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Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Kunth ex Walp.

Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Kunth ex Walp.

Family

Leguminosae

Synonyms

Gliricidia maculata (Kunth) Kunth ex Walp.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Bunga jepun (also used for Thevetia spp.).
English

Gliricidia, mother of cocoa, Mexican lilac.

American Quickstick.
Indonesia Gamal, liriksidia (Javanese).
Philippines Kakawate (general), madre-cacao, balok-balok (Tagalog).
Laos

Kh'è: no:yz, kh'è: fàlangx.

Thai­land

Khae-farang.

Vietnam Anh d[af]o g[is]a, s[as]t thu, h[oo]ng maio

Geographical Distributions

Gliri­cidia sepium is a native of the seasonally dry Pacific Coast of Central America. It has long been cultivated and is naturalised in tropical Mexico, Central America and northern South America. It was also introduced to the Caribbean and later to West Africa. The Spaniards took it to the Philippines in the early 1600s. From Trinidad, it was taken to Sri Lanka in the 18th Century; from there it reached other Asian countries including Indonesia (about 1900), Malaysia, Thailand and India.

Description

Gliricidia sepium is a small deciduous tree, measures up to 12 m tall, and with a short trunk up to 50 cm in diametre. The trunk is smooth or slightly fissured, whitish-grey to light brown bark and often branches from the base. The mature tree has an irregular spreading crown of thin foliage.

The leaves are arranged alternate, pinnate and measure 15-40 cm long. The petiole is 5 mm long. The rachis is slender, yellow­ green and finely hairy. There are 7-17 leaflets per leaf, opposite except at the upper part of rachis, elliptical or lance-shaped, measuring 3-6 cm x 1.5-3 cm, rounded or wedge-shaped at the base, acuminate at top, thin, dull green and hairless above, grey-green and often pubescent beneath.

The flowers are 5-12 cm long, and with axillary raceme about 2 cm long. The sepal is bell-shaped, 5-toothed and light green tinged with red. The petal is whitish-pink or purple, with a broad standard, folded back and yellowish near the base. There are 2 oblong, curved wings, and a narrow keel. There are 10 white stamens where 9 of them are united in a tube while 1 is free. The pistil is with a stalked, narrow, red ovary and a whitish and curved style.

The pod is narrow, flat, measuring 10-15 cm x 1.2-1.5 cm, and yellow-green when imma­ture but turns yellowish-brown. It is shortly stalked and with a short mucro that splits open at maturi­ty. The pod is 4-10-seeded. The seed is ellipsoid, about 10 mm long, shiny and dark reddish-brown.

Ecology / Cultivation

In its native range, the climate is rela­tively uniformly subhumid with an annual rain­fall of 900-1500 mm and a five-month dry period. Gliricidia sepium has been introduced successfully in more humid zones with up to 3500 mm annual rainfall and without a marked dry season. In its native range, the mean annual temperature varies from 20-29oC, while the mean maximum temperature of the hottest month from 34-41oC, and the mean mini­mum temperature of the coldest month from 14-20°C. Light night frost can be tolerated, but not prolonged frost.

G. sepium occurs naturally in ear­ly and middle successional vegetation types on disturbed sites such as coastal sand dunes, river banks, floodplains and fallow lands, from sea level up to 1500 m altitude. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types, both alkaline and acidic, but prefers free drainage. It is also more tolerant of acid and low fertile soils than leucaena, but will respond to fertilizer application on such soils. It is not as well adapted to the subtropics as leucaena; leaves are shed with the onset of lower temperatures during winter, and plants are less resistant to frost. It is, however, more tolerant of waterlogged conditions than leucaena. In its native, seasonally dry habi­tat, trees are often exposed to annual fires. G. sepium tolerates such fires well and trees quickly re­sprout when the rains start, which explains the abundance of the tree in secondary vegetations and fallows.

Line Drawing / Photograph

Gliricidia_sepium_2

References

  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.11: Auxiliary plants.

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