Gliricidia sepium (gliricidia)
- 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
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Wood Products
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp.
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Galedupa pungam Blanco
- Gliricidia lambii Fernald
- Gliricidia maculata (Kunth) Walp.
- Lonchocarpus roseus (Miller) DC.
- Lonchocarpus sepium (Jacq.) DC.
- Millettia luzonensis A. Gray
- Robinia maculata Kunth
- Robinia rosea Miller
- Robinia sepium Jacq.
- Robinia variegata Schltdl.
International Common Names
- English: Mexican lilac; mother of cacao; Nicaraguan cocoashade; quickstick
- Spanish: madero negro; madre cacao; madre de cacao; madriado; madricacao; mata raton; nacedero
- Chinese: ge li dou
- Portuguese: mãe-do-cacau; planta-mãe-do-cacau
Local Common Names
- Brazil: mata-ratos
- Colombia: mata-ratón
- Costa Rica: bala; balo; madero negro; sangre de drago
- Cuba: amor y celos; arbol de la niña; bien vestida; desnudo floreci; desnudo florecido; floresco; gibara; mata ratón; pasión; piñón amoroso; piñón de costa; piñón florido; piñón jazmín; piñón milagroso; piñón violenta; piñón vómico
- Dominican Republic: piñón de Cuba
- El Salvador: palo de hierro
- Guadeloupe: gliceridia; gliricidia
- Guatemala: cacaguanance; cacahuananche; cansím; madre de cacao; madrecacao; madriado; madrial; mata-ratón
- Guyana: quick stick
- Haiti: lilas étranger
- Indonesia: gamal
- Indonesia/Java: liriksidia
- Jamaica: Aaron’s rod; grow stick; quick stick; St.Vincent plum
- Laos: khê fàlangx; khê nooyz; kh'è: fàlangx; kh'è: no:yz
- Malaysia: bunga jepun
- Mexico: cacaguanance; cacahuananche; cacahuanano; chante; cocoite; cuchunuc; flor de San José; frijolillo; guie-niiza; iaiti; jelelte; lipa-ca-sui-la; madre de cacao; madrecacao; madriado; mata-ratón; muite; muiti; palo de corral; primavera; sacyab; sayab; sayuiab; tunduti; ujcum; xakyaab; yaga-le; yaite
- Netherlands Antilles: ratónera; yerba di tonka
- Nicaragua: madera negra
- Nigeria: abgook maniye
- Panama: bala; balo; madero negro
- Philippines: balok-balok; cacaute; kakauati; kak-auáti; kakawate; madre de cacao; madrecacao; madriado; madrial
- Saint Lucia: mother of cocoa
- Thailand: khae farang; khae-farang
- Trinidad and Tobago: Nicaragua cocoa shade
- United States Virgin Islands: pea tree
- Vietnam: anh d[af]o g[is]la; h[oo]ng mai; hông mai; sát thu
- West Indies Associated States: ratónera; yerba di tonka
- GLRSE (Gliricidia sepium)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
G. sepium is an adaptable, fast growing, precociously seeding tree, with the ability to disperse seeds up to 40 m from the parent tree from exploding pods. This species has been widely introduced across tropical and subtropical regions to be used for fuel wood, animal feed, green manure, shade, poles, living fences, erosion control, soil improver, and as a boundary and support plant. It has escaped from cultivation and has become a successful colonizer of disturbed sites, roadsides, abandoned agricultural land and areas near cultivation (Elevitch and Francis, 2006). This species is listed as invasive in Australia, Hawaii, the Philippines, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Tonga, Singapore, Comoros, and Trinidad and Tobago (Vos, 2004; PIER, 2016; Trinidad and Tobago Biodiversity, 2016; Weeds of Australia, 2016). It is also regarded as a potential weed and as a moderate or potentially invasive species in many countries across Asia, Africa, and the West Indies (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2016; PROTA, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Faboideae
- Genus: Gliricidia
- Species: Gliricidia sepium
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Gliricidia, native to tropical America, belongs within the informal Gliricidia group - comprising Gliricidia, Hybosema (two species from Mexico and Central America) and Poitea (12 species from the Caribbean) - of the tribe Robinieae (Lavin et al., 1991; Lavin and Sousa, 1995) of subfamily Faboideae, family Fabaceae. It is taken to exclude G. ehrenbergii (= Hybosema ehrenbergii) and include G. brenningii (based on Yucaratonia brenningii and previously Sesbania brenningii). The Plant List (2013) includes four accepted species, G. brenningii, G. sepium, G. robusta and G. maculata.
The only source of taxonomic confusion relating to G. sepium surrounds the identity of G. maculata as a distinct species. These two species were considered to be the same thing, and the name G. maculata was often used in the past when referring to G. sepium (e.g. Streets, 1962; Chadhokar, 1982; Whiteman et al., 1986; Falvey, 1982) and more recently as a synonym by some (e.g. Wiersum and Nitis, 1997). The many, but often subtle, morphological differences between G. maculata and G. sepium were documented in detail by Hughes (1987), Lavin and Sousa (1995) and Lavin in Stewart et al. (1996). Lavin et al. (1991) and Chamberlain and Galwey (1993) provided strong molecular evidence suggesting that the two are genetically distinct. This combined evidence from morphology and molecules led to the reinstatement of G. maculata as a species distinct from G. sepium by Lavin and Sousa (1995). Dawson et al. (1995, 1996) provided further molecular evidence supporting this distinction. These two species are known to be cross compatible (Dawson et al., 1996). Artificial hybrids between the two have been created and putative natural, or spontaneous, hybrids detected following sporadic cultivation of G. sepium within the native range of G. maculata (Dawson et al., 1996).
A taxonomic revision of the tribe Robinieae including a species-level taxonomic account of Gliricidia is provided by Lavin and Sousa (1995) and a more user-friendly account of the taxonomy of Gliricidia by Lavin in Stewart et al. (1996).
The generic name Gliricidia, meaning 'mouse-killer', comes from the poisonous nature of many parts of the plant, while 'sepium' (of hedges') refers to its use as a living fence.
DescriptionTop of page
G. sepium forms a small to medium-sized, thornless, deciduous, single- or multiple-stemmed tree; 2-15 m and occasionally 20 m tall, and 5-30 cm and occasionally 1 m in stem diameter, with an open rounded crown, often greatly modified by lopping. The bark on young branches is smooth, grey-brown or pale whitish grey with raised pale brown lenticels, becoming fissured on boles. The leaves are alternate or sometimes sub-opposite, pinnate, 15-35 cm long, with slender, yellow-green, finely hairy rachis, an odd terminal leaflet, and 6-24 opposite (except in upper part of rachis) leaflets per leaf. Leaflets are narrowly elliptic to elliptic, rarely broadly elliptic, usually pointed at tips, 4.4-8.3 cm long, 1.7-4.8 cm wide, larger towards tip of the leaf, with characteristic dark purplish tannin patches scattered, especially on lower surface. The flowers are borne on erect, 2-15 cm long racemes arising from leaf axils, or on leafless nodes of older stems with almost synchronous maturation of 30-100 flowers on a single inflorescence. The flowers are typical of Papilionoid legumes, borne on short 5-11 mm long slender pedicels, 2 cm long, with a five-lobed campanulate (bell-shaped) calyx and a typical pea-shaped whitish-pink or purple corolla with five strongly unequal petals. The standard petal is light pink, or pink with a deep yellow basal blotch, and the blade is reflexed at 180° when the flower is fully open. The wing and keel petals are also usually pink. There are 10 whitish stamens, 9 united into a tube and one free. The pods are 10-17 cm long and 1.4-2.2 cm wide, strongly compressed, green sometimes tinged maroon and fleshy unripe, drying mid yellow-brown when ripe, and opening explosively when dry with the pod valves twisting into tight spirals after dehiscence. There are 3-10 lenticular, round or elliptic, yellow-brown, darker orange-brown when mature, seeds per pod, 8.5-11.5 mm in diameter.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
The distribution of G. sepium within Mexico, Central and South America has undoubtedly been greatly altered and extended by a long history of local use, cultivation, incipient domestication, translocation and subsequent naturalization. This has been promoted by massive habitat disturbance, now making it difficult to discern the true extent of the native distribution of this species (Hughes, 1987; Simons, 1996a).
While some authors (e.g. Standley and Steyermark, 1946; White, 1980; McVaugh, 1987) have postulated a wide native range covering Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean, others have suggested a less extensive range, restricted to the seasonally-dry tropical forest formation of Mexico and Central America, from Sinaloa in north-west Mexico to Guanacaste in Costa Rica (Janzen, 1983; Hughes, 1987). Patterns of isozymes (Chamberlain and Galwey, 1993) and chloroplast DNA (Lavin et al., 1991) variation suggest a 'centre of diversity' in the seasonally dry zones of southern Mexico and northern Central America, with many outlying populations exhibiting unusually low levels of genetic diversity suggestive of introduction and subsequent naturalization (Simons, 1996a; Dawson and Chamberlain, 1996). Detailed distribution maps are provided by Hughes (1987), Lavin and Sousa (1995) and Lavin et al. (1996). Here we follow the most updated classification that consider G. sepium as native to Mexico and Central America and cultivated or naturalized elsewhere (ILDIS, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016).
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: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|Central African Republic||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|Congo, Democratic Republic of the||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|Congo, Republic of the||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|Uganda||Present||Introduced||First reported: early 1900s|
|-Andaman and Nicobar Islands||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|-Daman and Diu||Present||Introduced|
|Indonesia||Present||Introduced||First reported: c. 1900|
|Philippines||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1521-1815|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1880s|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present||Introduced|
|Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba|
|British Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||Guana, Tortola, Virgin Gorda|
|Puerto Rico||Present, Localized||Introduced|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||Introduced|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||St Croix, St Thomas, St John|
|Federated States of Micronesia||Present||Introduced|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present||Introduced|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Introduced|
|Wallis and Futuna||Present||Introduced|
|-Fernando de Noronha||Present||Introduced||Planted|
|-Rio de Janeiro||Present||Introduced||Cultivated|
|-Rio Grande do Norte||Present||Introduced||Cultivated|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
G. sepium was introduced from Mexico to the Philippines before 1815, probably much earlier, and possibly as early as the early 1600s (Wiersum and Dirdjosoemarto, 1987), along with at least 200 other tropical American species, including other woody legumes from the genera Acacia, Leucaena, Pithecellobium, Prosopis and Samanea, aboard one of the annual Spanish government galleons that sailed from Acapulco to Manila during the period from 1521 to 1815 (Merrill, 1912).
An early introduction to many other countries, principally for use as a shade tree over cacao, coffee or tea plantations, has been documented: to the Caribbean before 1850 (Ford, 1987), and to Sri Lanka in the 1880s based on seed from a single tree from Trinidad (Hughes, 1987). G. sepium has subsequently spread to India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia in about 1900 (Wiersum and Nitis, 1997), West Africa and Uganda in the early 1900s (Tothill, 1940), and to Kenya from the Caribbean in 1930 (Streets, 1962). These sporadic early introductions have been supplemented by even more widespread distribution of seed to 55 countries for species trials, and later provenance trials (Hughes and Styles, 1984; Hughes, 1987), and G. sepium now has a pantropical distribution.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
G. sepium is already widely distributed, now being one of the most widely planted agroforestry trees. Risks are therefore more likely to be associated with existing plants in cultivation becoming weedy than to be linked with new introductions. The extent to which it is considered a problem weed varies among authors, as in some countries spread is prevented due to the inability of G. sepium to set seed, though the monitoring of sites where it is already cultivated for signs of invasiveness may be prudent.
HabitatTop of page
In its native range, G. sepium often grows on coastal sand dunes, sometimes forming extensive thickets in large areas of shifting sand (e.g. coastal Oaxaca on the Tehuantepec Isthmus in southern Mexico) (Hughes, 1987). In these areas it tolerates sand accumulation to depths of several metres around the base of the trees and salt-laden winds, although there is no evidence that it tolerates more than mildly saline soils. Janzen (1983) suggested that, within Costa Rica, it is truly native in middle to late succession habitats in only the drier parts of the dry lowland deciduous forest formation in Guanacaste, and lack of seed production in many wetter areas suggests a native distribution restricted to seasonally dry areas (Hughes, 1987). According to WAC (2005), G. sepium occurs naturally in early and mid-successional vegetation types on disturbed sites such as coastal sand dunes, riverbanks, floodplains and fallow land, including steep slopes. In many parts of Central America it is an abundant component of secondary vegetation and bush fallows partly due to its ability to withstand fire by quickly resprouting after damage (Hughes, 1987; Simons, 1996a). G. sepium has the potential to colonize and invade a range of disturbed, ruderal sites, such as roadsides, abandoned fields and waste ground (Hughes, 1987; Hughes and Styles, 1989) and thus has the potential to become a weed and invasive plant (Holm et al., 1979). As a strong light demander and colonizer, it may invade disturbed sites where it can set seed, but it is unlikely to invade closed forest communities.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|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||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|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 forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||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||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|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Productive/non-natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The chromosome number reported for G. sepium varies from n = 10 to n = 14 (Gill and Husaini, 1982; Jahan et al., 1994). Early introductions of G. sepium usually had a very narrow genetic base, suggesting that many local land races may be suboptimal and inbred (Hughes, 1987; Simons, 1996a, b). There is considerable variation in growth and habit among provenances within G. sepium, and confirm the almost universal superiority of new provenance material over local land races (Dunsdon and Simons, 1996). Variation in vigour is matched by high genetic diversity among populations as assayed by chloroplast DNA restriction fragment analysis (Lavin et al., 1991), isozymes and RAPDs (Chamberlain and Galwey, 1993; Dawson and Chamberlain, 1996).
Simons (1996a) showed that G. sepium and G. maculata are sexually compatible by creating a set of artificial hybrids between these two species. The hybrids lacked vigour and flowered more precociously and abundantly than either parent, and appear to have little potential for planting.
The flowering biology, breeding and mating systems of G. sepium have been investigated by Simons (1996a) and Dawson and Chamberlain (1996). There is a hermaphrodite flowering system coupled with obligate outcrossing and a strong self- incompatibility mechanism (WAC, 2005). Flowering may start at 6-24 months of age. Flowers are insect pollinated, visited by a limited variety of insects. Large bees, such as Xylocopa fimbriata, rewarded by abundant nectar production, are the principal pollinators in the native range (Janzen, 1983; Simons, 1996a; Wiersum and Nitis, 1997). Although such bees are capable of distributing pollen over distances of several kilometres, Dawson and Chamberlain (1996) detected pollen flow usually over 75 m or less, but occasionally more than 250 m. In more humid areas, shoot growth may be continuous, and trees remain in leaf all year with only sporadic flowering, and often very sparse or no seed set. In many seasonally dry areas, G. sepium produces abundant crops of seed from as early as 1-3 years of age. Pod opening is explosive and can catapult seed up to 40 m from standing trees (Simons, 1996a). There are 4700-11,000 seeds per kilogram (Hughes, 1987). WAC (2005) report viability of seeds for twelve months in open storage conditions. Seeds germinate within 3-10 days (Whiteman et al., 1986). In many areas seed set is extremely low and natural regeneration poor.
Physiology and Phenology
Flowering and fruiting take place during the dry season, when the tree has shed its leaves. Flowers are insect-pollinated and pods ripen 40-55 days after flowering, seeds are mature when pods turn yellow-brown; fruiting is relatively uniform with about 20 days from first to last seed dispersal. In its native area in most years seed production is abundant with predictable timing. In more humid zones shoot growth tends to be continuous and the evergreen tree flowers only sporadically on the basal parts of twigs from which the leaves have dropped. In the native range, G. sepium flowers during the early dry season between January and March, and pods ripen 35-60 days later in March-May (Janzen, 1983). Hughes (1987) observed considerable variation in flowering times between coastal (early) and higher elevation inland (later) provenances, variation which was repeated in controlled trial conditions (Simons, 1996a). Trees are deciduous, losing some or all of their leaves during the dry season, and flowering and fruiting while leafless. Leaves flush as seeds are shed, usually about one month prior to the first rain. In non-seasonal, humid areas, such as Kalimantan, Indonesia, trees may be evergreen with continuous shoot growth (Siebert, 1987) and in these areas flowering is often sporadic with little seed set. More detailed phenological variation between and within provenances is discussed by Simons (1996a).
Mature seeds of G. sepium are light, (4500-) 8000 (- 11 000) per kg; they germinate in 7-10 days. Early seedling growth is slow, but once established growth is fast, up to 3 m per year. After cutting trees resprout vigorously.
G. sepium is nitrogen fixing and nodulation has been observed to occur widely both in its native range and where introduced in Asia (Allen and Allen, 1981), in association with Rhizobium spp. (WAC, 2005). Simons (1996a) lists the common co-occurring tree genera within its native distribution, including Acacia, Bauhinia, Bursera, Brosimum, Caesalpinia, Calicophyllum, Combretum, Crescentia, Dalbergia, Enterolobium, Guazuma, Haematoxylum, Juliania, Lonchocarpus, Lysiloma, Pithecellobium, Senna, Simarouba, Swietenia and Tabebuia.
In its native range, G. sepium grows mainly in relatively uniform subhumid, seasonally dry tropical climates with annual rainfall of (600-) 900-1500 mm and a 4-5 month dry season (Hughes, 1987; Parrotta, 1992; Simons, 1996a). However, it has been successfully grown in much wetter, humid, non-seasonal climates with annual rainfall as high as 3500 mm. In its native range, mean annual temperature varies from 20-29°C, maximum temperature below 42°C, and it tolerates light night frosts, but not prolonged frosts and does not grow well in subtropical areas, where leaves are shed with the onset of winter when night temperatures fall below 15°C (Whiteman et al., 1986; Wiersum and Nitis, 1997). G. sepium can be managed in a coppice system in areas with frost by cutting new growth before frosts occur (Stewart et al., 1992). A modified description of climatic requirements (see climatic data table of this data sheet) was prepared by CSIRO (Booth and Jovanovic, 2000).
In its native range, G. sepium is found on a wide range of soil types from pure sand on coastal dunes to heavy black clays, but is most commonly found on freely drained, rocky, superficial, skeletal, unstratified regasols of volcanic or alluvial origin. It tolerates both alkaline and moderately acidic soils with pH in the range 4.5-11.0 and is more tolerant of acid soils and low fertility than Leucaena species. On coastal sand dunes in its native range it sometimes forms extensive thickets in large areas of shifting sand (e.g. coastal Oaxaca on the Tehuantepec Isthmus in southern Mexico) (Hughes, 1987). In these areas it tolerates salt-laden winds and sand accumulation to depths of several meters around the base of the trees, although there is no evidence that it tolerates more than mildly saline soils. It can be grown up to 2000 m altitude.
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)||0|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||20||27|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||27||36|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||14||23|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||0||6||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||600||3500||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Cercosporidium gliricidiasis causes small, light brown, rounded spots with dark borders. Other diseases include (Orwa et al., 2009):
- Sirosporium gliricidiae, which is associated with poor-growing trees, on which attacks can often result in moderate defoliation.
- Cladosporium sp., which caused defoliation in Costa Rica.
- Scab Sphaceloma spp., which is manifested as brown lesions on the petioles and stems, has been found in Honduras.
- Twig, stem and branch die-back caused by Botryosphaeria, Nectria and Phomopsis spp. have been recorded in Central America, Asia and Africa.
- Leaf defoliators such as Hylesia lineata, Erynnis spp. and Spodoptera spp. have been reported to attack trees less than 3 years old as well as older trees in Central America.
- The aphid Aphis craccivora has been reported widely in India, Uganda, Dominican Republic and Trinidad.
Of significant interest is the fact that it is resistant to the psyllid Heteropsylla cubana, which has caused serious devastation to Leucaena leucocephala.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
G. sepium pods open explosively, and can catapult seed up to 40 m from standing trees (Simons, 1996a), and wind and water flow also influences the direction in which seeds are dispersed (WAC, 2005). Long distance dispersal is by man, who has planted this species widely in agroforestry, particularly as a shade tree, and widescale repeated introduction to exotic ranges has led to a pantropical distribution.
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
|Human health||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Due to its nitrogen-fixing ability, G. sepium has the capacity to change soil nitrogen levels with negative impacts on nutrient balances and cycling in invaded areas. This species also grows forming monospecific thickets that displace native vegetation (Anon., 1998) and alter successional processes. Replacement of native species in invaded areas is leading to lower quality habitat for native biodiversity.
Social ImpactTop of page
The roots, bark and seeds of G. sepium are poisonous.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- 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 high reproductive potential
- Altered trophic level
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Competition - smothering
- Rapid growth
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
UsesTop of page
G. sepium is an extremely versatile nitrogen-fixing agroforestry tree that can be incorporated in diverse ways into many different smallholder farming systems and provide a range of wood and leaf products including fuelwood, construction poles, crop supports, green manure, fodder and bee forage (Simons and Stewart, 1994; Stewart, 1996). In addition it is used in living fences, to stabilize soils, to shade plantation crops, as an ornamental, a rodent poison, and in traditional medicine. Few trees epitomize the idea of a multipurpose tree better than G. sepium, and it is often considered to be the most widely cultivated agroforestry tree after Leucaena leucocephala (Wiersum and Nitis, 1997).
The specific epithet 'sepium', meaning 'of hedges' was chosen in reference to the use of G. sepium in living fences in many parts of tropical America and elsewhere. It is well suited for such use as it can be readily propagated from large stakes and managed by regular pollarding. A row of stakes produces a very effective living fence that will last for 30 years with minimal maintenance beyond periodic pollarding, whilst loppings provide fuelwood and green manure as well as a ready source of new stakes for replacement posts (Simons and Stewart, 1994). The dense masses of pink flowers make G. sepium an attractive ornamental tree and it is often planted as such (Neal, 1965). The tree has also been planted to reclaim denuded or Imperata-infested lands.
The name 'madre de cacao' derived from the old Aztec and Nahuatl name 'cacahuananche', was used because the tree has long been planted as nurse and shade tree in cacao plantations in parts of Central America (Standley, 1922; Standley and Steyermark, 1946). Its early introduction across the tropics was primarily driven by interest in its cultivation as a shade tree over plantation crops (cacao, coffee, tea), but it is not a good coffee shade as it is leafless during the dry season. Large scale plantations (e.g. 12,000 ha in a single cacao plantation in Indonesia) of G. sepium as a shade tree over cacao continues today (Siebert, 1987).
G. sepium is also widely used to provide live stakes to support black pepper, vanilla and yam with resprout manipulated to optimize conditions for the crop and provide useful green manure by-products (Yamoah et al., 1986; Glover, 1989; Stewart, 1996). It is one of the most popular species used in the sloping agricultural land technology (SALT) involving contour hedgerows to conserve soil and control erosion in parts of Asia (Stewart, 1996), and is an extremely useful tree in wider land rehabilitation (Perino, 1979; Clark and Hellin, 1996). There is some evidence to suggest that G. sepium can protect some crops from fungal, insect or viral attack either directly or by acting as a diversionary host plant for pests, and it has also been suggested that G. sepium mulch has a fungicidal effect (Stewart, 1996). When intercropped the tree has been reported to control pests, e.g. in Sri Lanka termite damage to tea was minimized and similarly in the Philippines stem-borer damage to rice. In India on the other hand, the tree was found to have a positive effect on the transmission of aphids (Aphis craccivora) causing rosette disease in groundnuts.
The wood is often utilized as firewood, charcoal or as posts and farm implements, locally for furniture, construction purposes and railway sleepers as well. The wood is light to dark olive-brown, very hard and heavy, strong, coarse-textured, with an irregular grain, seasons well and although difficult to work, takes a high polish. It is highly durable, being resisteant to termites and fungal attack, and is thus valued for house construction and corner fence posts (Standley, 1922; Standley and Steyermark, 1946). Given the limited bole dimensions <40 cm diameter and <8 m length), timber of large dimensions is rarely available and wood of G. sepium is little used for sawn timber and does not enter commerce. The heartwood of G. sepium burns slowly, giving good embers and producing little smoke, and older wood is considered as a good fuel (Wiersum and Nitis, 1997). G. sepium is, however, rarely grown primarily for fuelwood, but this is often an important by-product from living fences or shade trees (Salazar, 1984; Stewart, 1996).
G. sepium is an important forage crop in cut-and-carry systems in many parts of the tropics including South-East Asia, Sri Lanka, Colombia and the Caribbean (Chadhokar, 1982; Falvey, 1982; Simons and Stewart, 1994; Stewart, 1996). Palatability may be extremely problematic in some areas (e.g. West Africa, India and the Philippines, Simons and Stewart, 1994; Stewart, 1996), possibly due to anti-nutritional factors such as flavonols and phenols. This means that ruminants unaccustomed to eating G. sepium may initially refuse it, and may take a long period to become accustomed to it; though eventually ruminants may consume a high proportion in their diet for extended periods of time (Wiersum and Nitis, 1997). Poor palatability is also thought to be caused by the odour of the leaves, possibly attributable to presence of coumarin or other volatile substances released from the leaf surface (Stewart, 1996). Some toxicity effects have also been documented, possibly caused by conversion of coumarin to dicoumarol, a haemorrhagic compound, during fermentation (Simons and Stewart, 1994). Despite these mixed perceptions, G. sepium remains an important high quality fodder for ruminants, and there are many reports of improvements in animal production, survival, lambing or calving percentage, birth weight, live weight gains and milk yields, from feeding it as a supplement (Smith and van Houtert, 1987; Stewart, 1996; Wiersum and Nitis, 1997). Its leaves are usually used as a high quality supplement to low quality grass, straw or other residues forming 20-40% of the diet (Simons and Stewart, 1994; Stewart, 1996). However, results of using G. sepium as a fodder for non-ruminants have generally been poor (Stewart, 1996).
Leaves of G. sepium have been widely used as a green manure where used as an understorey tree under coconuts, as a shade tree (Liyanage, 1987), when grown on rice paddy bunds in south India and Sri Lanka (Stewart, 1996), and more recently in formal intercropping systems such as alley farming (Yamoah et al., 1986; Kang et al., 1990). Prunings have a low carbon to nitrogen ratio, high nutrient levels, and when applied as a green manure decompose quickly with an extremely short half-life of 22 days (Budelman, 1988). This means that prunings can be used to provide a rapid influx of nutrients to crops (Glover, 1989) but provide minimal mulching benefits in terms of weed control and soil moisture conservation (Wiersum and Nitis, 1997). Very fast growth, although an advantage to produce plenty of green manure, can be a problem in alley farming systems by demanding high labour inputs to carry out the frequent prunings required to avoid shading (Yamoah et al., 1986). G. sepium is also used to restore soil fertility as an important and sometimes dominant element of managed secondary bush fallows in parts of Central America (Martinez, 1985).
As indicated by the generic name Gliricidia, meaning `mouse-killer', the leaves, seeds and bark are poisonous to rats, mice and other rodents as well as dogs. Dried bark or leaves ground mixed with cooked maize are used as a rat poison in parts of Central America (Standley, 1922; Standley and Steyermark, 1946; Glover, 1989; Stewart, 1996). After fermentation seeds, bark, leaves or roots can also be used as a rodenticide and pesticide.
Flowers are also used, being cooked locally for human food, as a useful source of nectar for bees, or for their ornamental attraction. G. sepium is considered an important tree in apiculture in several countries. In the Philippines, the juice of the leaves, bark and roots is used to alleviate itches and wounds.
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Boundary, barrier or support
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Shade and shelter
- Soil improvement
Human food and beverage
- Honey/honey flora
- Carved material
Wood ProductsTop of page
- Building poles
- Roundwood structures
- Industrial and domestic woodware
- Tool handles
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Gliricidia maculata is reliably distinguished from G. sepium by its leathery as opposed to papery leaflets with rounded instead of pointed or acuminate apices, white as opposed to pink flowers, longer, pendulous, as opposed to erect, inflorescences, shorter calyx tube and hairy, as opposed to nearly glabrous, pedicel and calyx base, documented in detail by Lavin and Sousa (1995) and Stewart et al. (1996). These two species are known to be cross compatible (Dawson et al., 1996). Artificial hybrids between the two have been created and putative natural, or spontaneous, hybrids detected following sporadic cultivation of G. sepium within the native range of G. maculata (Dawson et al., 1996).
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.
G. sepium withstands fire well by quickly resprouting after damage. No precise information on the control of G. sepium is available, but because of its popularity as an agroforestry tree, biological control methods could conflict with the interests of commercial plantings, and would therefore have to focus on limiting the potential of the plant to set seed.
BibliographyTop of page
Hughes CE, 1987. Biological considerations in designing a seed collection strategy for Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp. (Leguminosae). Commonwealth Forestry Review 66(l):31-47.
Lindsay Falvey J, 1982. Gliricidia maculata a review. International Tree Crops Journal, 2:1-14.
Withington D, Glover N, Brewbaker J, 1987. Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp.: management and improvement. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Association Special Publication, 87-101.
ReferencesTop of page
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13/02/17 Updated by:
Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
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