa
- Cuba: marabu; marabú
- Germany: Kalahari-Weihnachtsbaum
- India: bilatri; marult; odatare; segum-kati; vadatalla; veltu; veltura; vidattalai; vurtuli; wadu
- Mali: giliki; ntirigi
- Niger: d'und'u
- Nigeria: d'und'u
- Senegal: bourri; m'buuri; ntirigi; patroulahi; seb; sinke
- South Africa: Kalahari Christmas tree; sekelbos; tassels for the chief's hat
- Sudan: kakada
- DIRCA (Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. africana)
- DIRCI (Dichrostachys cinerea)
- DIRCN (Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. nyassana)
- DIRNU (Dichrostachys nutans)
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. africana
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. argillicola
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. burmana
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. cinerea
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. forbesii
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. keniensis
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. malesiana
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. nyassana
- Dichrostachys cinerea subsp. platycarpa
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page D. cinerea is a fast growing tree that has become an undesirable weed and is particularly a problem in areas where there has been overgrazing. In the areas were it invades the species form very dense thickets making areas impenetrable. The species can regenerate from the smallest amount of root or through its root suckers. The seeds can survive for long periods of time in the soil as well as being able to withstand moderate frost. In Cuba, the use of mechanical control methods has been successful in reducing the area covered by D. cinerea, however, it is still a major problem in the country. As of yet there are no biocontrol agents being used although potential agents have been identified. Mechanical and chemical control are currently the most efficient control measures.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Mimosoideae
- Genus: Dichrostachys
- Species: Dichrostachys cinerea
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page The generic name Dichrostachys means 'two-coloured spike' and refers to the flowers, and the specific name 'cinerea' is from the Greek 'konis' and Latin 'cineres', referring to the grey hairs on the subspecies confined to India. The species is most commonly known as the 'sickle bush' derived from the curved shape of the pods. It has several common names, for example in South Africa it is called the 'Kalahari Christmas tree' and sometimes called the 'tassels for the chief's hat' (World Agroforestry Centre, 2004).
DescriptionTop of page D. cinerea is a highly variable thorny shrub or small tree to 8 m tall though often smaller. The bark on young branches is green and densely to sparsely puberulous, and on the older branches is dark-grey brown and longitudinally fissured. The branches have strong alternate lateral shoots to 8 cm long appearing as thorns that may have leaves at the base. Leaves are bipinnate, 4-8 cm long with 2-11 (5-15) pairs of pinnae, each one with 12-22 pairs of leaflets, linear, obtuse to acute, straight to incurved, 2.5-4 (-6) mm long, 0.8-1.5 mm wide, ciliolate, otherwise glabrous. Leaf axes puberulous to minutely pilose, sometimes with red hairlets, especially near base of pinnae; glands peg-like at base of pinnae pairs. When in flower, D. cinerea is characterized by the bicoloured inflorescence that is pink in the upper part and yellow in the lower part. The upper flowers are sterile with protruding staminodes and the lower flowers are hermaphroditic with 1 pistil and 10 yellow stamens each. Inflorescence spicate, solitary on a bracteate, short shoot, 6-9 cm long including the glabrous to puberulous peduncle. The pods are dark-brown and twisted in form in clusters, narrowly oblong, variously curved and/or coiled, 5-7 cm long, 8-15 mm wide, blackish, glabrous. Seeds biconvex, elliptic to subcircular, 4 mm long, 2-4 mm wide, pale tan, glossy; pleurogram elliptic (Cowan, 1998). Fruits ripen between March to May in Indonesia and May to September in South Africa (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005).
Plant TypeTop of page Broadleaved
DistributionTop of page D. cinerea has a wide natural distribution ranging from southern and tropical Africa to India (PIER, 1999), although the true native range of D. cinerea is not easy to determine as the literature sources contradict one another as to whether the species is an exotic which has naturalized or a native species in particular countries. For example, the species is thought to be native to the Northern Territory, Australia, however Cowan (1998) suggests that it naturalized there. In India D. cinerea occurs in dry deciduous forests. It is widespread in the Sudan zone and southern Sahel of Africa where it forms dense hammocks, in the Kalahari and Transvaal of southern Africa and in East Africa to Somalia and Yemen (von Maydell, 1986).
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.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|Brunei Darussalam||Present||Introduced||Planted||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Cambodia||Present||Introduced||Planted||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|India||Present||Introduced||Planted, Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Indonesia||Present||Introduced||PIER, 1999; World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Iran||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2004|
|Laos||Present||Introduced||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Malaysia||Present||Introduced||Planted||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Myanmar||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Philippines||Present||Introduced||Planted||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Native||Natural||Evans, 1999|
|Thailand||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|United Arab Emirates||Present||Native||Natural|
|Vietnam||Present||Introduced||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Angola||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Benin||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Botswana||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Burkina Faso||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Burundi||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Cameroon||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Cape Verde||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Central African Republic||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Chad||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Comoros||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Congo||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Congo Democratic Republic||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Côte d'Ivoire||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Djibouti||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Egypt||Present||Introduced||Planted||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Eritrea||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Ethiopia||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Gabon||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Gambia||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Ghana||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Guinea||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Guinea-Bissau||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Kenya||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Lesotho||Present||Introduced||Planted||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Liberia||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Madagascar||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Malawi||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Mali||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Mauritania||Present||Introduced||Planted||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Mozambique||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Namibia||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Niger||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Nigeria||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Rwanda||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Sao Tome and Principe||Present||Introduced||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Senegal||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Seychelles||Present||Introduced||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Sierra Leone||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Somalia||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|South Africa||Present||Native||Cooke , 1998; Meyer et al., 2004; World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Sudan||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Swaziland||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Tanzania||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Togo||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Uganda||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Zambia||Present||Native||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|Zimbabwe||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|USA||Present||Introduced||PIER, 1999; Zimmermann and Klein , 2004|
Central America and Caribbean
|Cuba||Present||Introduced||Invasive||PIER, 1999; Moyroud, 2000; Hernández, 2002; Fournet, 2004; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012|
|Australia||Present||Introduced||Natural||World Agroforestry Centre, 2005|
|-Australian Northern Territory||Present||Introduced||Natural||PIER, 1999|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Native||Natural|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page D. cinerea has been widely introduced around the world, mainly as an ornamental or for erosion control. It was introduced in the West Indies during the 1800s, to Cuba, Hispaniola, Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante and Martinique (Fournet, 2004). D. cinerea was first introduced to Cuba as an ornamental from Madagascar (Moyroud, 2000). Seeds were thought to have been carried to Florida, USA by a hurricane as it was first recorded along the coast around Lower Keys in 1998 after Hurricane Georges (Moyroud, 2000). Zimmermann and Klein (2004) report that D. cinerea has become naturalized in the USA but is not yet regarded as a weed. It is probably more widespread than indicated in the distribution list.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page Reporting of invasiveness in this species has been focused on the situation in Cuba where it is a serious weed. Nevertheless it has a wide range as an introduced species and it is possible that following a time lag, further reports of invasive behavior may arise. Future introductions should take the Cuban situation into account when performing risk assessments.
HabitatTop of page D. cinerea is found in a variety of habitats, and is widely distributed in the seasonally dry tropics of Africa, Asia and Australia. In India, D. cinerea occurs in dry deciduous forests, in Sengal and Sudan it occurs on lateritic soils, in Malaysia in areas with strong seasonal climates (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005) and in Australia it is known to grow on poor soils (PIER, 1999).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page Genetics
Several subspecies are recorded, and noting its very wide native range, large morphological variations are to be expected. However, no breeding has been undertaken, even for ornamental, less invasive varieties.
Physiology and Phenology
D. cinerea is a long-lived, fast growing tree. Seeds can be produced by young trees (Fournet, 2004). D. cinerea has prolific root suckers and can regenerate from very small root cuttings. It can produce 130 new stems from root suckers within a 15 m radius from the main trunk over 10 years (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005). It is fire resistant.
D. cinerea flowers between September to June in Indonesia and from October to February in south Africa and fruits ripen between March to May in Indonesia and May to September in South Africa (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005).
D. cinerea is propagated easily by seeds or cuttings. Seeds are orthodox, approximately 39,000 seeds/kg, and require pretreatment before sowing as for other legumes, i.e. soaking in hot water or manual scarification. Vegetative propagation may be achieved via root or shoot cuttings, or by severing and transplanting root suckers.
Large numbers of seeds are produced almost all year long (Fournet, 2004). Polyembryony has been observed in the seeds (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005). In the inflorescences, the terminal lower flowers are hermaphroditic and the upper flowers of a hanging spike are sterile
D. cinerea is widely distributed in the seasonally dry tropics on a range of soil types including saline and infertile soils. Mean annual temperatures where D. cinerea grows are 15-27°C, but also tolerating mean monthly temperatures as high as 38°C and an absolute minimum temperature of 0°C. Mean annual rainfall ranges are 200-1400 mm, with dry season durations of 4-10 months. It is known to occur from sea level in coastal areas up to 2000 m altitude in Ethiopia (von Maydell, 1986).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-2||0|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||15||27|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||16||38|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||6||15|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||4||10||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||200||1400||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Bimodal
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page Evans (1999) reported that the rust fungus, Uredo deformis, has been observed on D. cinerea in Sri Lanka. Other known natural enemies are the insects Ctenoplusia albostriata and Kerria lacca.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Seeds may be dispersed by wind and water. The pods of D. cinerea are eaten by a number of animals including cattle, camels and game (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005). In South Africa, animals that feed on the pods include giraffe, buffalo, kudu, impala and Nyala (Cooke, 1998), and seeds may also be carried in the hooves of cattle (PIER, 1999).
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page In its younger stage D. cinerea can grow in very dense and impenetrable thickets. Due to its thorns it can make areas inaccessible for both humans and livestock (Hernández, 2002). It is costly to control as it involves frequent management. It can cause losses in agricultural production (Fournet, 2004). In Cuba in 1996 the amount of unusable land was enough pasture for two million head of cattle. D. cinerea can also become a problem in forest plantations for example in Cuba where it needs to be controlled in order to carry out any necessary maintenance. Control is expensive at US$100 -150 per hectare (Hernández, 2002).
Environmental ImpactTop of page In its younger stage D. cinerea can grow in very dense and impenetrable thickets. In Cuba, D. cinerea has displaced native plant communities (Moyroud, 2000).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
UsesTop of page D. cinerea has a number of land and environmental uses for example in agroforestry, soil improvement, revegetation, land reclamation, soil conservation, erosion control, hedging and live fencing. It has been used for the stabilization of sand dunes and in soil conservation. It is also used to improve soils, for example along the riverbanks in the Sahel (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005). A main use, however, and a reason for introduction has been its perceived value as an ornamental hedging plant with its attractive pink and yellow flowers. Such uses are limited, however, because of its root competition, profuse suckering and aggressive weedy character.
The wood is very heavy and dark; the heartwood is dark brown and sapwood is light brown or yellow with dark streaks (von Maydell, 1986). It is considered to be termite resitant and has been used for a wide range of purposes including round wood, posts, exterior fittings, fences, though its utilization is limited by the scarcity of suitable dimensions and is more commonly used for walking sticks, tool handles, spears, etc. (von Maydell, 1986). The wood is most commonly used as a fuel or for making charcoal. It has a high calorific value, burns slowly and is sought after as a preferred source of fuel.
Non-wood uses include gums, lac, fodder, dyestuffs, bark products, fibres, honey and medicinal products. Debarked roots are used for strong weaving work such as baskets and racks, and bark fibres for various apllications (Maydell, 1986). Leaves and seeds are edible but are commonly sought after by livestock and are considered very nutritious. The bark, roots and leaves are all used for a number of medicinal purposes for example to treat headaches, toothaches, stings, sore eyes, leprosy, epilepsy and as a diuretic (World Agroforestry Centre, 2005), and to treat snakebites, elephantitis and other internal parasitic worms, syphilis and gonorrhoea (von Maydell, 1986).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Invertebrate food for lac/wax insects
- Boundary, barrier or support
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Soil improvement
Human food and beverage
- Honey/honey flora
- Miscellaneous materials
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Wood ProductsTop of page
Sawn or hewn building timbers
- Exterior fittings
Prevention and ControlTop of page The control of D. cinerea as a weed with methods such as cutting and burning is not recommended as the seeds can survive in the soil (Fournet, 2004), though mechanical control methods have been suggested as a control measure by World Agroforestry Centre (2005). A rust fungus, Uredo deformis has been identified in Sri Lanka as a potential biocontrol agent (Evans, 1999).
ReferencesTop of page
Alvarez M; Betancourt M, 1982. Combining mechanical and chemical methods to control Dichrostachys cinerea in Cuba. Boletin Tecnico Forestal, No. 1/82:1-9
Brenan JPM, 1959. Flora of tropical East Africa: Leguminosae-Mimosoideae. London, UK: Crown Agents for Overseas Governments.
Cooke G, 1998. The Tree Species of Djuma Game Reserve. South Africa, Kruger National Park. http://www.djuma.com/t_d_cinerea.htm.
Cowan RS, 1998. Dichrostachys. Flora of Australia, 12:19.
Fournet J, 2004. Dichrostachys cinerea. Global Invasive Species Database. New Zealand: University of Auckland. http://issg.appfa.auckland.ac.nz/database/species/ecology.asp?si=161&fr=1&sts=sss.
Hernández G, 2002. Invasive bush in Cuba: the case of marabú. Invasives in Mesoamerica and the Carribean, Costa Rica: IUCN. http://www.iucn.org/places/orma/publica_gnl/especies.pdf.
Lock JM; Simpson K, 1991. Legumes of West Asia. A Check List. London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
Meyer T; Kellner K; Viljoen C, 2004. Land Transformation and Soil Quality. South Africa. http://www.nwpg.org.za/soer/fullreport/land%20transformation.asp#5.
Moyroud R, 2000. Exotic weeds threaten, a brief overview and early alarm call. Wildland Weeds, 3(2):4-8. Florida, USA: Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. http://biological-diversity.info/Downloads/Exoticweeds_Moyroud.pdf.
Oviedo Prieto R; Herrera Oliver P; Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.
PIER, 1999. Dichrostachys cinerea. Hawaii, USA: Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). http://www.hear.org/pier/species/dichrostachys_cinerea.htm.
Rai P; Roy RD; Rao GR, 1995. Evaluation of multipurpose tree species in rangeland under semi arid condition of Uttar Pradesh. Range Management & Agroforestry. 16(2): 103-113.
Sastry TCS; Kavathekar KY; eds, 1990. Plants for reclamation of wastelands. New Delhi, India: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. xii + 684 pp.; 20 pp. of colour pl. (unpaginated); 36 pp. of ref.
Troup RS; Joshi HB, 1983. The Silviculture of Indian Trees. Vol IV. Leguminosae. Delhi, India; Controller of Publications.
World Agroforestry Centre, 2004. Agroforestree Database. Nairobi, Kenya: World Agroforestry Centre. http://www.worldagroforestry.org/Sites/TreeDBS/AFT/.
World Agroforestry Centre, 2005. Agroforestree Database. Nairobi, Kenya: World Agroforestry Centre. http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/Sites/TreeDBS/AFT/
Zimmermann H; Klein H, 2004. The use of biological control agents for the control of plant invaders and the importance of partnerships. South Africa: Plant Protection Research Institute. http://www-dwaf.pwv.gov.za/wfw/Docs/Papers/.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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