Geoffroea decorticans (Chilean palo verde)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Social 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
- Geoffroea decorticans (Gillies ex Hook. & Arn.) Burkart
Preferred Common Name
- Chilean palo verde
Other Scientific Names
- Geoffroea decorticans var. subtropicalis (Lillo) Burkart
- Gourliea chilensis Clos
- Gourliea decorticans Gillies ex Hook. & Arn.
- Gourliea decorticans var. subtropicalis Lillo
- Gourliea spinosa (Mol.) Skeels
- Lucuma spinosa Mol.
International Common Names
- Spanish: chañar; kumbara
Local Common Names
- Bolivia: cumbará; kimori
- GEODE (Geoffroea decorticans)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Faboideae
- Genus: Geoffroea
- Species: Geoffroea decorticans
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
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 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Arizona||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Planted||Original citation: Johnson (1997)|
|Bolivia||Present, Widespread||Native||Invasive||Original citation: Burkart (1949)|
|Colombia||Present, Few occurrences||Native||Original citation: Burkart (1949)|
|Paraguay||Present, Localized||Native||Invasive||Original citation: Burkart (1949)|
|Peru||Present, Localized||Native||Invasive||Original citation: Burkart (1949)|
|Venezuela||Present, Few occurrences||Native||Original citation: Burkart (1949)|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
In the rural/urban areas near the city of Santiago del Estero, Argentina (capital of the Province of the same name), which is probably close to the centre of chañar world-wide distribution, chañar occurs about 500 to 1000 metres apart. On the edges of young, unmanaged fields a mixture of 3-4 m tall chañar trees accompanied by numerous small < 1.2 m tall) plants invariably occurs. Large trees, 30 to 40 cm in diameter with canopies of 10 m diameter, frequently occur as roadside trees and around homes where they are used as shade trees. New housing subdivisions in the urban areas have left 5-6 m tall chañar trees spaced every 5 to 8 metres for use as landscape trees. Very frequently the areas occupied are lower-lying areas subject to frequent flooding whose soils have a moderately high salt content. In the central and northern parts of the Province of Santa Fe, Argentina, which is a grassland region with higher rainfall than the interior Argentine deserts, chañar forms impenetrable dense stands that make it difficult to locate cattle (Feldman, 1966).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
As noted by Burkart (1949), there are only 3 valid species (and one subspecies, subtropicalis) in the genus Geoffroea. G. decorticans is a diploid with 2n = 20, while G. striata is a hexaploid with 6n = 60. There are no reports of natural or man-made hybrids within these species.
Physiology and Phenology
Chañar (G. decorticans) is the first semiarid tree in its native range to produce fruit in the spring. Its abundant flowers provide a rich source of nectar for honey production. Chañar is facultatively xenogamous and can produce few fruits from selfing. The best fruit production was produced by xenogamous pollination conducted by hand. Successful fruit production depends on pollinator activity (Eynard and Galetto, 2002). G. decorticans is phreatophytic and has deep-penetrating roots which allow it to tap low-lying water tables in order to obtain a permanent water supply.
Chañar is reproduced both by seeds and from sprouts from buds on the roots. Young shoots may occur many metres from the main trunk of a chañar tree due to sprouting from the roots. Chañar roots stored in dry soil for 2 years at room temperature in the office produced shoots after watering (I. Feldman, Asociación Argentina Manejo de Pastizales Naturales, Argentina, personal communication, 2003). Feldman suggests that one of the major problems in the province of Santa Fe with regard to the spread of chañar is frequent disking and ploughing which chops up the roots.
I. Feldman (Asociación Argentina Manejo de Pastizales Naturales, Argentina, personal communication, 2003) comments that cattle eagerly seek out the G. decorticans fruits due to the high sugar content surrounding their seeds. They then masticate the fruits and spit out the large seeds which germinate very rapidly. This same behaviour is also a very common practice among goats, with people watching the goats getting the feeling that this is a highly enjoyable activity by the goats (Demaio et al., 2002).
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)||-14|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||20||26|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||31||35|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||3||6|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||4||12||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||0||1350||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Clothing, footwear and possessions||Sweet pods could be carried by curious travellers.||Yes|
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||seeds|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||fruits|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
The principal threats to biodiversity in regions such as arid northwestern Argentina are the cutting of all sizes of trees for charcoal for export without regard to sustainability. Grazing animals also eliminate important woody species such as Prosopis alba and Schinopsis balansae. The legume biologist, Emilio Libarri at the Darwinian Institute in Buenos Aires, when asked whether G. decorticans is a weed, stated no but rather that the spread of the species is a secondary succession that occurs after disturbance and that will later be replaced by other climax vegetation.
Social ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- 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
In the virtually rainless Atacama desert of Chile, the fruits are collected, stored in 220-litre barrels (see Pictures) and ground to make a type of milkshake in local restaurants (P Felker, Universidad Catolica de Santiago del Estero, Argentina, personal communication, 2003).
There are several reports on the human nutritional quality of the fruits of chañar (Becker, 1983; Maestri et al., 2001; Maestri et al., 2002). The layer surrounding the seeds (pericarp) contains 5% protein, 1% fat, 17% fibre, 2% ash, 23% hemicellulose and 49% sugar (predominantly sucrose). The large seeds contain 29% protein, 49% fat, 8% sugar, and 11% hemicellulose. The unsaturated fatty acids linoleic and oleic acid are the predominant fatty acids. The FAO chemical score of the protein is 65 with lysine, methionine and cysteine being the most limiting amino acids.
Rats fed a complete diet with the protein portion consisting of milled chañar seeds lost body weight and ate less. The total digestibility of the diet was about 67%, but the nitrogen digestibility was only 1.2%. While the trypsin inhibitor and cyanide content in the seeds was low, the seeds had a high haemagglutinin content which resulted in poor nutritional quality. Thus for humans and other non-ruminants, the uses of the fruits would be for the high sugar portion surrounding the seed and the highly unsaturated fatty acids (after extraction). Since the haemagglutinin would be destroyed by relatively brief heating (as is common with other legume seeds) the nutritional value of the seed protein would probably be greatly increased after heating. For ruminants, which can digest the haemagglutinins, the protein and sugar of both the seed and pericarp would be valuable. The high content of the unsaturated fatty acids, and the large seed size, could make fatty acid production possible if production and harvesting issues could be resolved.
The above-average wood density (0.6) and hardness of chañar would make it acceptable for many furniture and carpentry applications (Tortorelli, 1956). Unfortunately the unavailability of larger diameter and longer logs precludes more widespread utilization. Thus, its use is currently limited to tool handles, small furniture items, firewood and charcoal.
The nitrogen-fixing properties of chañar (Becker, 1983; Aronson et al., 1992) are an advantage on the low fertility soils of arid lands, although little is known about the impact of this nitrogen fixation at the whole tree or ecosystem level. The ability to grow in harsh, very low rainfall, saline habitats such as the Chilean Atacama desert where very few other plants can survive is a significant advantage. Since it currently exists in these areas and does not appear to be a weed in these areas, further plantings and improved genetic selections would seem reasonable.
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Carved material
- Miscellaneous materials
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Wood ProductsTop of page
Sawn or hewn building timbers
- Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
- For light construction
- Industrial and domestic woodware
- Tool handles
- Wood carvings
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.
Chañar does not exist in cultivated fields that are adjacent to dense stands of chañar, suggesting that the cultivation necessary for annual crops is sufficient to eliminate the plant. Chañar constitutes the most serious problem on agricultural fields that have not been cultivated for several years (Feldman, 1966). Thus, incorporation of annual ploughing would be an option to eliminate new chañar invasions.
Chañar is commonly controlled by villagers using axes, shovels and picks to dig out the young saplings. However it is apparent from the lack of chañar in cultivated fields that, once eliminated from agricultural fields, several cultivations per year should be sufficient to keep the fields free of chañar.
Numerous papers have reported chemical control of chañar using trunk injections, applications with backpack sprayers and aerial applications. Bruzzone and Harnan (1976) obtained 100% kill of chañar using dicamba with ground-based equipment. Chañar was found to be highly susceptible to picloram + triclopyr (Rucci and Iglesias, 1996).
No attempts of the use of biological control have been reported, although the rodent Microcavia australis does cause some damage to chañar.
No attempt at integrated control has been reported.
ReferencesTop of page
Anderson A; Junqueras MJ; Carosio C, 2000. Anatomia foliar de Geoffroea decorticans (Hill. ex Hook et Arn.) Burkart (Leguminosae) en la Provincia de San Luis, Argentina. Phyton, 67:151-157.
Anderson DL, 1976. Invasion of pastures in San Luis Province (Argentina) by Geoffroea decorticans (Gill ex H. et A.) Burk. Trabajos y resumenes, III Congreso Asociación Latinoamericana de malezas "ALAM" y VIII Reunion Argentina de Malezas y su control "ASAM", Mar del Plata, 4:31-45.
Aronson J, 1990. Desert plants of use and charm from northern Chile. Desert Plants, 10(2):65-74, 79-86.
Aronson J; Ovalle C; Avendano J, 1992. Early growth rate and nitrogen fixation potential in forty-four legume species grown in an acid and a neutral soil from central Chile. Forest Ecology and Management, 47(1-4):225-244.
Bayr CJ, 1981. Destruction of the natural vegetation of north-central Chile. Berkeley, USA: University of California Press.
Becker R, 1983. Nutritional quality of the fruit from the cha±ar tree (Geoffroea decorticans). Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 13(2):91-97.
Bruzzone JA; Harnan M, 1976. Control of Geoffroea decorticans and Acacia aroma in the semi-arid "chaquena" region with dicamba alone and mixed with phenoxy acid herbicides. Trabajos y Resumenes, III Congreso Asociacion Latinoamericana de Malezas "ALAM" y VIII Reunion Argentina de Malezas y su Control "ASAM", Mar del Plata, Argentina. ASAM, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Vol. 4:56-57.
Burkart A, 1949. La posicion sistematica del "cha±ar" y las especies del genero Geoffroeae (Leguminosae-Dalbergieae). Darwinia, 9:9-23.
Burkart A, 1949. The systematic position of Geoffroea decorticans and other species of Geoffroea (Leguminosae-Dalbergieae). [La posicion sistematica del `chanar' y las especies del genero Geoffroea (Leguminosae-Dalbergieae).] Darwiniana, B. Aires 9 (1), (9-23).
Cabrera AL; Willinck A, 1973. Biogeografia de America Latina. Washington, USA: Organisation of the Americas.
Campora CE, 1913. Nota sobre el "cha±ar" (Gourliea decorticans Gillies). Trabajos del Institut de Botanica y Farmacologia, Facultad de Ciencias Medicas (Argentina), 29:5-15.
Campora CE, 1913. Nota sobre el "chañar" (Gourliea decorticans Gillies). Trabajos del Institut de Botanica y Farmacologia, Facultad de Ciencias Medicas (Argentina), 29:5-15.
D'Angelo C; Prado DE; Stofella SL; Lewis JP, 1987. The subchaquenian vegetation of the province of Santa Fe (Argentina). Phytocoenologia, 15(3):329-352.
Delhey R, 1991. El cha±ar (Geoffroea decorticans, Leguminosae): etnobotanico y utilizacion. Parodiana, 6(2):337-362.
Demaio P; Karlin UO; Medina M, 2002. Arboles nativos del Centro de Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Literature of Latin America, www.thebookplace.com/lola.
Echegoyen H, 1923. Repoblaci=n n forestal de Atacama. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 26:530-538.
Echegoyen H, 1923. Repoblación n forestal de Atacama. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 26:530-538.
Eynard C; Galetto L, 2002. Pollination ecology of Geoffroea decorticans (Fabaceae) in central Argentine dry forest. Journal of Arid Environments, 51(1):79-88.
Feldman I, 1966. Control de cha±ar (Geoffroea decorticans Bur.) Revista de Investigaciones Agropecuarias, INTA, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Serie 2, Vol. III, No. 7, 108-122.
Gra H; Ramos L; Barreras L; Alvarez E, 1991. Mean diameter increment of 21 forest species from semi-deciduous forest on limestone in Cortes Silvicultural Unit, Guanahacabibes Forest Enterprise, Pinar del Rio province. [Incremento del diametro medio de 21 especies forestales de la formacion semicaducifolia sobre caliza en la Unidad Silvicola Cortes, EFI Guanahacbibes, provincia Pinar del Rio.] Revista Baracoa, 21(2-3):49-56; 11 ref.
Grß H; Ramos L; Barreras L; Alvarez E, 1991. Mean diameter increment of 21 forest species from semi-deciduous forest on limestone in CortTs Silvicultural Unit, Guanahacabibes Forest Enterprise, Pinar del Rfo province. Revista Baracoa, 21(2-3):49-56.
Ireland H; Pennington RT, 1999. A revision of Geoffroea (Leguminosae- Papilionoideae). Edin. J. Bot. 56(3): 329-347.
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Johnson MB, 1997. Cold tolerance of legumes: effects of the December 1996 freeze on DELEPS's Tucson fields. Aridus, 9(3):1-4, 8.
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Kiesling R, 1994. Flora de San Juan Republica de Argentina, I:331-332.
Knutsen OA; Feldman I, 1976. Control y eradicacion del cha±ar mediante tratamientos quimicos. Trabajos y Resumenes, III Congreso Asociacion Latinoamericana de Malezas 'ALAM' y VIII Reunion Argentina de Malezas y su Control 'ASAM'. Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Vol. 4.
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Maestri DM; Fortunato RH; Greppi JA; Lamarque AL, 2001. Compositional studies of seeds and fruits from two varieties of Geoffroea decorticans. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 14(6):585-590.
Maestri DM; Fortunato RH; Guzman CA; Torres MM; Lamarque AL, 2002. Seed compositional studies of some species of Papilionoideae (Leguminosae) native to Argentina. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 82(3):248-251.
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