IAS Spotlight – Wild Tamarind

This week we’ll look at one of the world’s worst invasive alien species, the Leucaena leucocephala. The Leucaena leucocephala is also known as wild tamarind, jumbie bean, or coffee bush is an invasive species of tree that is native to southern tropical America. It is a fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing tree/shrub that is aggressively invasive in sub-tropical and other tropical locations.

The wild tamarind is a very troublesome weed of roadsides and riparian zones (banks of watercourses). It can be found in waste areas, disturbed areas, coastal foreshores, offshore islands, parks, gardens, and open woodland areas. This invasive species can grow to 2-10 m tall but can reach 15 m or more in height. Its younger stems are green and usually densely covered in fine greyish coloured hairs, while the older stems are greyish-brown or greyish bark with numerous small, raised spots. The leaves can grow to be up to 35 cm long.

The Leucaena leucocephala resprouts after its stems are damaged or cut and is a prolific seed producer. The seeds can be dispersed by cattle and small animals like birds or rodents. The light pods can also float on water and spread to short distances by wind. It displaces native vegetation in coastal strands, disturbed areas, canopy gaps, and forest edges, subsequently forming dense thickets.

Preventative measures for controlling this invasive species include not planting it, hand pulling seedlings, continuous cutting to kill large trees or grazing to kill smaller ones, and the use of a biological control agent, the jumping lice ‘Leucaena psyllid (Heteropsylla Cubana), that has been known to damage the plant, or the use of goats for grazing control.

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Find out more from our resources below!

Lucid central – Leucaena leucocephala keys and fact sheets

UF IFAS – Leucaena leucocephala

IUCNGISD  – Leucaena leucocephala