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Albizia lebbeck - (L.) Benth.

Common Name Siris Tree, Woman's Tongue, East Indian Walnut
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-11
Known Hazards The bark is used as a fish poison[ 730 ]. A red dye obtained from the bark has caused skin irritation[ 730 ]. The pods contain saponin and are not eaten in large amounts by sheep, although cattle eat them readily[ 404 ]. Brittle limbs.
Habitats Tropical to subtropical sandy river beds and savannahs[307].
Range E. Asia - drier areas of the Indian subcontinent and southeastern Asia to northern Australia.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Albizia lebbeck Siris Tree, Woman

Forest & Kim Starr
Albizia lebbeck Siris Tree, Woman
Forest & Kim Starr


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Siris Tree (Woman's Tongue) Albizia lebbeck. Other common names include Indian walnut, lebbeck, lebbeck tree, flea tree, frywood, and koko. Siris Tree or Woman?s Tongue Tree (Albizia lebbeck) belongs in the Fabaceae family that grows up to 15-30 m in height and 50 cm to 300 cm in trunk diameter. It has bipinnate leaves that are usually 7.5 - 15 cm long, with one to four pairs of pinnae and each pinna with 6 - 18 leaflets. It has very fragrant, white flowers with numerous stamens. The fruit is a pod containing 6 -12 seeds. The tree is used to produce timber and fuel, for forage, environmental management, and medicine. It is an astringent and used for coughs, boils, lung problems, flu, and gingivitis, among others. Its bark is used to treat inflammation and as fish poison. The red dye obtained from the bark, however, causes skin irritation. The leaves and seeds are used medicinally for treating ophthalmia and other eye problems. The seeds are powdered to treat scrofula. Siris tree is commonly used to provide shade for coffee and cocoa plantations. Edible parts are young tips when cooked or boiled. It has nitrogen-rich leaves that can be used as mulch and green manure. It has an extensive, fairly shallow root system thus can be a good soil binder and may be used to prevent soil erosion. Other Names: Chiali, Lebbeck, Lebbek, Thing-chawke.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Albizia lebbeck is a deciduous Tree growing to 15 m (49ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acacia lebbeck (L.) Willd. Acacia macrophylla Bunge Acacia speciosa (Jacq.) Willd. Albizia latifolia


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses: Gum

Edible portion, Seeds, Leaves, Shoots. The young tips are cooked and eaten. They are boiled.


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidiarrhoeal  Astringent  Skin

The leaves and seeds are used in the treatment of eye problems such as ophthalmia[ 303 , 739 ]. The bark is astringent[ 739 ] It is taken internally to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and piles[ 739 ]. The bark is used externally to treat boils[ 303 ]. The flowers are applied locally to maturate boils and alleviate skin eruptions[ 739 ]. The powdered seeds are used to treat scrofula[ 739 ]. Saponin from the pods and roots has spermicidal activity[ 303 ].


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Other Uses

Alcohol  Biomass  Charcoal  Dye  Fuel  Gum  Insecticide  Pioneer  Soap  Soil stabilization  Tannin  Wood

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Agroforestry Uses: A fast-growing tree that fixes atmospheric nitrogen and succeeds in full sun, it is an excellent plant to use as a pioneer when establishing woodland or woodland gardens, though its ability to invade areas outside its native range means that it is best used only within its native area[ K ]. Due to its extensive, fairly shallow root system, the tree is a good soil binder and is recommended for eroded lands and erosion control, for example along river embankments[ 303 , 325 ]. The nitrogen-rich leaves are valuable as mulch and green manure[ 303 , 320 ]. Light transmission through the canopy of free-standing trees is 40 - 50%[ 310 ]. Free-standing trees appear to enhance pasture production and quality beneath the canopy due to the increased nitrogen status of the soil[ 310 ]. In an open woodland environment it has been repeatedly observed that there is modification of the ground cover with enhancement of grass production and quality beneath the canopy[ 310 ]. Seedlings and cuttings are used as an initial shade in coffee, cardamom, cocoa plantations etc[ 303 , 310 , 325 ]. The tree is also used in rehabilitating old cocoa farms or on improved fallows intended for cocoa cultivation due to its nitrogen-fixing abilities[ 325 ]. Although not completely wind firm, the tree is tolerant of salt-laden winds and can be planted in moderately exposed coastal situations and as quick-growing shelter for less hardy plants[ 303 , 418 ]. A valued honey tree because of its production of both nectar and pollen[ 310 ]. Other Uses It seems probable that the fruits can yield 10 barrels of ethanol per hectare per year[ 303 ]. The trunk yields a reddish gum that is used as an adulterant of gum arabic[ 303 ]. A red dye is obtained from the bark[ 730 ]. It can cause skin irritation[ 730 ]. The bark contains 7 - 11% tannin and is used locally in India for tanning fishing nets[ 303 , 418 ]. When dried and pounded, the bark can be used for soap[ 303 , 320 ]. The heartwood is golden brown when freshly cut, turning to a rich dark brown with black streaks; it is clearly demarcated from the paler sapwood. The texture is medium to coarse; the grain deeply interlocked; lustre is medium; there is no distinctive odour or taste The wood is moderately heavy and hard; strong and fairly durable. It seasons well, works and polishes easily. An excellent, very decorative timber, it has been compared to black walnut. The wood is suitable for turnery, carving, general construction, furniture, veneer, agricultural implements etc[ 307 , 316 , 320 , 325 , 404 ]. More generally the wood is useful for fuel wood because of its high productivity[ 307 , 310 ]. It makes an excellent charcoal[ 325 , 418 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer


Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Industrial Crop: Pesticide  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop

Although siris will grow in the humid tropics, its natural range is in semi-arid to sub-humid areas of the tropics and subtropics that have marked dry and reliable wet seasons[ 310 , 404 ]. However, it may be established under conditions of low (400 mm/year) and irregular rainfall[ 310 ]. Plants can succeed at elevations from sea level to 1,800 metres in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 26 - 36c, but can tolerate 12 - 48c[ 303 , 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 500 - 2,500mm[ 303 , 418 ]. Seedlings will not tolerate frost, but trees are moderately frost resistant when established[ 418 ]. Prefers a well-drained, moisture-retentive soil and a position in full sun[ 200 ]. Plants are able to succeed in most soil types, including saline but excluding cracking clay, so long as they are well drained[ 307 ]. Tolerant of degraded or nutritionally poor soils[ 307 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 5.5 - 8.5[ 418 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[ 307 ]. Seedlings will not tolerate waterlogging[ 310 ]. Requires a position sheltered from strong winds[ 303 ]. Widely cultivated, the tree has become established in the wild in various areas outside its native range and is considered to be invasive in some of these areas[ 305 ]. A fast-growing species, it can reach a height of 18 metres within 10 years from seed[ 418 ]. When grown as a fuel crop on a coppice rotation of 10 - 15 years, it can produce about 5 cubic metres per hectare[ 418 ]. Optimum annual wood production is 15 - 20 cubic metres per hectare[ 418 ]. Plants have brittle limbs that can break off in high winds[ 307 ]. They also have a shallow, though wide-spreading root system that does not support them well in windy positions[ 307 ]. The dried seedpods hanging on the tree constantly rattle in the wind[ 362 ]. Reserves in the root system enable young plants to survive total defoliation from fire or grazing, but with an obvious setback in growth[ 310 ]. The tree coppices well, responds to pollarding, pruning and lopping, and will produce root suckers if the roots are exposed[ 303 ] The trees are killed by even light fires[ 303 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[ 200 ]. The tree is not Rhizobium specific, and native strains are nearly always capable of producing an abundance of nodules[ 303 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Industrial Crop: Pesticide  Many plants provide natural pesticides.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.


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Seed. The species is not particularly hard-seeded and requires only mild treatment (e.g. in water at 50c for 3 minutes) to germinate successfully[ 303 ]. Be careful, though, since some seeds are quite thin-skinned and can be damaged if the water is too hot[ 325 ]. A proportion of the seeds germinate immediately without any treatment[ 303 ]. Plants can be direct-sown, container grown, or raised in a massed seed-bed and planted out as bare-rooted stems[ 303 ]. There is nothing published on preferred rhizobial strains but it appears to nodulate readily without inoculation[ 303 ]. Semi-ripe cuttings. Air layering.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Chiali, Lebbeck, Lebbek, Thing-chawke.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Asia, Australia, Bermuda, East Africa, Guiana, Guyana, India, Mozambique, Northeastern India, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, PNG, South America, Suriname, Thailand, Timor-Leste.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

In the USA, A. lebbeck is a category 1 weed in Florida. In Puerto Rico it is an invasive species A category 2 invasive species in the Bahamas. In South Africa, A. lebbeck invades coastal bush and riverbanks and is declared a category 1 weed. It is invasive in Venezuela and the Caribbean. It is invasive in various Pacific islands, and as cultivated or naturalized along roadsides and in forest patches in others.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Albizia julibrissinMimosa, Silktree, Mimosa Tree,Tree12.0 6-9 FLMHNDM222
Albizia lucidiorPotka siris treeTree15.0 10-12 FLMHSNM003
Albizia proceraWhite Siris, Tall Albizia, Forest SirisTree25.0 10-12 FLMHNM124

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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(L.) Benth.

Botanical References


Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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