Leucaena pallida

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Flowers and seed.

New growth (bipinnate leaves).

Ripening pods on plants growing in hard conditions in northern Australia.

Row plantings with Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk.

Row plantings with Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk.

Row plantings with Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk.

Cattle (marked with paint for identification) in  row plantings with Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk.

Scale insects on midrib of leaf.

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Scientific name

Leucaena pallida Britton & Rose


Leucaena dugesiana Britton & Rose
Leucaena esculenta (DC.) Benth. subsp. paniculata (Britton & Rose) Zárate
Leucaena oaxacana Britton & Rose
Leucaena paniculata Britton & Rose


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Mimosoideae tribe: Mimoseae. Also placed in: Mimosaceae.

Common names

guaja, guajal, guajal de castilla, guaje, guaje barbero, guaje colorado, guaje de risa, guaje Delgado, guaje rojo, guajentudi, huaje, lobada le-eg, lya gusgih, ndwan duchi, texcalera, timbre (Spanish).

Morphological description

A small to medium tree with an open crown, often rising from multiple stems.  Leaves bipinnate with 15-27 pairs of pinnae, variable in length up to 35 cm, with an un-stalked, crater-shaped petiole gland (up to 4.0 mm long x 3.2 mm wide);  leaflets 39-50 pairs/pinna, 6-8 mm x 1-2 mm, asymmetric truncate at base linear or linear oblong, acuminate at apex.  Flowers are pale pink or dull purplish mauve in colour 15 mm in diameter, numerous 95-110/head in groups of 3-5 in leaf axils on actively growing shoots.  Stamens (10 per flower) and pistil 10 mm long, anthers pilose, dehiscing at dawn.  Pod 12-19 cm x 14-18 mm, slightly thickened or leathery, glossy maroon unripe turning mid reddish- or orange-brown.  Seeds 18-22 per pod , 6-10 mm long, brown.


Native to:
L. pallida
is probably native to relatively restricted highland regions of south central Mexico in the states of Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca and Puebla.

Due to domestication, its natural range is now difficult to ascertain.  Occurrences at Guanajuato, Jalisco and Zacatecas in northern Mexico are probably from historic introductions.


In Oaxaca, Mexico, L. pallida is cultivated extensively for its edible pods and seeds, often in combination with L. esculenta, which is later flowering.  Has been extensively evaluated in agronomic and animal production trials and used in hybridisation programs with L. leucocephala and other species.


Soil requirements

Native to shallow calcareous soils.  In exotic locations, has tolerated marginally more acidic soils than L. leucocephala .  Otherwise has similar intolerance of low P, low Ca, high aluminium saturation, high salinity and waterlogging .


In its native range, receives 500-1,000 mm annual rainfall with a 5-7 month dry season.  In exotic locations has been very productive at sites receiving up to 2,000 mm annual rainfall .


Grows at 1,100-2,300 m asl in climates with average annual temperatures ranging from 16-21ºC and experiencing occasional light frosts.  More cool tolerance than L. leucocephala .


Unknown.  Probably reasonable, as it occurs as an understorey species in pine forests in its native range.

Reproductive development

Flowers through spring and summer and fruits through autumn and early winter.


Tolerant of regular cutting and grazing.  Rarely heavily grazed due to low palatability .


Mature plants are tolerant of moderate intensity fires, regrowing readily from burnt stumps or branches.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Establishes more rapidly than L. leucocephala due to larger seed size and inherent vigour of L. pallida .  It is also marginally more tolerant of acid-infertile soils, otherwise has similar establishment requirements to L. leucocephala .
For best results plant on deep, well drained soils with a pH above 5.0 and maintain a weed-free area of at least 2 m either side of the establishing plants.  Seed must be scarified to break the impermeable testa.  Mechanical scarification, using coarse sandpaper (for small seed lots) or abrasive lined rotating drum scarifiers, is preferred.  Specific rhizobium is required (eg. CB3060, TAL1145, LDK4).
Complete cultivation is recommended in extensive plantings.  Planted into rows 4-9 m apart at seeding rates of 1-3 kg/ha.  Post-emergent herbicides such as bentazone and imazethapyr can be used to control weed seedlings in the rows.  Rolling cultivators can be used to control very young weed seedlings and break soils crusts after emergence of leucaena seedlings.
Small areas can be planted using seed or seedlings.  Seedlings are normally raised in poly bags for plug planting at 3-4 months old.  Seedlings can also be raised in beds and removed for planting as bare-rooted seedlings if 'topped and tailed'.


Normally not fertilised under rain-grown conditions.  Starter N and P may be used when establishing into depleted soils on cropping lands.

Compatibility (with other species)

The low palatability of L. pallida under grazing has resulted in the formation of dense canopies and subsequently, low productivity of understorey grasses.

Companion species

Grasses:  Has been grown in combination with signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens ), but height management of L. pallida is required.

Pests and diseases

Most accessions (K748, CQ 3439, K376) are highly resistant to the psyllid insect, Heteropsylla cubana.  Accessions identified previously as L. pallida , but now considered to be hybrids between L. pallida and other unknown species (K953 and OFI 52/87) are psyllid susceptible, whilst another, K806, is resistant.
Susceptible to brown scale, that attaches to the stem and reduces plant vigour.
A range of pathogenic fungi and insects occasionally attack L. pallida
Newly emerged nursery and field-grown seedlings are commonly killed by damping-off diseases caused by the fungal species Pythium or Rhizoctonia
The soft scale (Cocus longulus) attacks the tall stems of L. pallida causing a reduction in productivity.  The associated sooty mould that develops on the sugary exudates from the scale can cover the stems and temporarily kill under-storey grasses.  Soft scale is generally an infrequent pest, with populations rarely building to cause economic damage.
Soil insects such as earwigs, scarab beetles, termites and cut worms can cause serious damage to emerging seedlings and should be controlled using insecticide baits.
Seed production can be reduced by the flower-eating larvae of the moth Ithome lassula, and by four species of seed-eating bruchid beetles of the Acanthoscelides genus.

Ability to spread

Will form thickets in grazed pastures if tree height is not regularly managed.

Weed potential

Being self-incompatible, less precocious, and with lower seed production cf. L. leucocephala , most accessions of L. pallida are expected to possess lower weed potential.  However, accessions K748 and CQ 3439 have produced large quantities of seed (c. 0.5 kg/tree) in their first year of growth at Brisbane, Australia.  Accession CQ 3439 is a composite accession and K748 may be of hybrid origin and this may affect their seed production.  Given its low palatability to herbivores and seedling vigour, some accessions of L. pallida must be considered to have considerable weed potential.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Low nutritive value;  in vitro DM digestibility ranging from 55-64% of DM, but in vivo DM digestibility is low due to high concentrations (5-17% of DM) of highly astringent condensed tannins.  Crude protein concentrations 29-35% of DM.


Palatability was low in short-term palatability trials and very low under free-grazing conditions in grazing trials.


Contains low concentrations of mimosine (< 2% of DM).

Production potential

Dry matter

L. pallida is consistently reported to produce very high DM yields, with >10 t/ha/year forage being produced experimentally in favourable environments.  In moderately acid soils (pH 4.9, aluminium saturation 40%) L. pallida will outyield L. leucocephala , producing forage yields of up to 2 t/ha/year.

Animal production

In Papua New Guinea, L. pallida CQ 3439-signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens ) pastures supported steer liveweight gains of 0.36 kg/head/day over an 8-month period, compared to 0.48 kg/head/day for steers grazing the signal grass control paddock.  L. pallida quickly grew beyond the reach of cattle in this trial and had the potential to become a thicket.
In the Philippines, L. pallida CQ 3439-imperata (Imperata cylindrica) pastures supported steer liveweight gains of 0.23 kg/head/day over a 6-month period, producing a significantly higher mean liveweight gain cf. steers grazing the imperata control (0.14 kg/head/day), but much lower than for the L. leucocephala -imperata treatment (0.43 kg/head/day).
In northern Australia, L. pallida CQ 3439-signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens ) pastures supported steer liveweight gains of 0.42 kg/head/day over a 6-month period, producing a similar mean liveweight gain cf. steers grazing the signal grass control (0.38 kg/head/day), but much lower than for the L. leucocephala - signal grass treatment (0.72 kg/head/day).


L. pallida is a self-incompatible tetraploid with a chromosome number of 2n = 4x = 104 or 2n = 4x  = 112.  L. pallida is a tetraploid , probably with L. pueblana as the maternal parent.  L. pallida hybridises well with the tetraploid species L. leucocephala and L. diversifolia , but less well with L. confertiflora and the diploid species.

Seed production

Produces abundant seed despite being self-incompatible.  At Brisbane, Australia, approximately 0.5 kg/tree was harvested from 2-year-old trees.  Susceptible to the bruchid beetle (Acanthoscelides macrophthalmus).

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments


Selected references

Castillo, A.C., Acacio, R.N., Deocareza, A.G., Vitorio, E.E., Moog, F.A., Galido, E. and Llarena, A.A. (2001) New Leucaena species and hybrids for livestock production. In: de la Vina, A.C. and Moog, F.A. (eds) Integrated Crop-Livestock Production Systems and Fodder Trees. pp. 99-114. (FAO, Rome).
Galgal, K.K., Shelton, H.M. and Mullen, B.F. (2004) Animal production potential of some new Leucaena accessions in the Markham Valley. Tropical Grasslands, 38 , (in press).
Hughes, C.E. (1998) Leucaena, A genetic resources handbook. Oxford University Press, UK.
Shelton, H.M., Gutteridge, R.C., Mullen, B.F. and Bray, R.A. (1998) (eds) Leucaena - adaptation, quality and farming systems. ACIAR, Canberra, Australia.

Internet links




Country/date released


No cultivars of L. pallida have been formally released.          

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CQ 3439 Australia (not formally released). CQ 3439 is a composite accession developed by R.A. Bray, CSIRO from the uncontrolled pollination among 15 L. pallida accessions collected from across the native range of this species.  Despite their genetically heterogeneous parentage, trees are surprisingly similar in form and morphology leading to the speculation that relatively few accessions may have dominated fertilisation in the seed orchard.  CQ 3439 has been highly productive in comparison to several non-hybrid accessions in several trials pan-tropically.
K748 Australia, Hawaii (not formally released). Originally collected by R. Reid, CSIRO in Oaxaca, Mexico at 1,600 m asl in a 650 mm rainfall region.  Very high yielding in sub-tropical and highland tropical locations.  Used extensively in hybrid development by C. Sorensson, University of Hawaii.  Maternal parent of the vigorous KX2 hybrid with K636 L. leucocephala promoted by the University of Queensland, Australia.
K376 Hawaii (not formally released). Originally collected by J. Brewbaker, University of Hawaii, in Oaxaca, Mexico at 1,675 m asl.  High yielding in agronomic trials in Hawaii.  Used extensively in hybrid development by J. Brewbaker and C. Sorensson, University of Hawaii.  Maternal parent of the Hawaiian hybrid cultivar 'Ohana' with L. leucocephala K8.