Leucaena leucocephala is a shrub or small tree usually growing 2-10 m tall, but occasionally reaching 15 m or more in height. The younger stems are green and usually densely covered in fine greyish coloured hairs (finely pubescent). Older stems have a relatively smooth, greyish or greyish-brown, bark with numerous small raised spots (lenticels). The leaves (up to 35 cm long) are twice-compound (bipinnate) and have 3-10 pairs of branchlets. They are alternately arranged along the stems and borne on stalks (petioles) 2-5 cm long. A small raised structure (gland) is usually present on the leaf stalk (petiole), or just below where the lowest pair of branchlets (pinnae) meet. pinnae are 2-10 cm long and each bears 5-22 pairs of leaflets (pinnules). These leaflets (7-21 mm long and 1.5-5 mm wide) are elongated (narrowly-oblong to lanceolate) in shape with pointed tips (acute apices), and are either hairless (glabrous) or have hairy (ciliate) margins. The flowers are borne in dense globular clusters (12-30 mm across), which look like a 'pompom' when the flowers open. These clusters are borne in the leaf forks (axils) on stalks (peduncles) 2-6 cm long, with one to three clusters present in each leaf fork (axil). Each of the small flowers has five tiny sepals (2-2.5 mm long), five small greenish-white coloured petals (2-4 mm long), and ten prominent pale yellow or whitish coloured stamens (6-10 mm long). The fruit are elongated (linear), flattened, pods with a pointed tip (beaked apex). These pods (8-22.5 cm long and 10-20 mm wide) are initially green in colour, but turn brown or reddish-brown as they mature. Several pods will usually develop from each flower cluster. Each of these pods contains 10-25 hard seeds (6-10 mm long and 3-6 mm wide) that are glossy brown, flattened (compressed), and somewhat oval (elliptic-oblong) in shape.
Leucaena leucocephala's facts
Leucaena leucocephala is one of the fastest growing leguminous trees.
Extract of seed has been reported to possess chemopreventive, anti-proliferative, antihelmintic, antidiabetic, and antibacterial properties.
Leucaena leucocephala's Behavior & Ecology
Leucaena leucocephala is native to Guatemala and Mexico. It prefers neutral to mildly acid, well drained soils. Leucaena is tolerant of dryer climates and drought periods (up to 6-7 months). It may withstand light frost, moderate salinity and short periods of waterlogging. Heavy frost, acid soils, low P, low Ca and high Al are detrimental to Leucaena leucocephala. It has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst Invaders" by the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group.
Leucaena leucocephala's Reproduction
Leucaena leucocephala is a prolific seed producer and it also resprouts after its stems are cut or damaged. The seeds are often dispersed by small animals. The light pods may also be spread short distances by wind and can float on water.
Leucaena leucocephala's Relationship with Humans
In Maldives, this tree can be seen common in islands in wild and this tree is used in gardens.
During the 1970s and 1980s, it was well known for its multiple uses. It has also been described as a "conflict tree" because it is used for forage production but spreads like a weed in some places. The legume is promoted in several countries of Southeast Asia (at least Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand), most importantly as a source of quality animal feed, but also for residual use for firewood or charcoal production.