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Gliricidia sepium - (Jacq.) Walp.

Common Name Gliricidia, Forest Lilac, Mexican Lilac
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The leaves, seeds or powdered bark are toxic to humans when mixed with cooked rice or maize and fermented. They are used to poison rats, mice and other rodents[447 ]. The mechanism of toxicity is not understood[303 ].(All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested )
Habitats Early and middle successional vegetation types on disturbed sites such as coastal sand dunes, river banks, floodplains and fallow land at elevations from sea level up to 1,500 metres[303 ].
Range Central America - Costa Rica, north to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Gliricidia sepium Gliricidia, Forest Lilac, Mexican Lilac

Gliricidia sepium Gliricidia, Forest Lilac, Mexican Lilac


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Other common names of Gliricidia are quick stick, mata ratn; cacao de nance, cachanance, pion Cubano (Dominican Republic), madreado (Honduras), kakawate (Philippines), madre xacao or madre de cacao (Philippines and Guatemala), and madero negro (Nicaragua). Considered as the second most important multi-purpose legume tree, Gliricidia or Gliricidia sepium grows about 2-15 m in height with twisted bole of up to 30cm in diameter. It is also planted as an ornamental tree due to its flowers or as a fuel crop. It is fast-growing and has the potential to become a weed. Further, it has a symbiotic with certain soil bacteria that form root nodules and fix atmospheric nitrogen. It also functions as a green manure, increasing the soil organic matter. The leaves are compound The flowers of Gliricidia are edible when cooked. The whole plant is a folk remedy for various conditions such as but not limited to colds, cough, fever, headache, bruises, burns, rheumatism, ulcers, and wounds. It can also be used as a rodenticide and general pesticide. The seeds, in particular, can be used as rat poison. The wood is termite-resistant, hard, heavy, very tough and very durable. It is used for railway sleepers, farm implements, furniture, etc.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Gliricidia sepium is a deciduous Shrub growing to 10 m (32ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Galedupa pungam Blanco Gliricidia lambii Fernald Gliricidia maculata (Kunth) Walp. Lonchocarpus rose

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves
Edible Uses:

Edible portion: Leaves, Flowers, Vegetable. Flowers - cooked and eaten as a potherb[301 , 317 ]. They are also folded into a batter and fried[301 , 303 ]. The leaves have been reported as being eaten. They are used in a fish dish. There are some reports that all parts of this plant are poisonous. The leaves have been used to kill rats.

References   More on Edible Uses

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.
Antidermatosic  Antifungal  Expectorant  Febrifuge  Sedative  Skin

The plant is reported to be expectorant, sedative and suppurative[303 ]. Crude extracts have been shown to have antifungal activity[303 ]. The plant is a folk remedy for alopecia, boils, bruises, burns, colds, cough, debility, eruptions, erysipelas, fever, fractures, gangrene, headache, itch, prickly heat, rheumatism, skin tumours, ulcers, urticaria and wounds[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Biomass  Charcoal  Fencing  Fodder  Fuel  Furniture  Green manure  Hedge  Pioneer  Plant support  Repellent  Shelterbelt  Soil conditioner  Soil stabilization  Wood

Small flowering tree, Specimen, Living fence posts, Agricultural shade, Land stabilization, Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: Gliricidia is a pioneer species that readily colonises open ground and is used for reclaiming Imperata grasslands[325 ]. It is widely cultivated as a shade tree for perennial crops such as tea, coffee and cocoa[303 ]. It is also used as a nurse tree for shade-loving species[303 ]. Attributes contributing to its value as a shade tree include its fine, feathery foliage giving light shade, and the ability to withstand repeated pruning and to resprout vigorously[303 ]. When grown as a hedgerow in alley cropping, it serves to suppress weed growth and control erosion and has been shown to reduce the incidence of disease in groundnut crops[303 ]. With its ease of propagation from large cuttings, it is one of the most suitable species for live fencing around cattle pastures and for delineating boundaries[303 , 307 , 325 ]. Its fast growth, ease of propagation, nitrogen fixing ability and light canopy makes it ideal as a live stakes[303 ]. It has been used to support black pepper, vanilla and yam in West Africa and India[303 ]. It has been planted to reclaim denuded land or land infested with Imperata cylindrica[303 ]. As a green manure, gliricidia increases soil organic matter; it aids in the recycling of soil nutrients as it produces much litter[200 , 303 ]. It also improves soil aeration and reduces soil temperature. It is a drought-resistant and valuable water-conserving species, because in the dry season it sheds most of its leaves, hence reducing water loss through transpiration[303 ]. Other Uses The plant has found application as a rodenticide and general pesticide[303 ]. The seeds are used as a rat poison[418 ]. The roots are said to have a sweetish taste and to be deadly to the field mice and rats which invariably eat them in preference to those of cacao or coffee trees[551 ]. The heartwood is dark brown, turning reddish-brown on exposure to air; the moderately thin band of sapwood is yellowish to light brown, turning reddish brown on exposure. The texture is coarse; the grain is irregular and close. The wood is hard, heavy, very tough, very durable in contact with the soil and termite resistant. It is difficult to split and takes a very good polish. The wood is utilized for railway sleepers, farm implements, tool handles, furniture, house construction and as mother posts in live-fence establishment[303 , 551 ]. The wood is often used for fuel and charcoal production. It burns slowly without sparking and with little smoke, so it is an important fuel wood in the subhumid tropics[303 ]. The calorific value of a 5-year-old tree is 4550 kcal/kg[303 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Hedge  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Agroforestry Services: Living trellis  Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop

A plant of the moist tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,600 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 30°c, but can tolerate 12 - 44°c[418 ]. Mature plants can be killed by temperatures of -2°c or lower, but young growth will be severely damaged at -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,200 - 2,300mm, but tolerates 600 - 3,500mm[418 ]. In its native range the climate is relatively uniformly sub-humid with a five-month dry period, though it can also grow successfully in more humid zones without a marked dry season (though it does not set seed then)[303 , 325 ]. Grows best in a sunny position[200 ]. Tolerates a wide range of soil types, both alkaline and acidic, including low-fertility soils[303 ]. It grows well on the calcareous soils of atolls[339 ]. Prefers freely draining soils but can tolerate some waterlogging[303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.2, tolerating 4.5 - 8[418 ]. Plants establish well on steep slopes with up to 40% gradient[303 ]. As an aggressive coloniser, the plant has the potential to become a weed but is rarely so perhaps because it in most places is coppiced regularly and not permitted to set seed[325 ]. A fast growing tree, capable of increases in height of 3 metres or more per year, though early seedling growth is quite slow[418 ]. When grown as a fuel crop, the first harvest can be taken after 3 - 4 years, giving wood yields of 8 - 15 cubic metres per hectare. Subsequent coppicing is done every 2 - 3 years and yields may be 11 - 21 cubic metres[418 ]. Gliricidia is often exposed to annual fires in its native, seasonally dry habitat[303 ]. It tolerates such fires well and trees quickly resprout when the rains start, which explains the abundance of the tree in secondary vegetations and fallows[303 ]. There is a predictable relationship between the flowering of the plant and the onset of the rainy season in Venezuela, making it a promising indicator species[303 ]. In many parts of the naturalized range and where it is an exotic, flowering can occur any time of the year if there is no pronounced dry season[303 ]. Pod-ripening time ranges between 35 and 60 days. Pods can grow to full size within 3 weeks of fertilization. On maturity, pods dehisce explosively; tension builds up in the pod valves and the seeds are ejected to a distance of 25 metres. This phenomenon facilitates rapid establishment, especially in disturbed sites, and also means that in some areas the plant has become invasive[307 ]. Wind plays a part in the direction of seed dispersal. Secondary dispersal by rain is also possible[303 ]. Pollarding at 2 metres or above is recommended for optimal wood biomass production[303 ]. Coppicing is used where the primary objective is fuel wood production[303 ]. The plant has been shown to tolerate lopping and browsing[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 ]. Bloom Color: Pink.

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Alley crop  Integrates annual crops with rows of perennials.
  • Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Alley cropping systems on the contour of slopes.
  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Simply managed rows of shrubs and trees.
  • Agroforestry Services: Living trellis  Plants to physically support other crops.
  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • 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
  • 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.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - pre-treatment is often not necessary, particularly where fresh seeds are used. However, when seeds are not fresh, soaking overnight in hot water is required and planting should proceed immediately thereafter[303 ]. Seed or seedling inoculation with suitable strains of rhizobium is necessary where the plant is not naturalized. Direct sowing of seeds requires good land preparation and regular weeding[303 ]: 90 - 100% germination occurs in 7 days[303 ]. Where nursery seedlings are used, plantable size is attained in 3 months[303 ]. Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. Viability is maintained for 12 months in open storage. Glricidia is propagated most commonly by cuttings, although this is not the most appropriate method for establishment in poor soils[303 ]. Even very large cuttings root successfully in the open ground[307 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Gliricidia, Forest Lilac, Mexican Lilac, Nicaraguan Coffee Shade, Quick Stick, Balo, Bien vestido, Cacaonance, Gamal, Kakawate, Kakawati, Kante, Khae-farang, Madero negro, Madre de cafe, Madre, Madreado, Madrecacao, Madrecaco, Madrial, Mata raton, Mexican lilac, Nicaraguan cacao-shade, Nicaraguan shade tree, Quick stick, Spotted gliricidia, Tropical flowering cherry, cacahuananche, madre de cacao, madriado, madricacao, mata ratón, mãe-do-cacau, nicaraguan cocoa shade, nicaraguan cocoashade, planta-mãe-do-cacau, quick stick, quick-stick.

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Found In

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

Brazil; Belize; Panama; Nicaragua; Honduras; El Salvador; Costa Rica; Guatemala; Colombia; Mexico, Africa, Antilles, Aruba, Asia, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei, Burma, Cameroon, Caribbean, Central Africa, Central America, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Africa, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, French Guiana, Ghana, Guam, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kiribati, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North America, Pacific, Pakistan, Palau, Pan tropical, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Reunion, Samoa, SE Asia, Seychelles, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Southern Africa, Sri Lanka, St Lucia, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste,Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, USA, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Africa, Zimbabwe,

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.

Conservation Status

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

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

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.


Expert comment


(Jacq.) Walp.

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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