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Stylosanthes guianensis - (Aubl.) Sw.

Common Name Estilo
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Hot, humid climates, and is neither frost nor drought tolerant. It grows on all soil types, but is particularly well adapted to poor acid soils with high Al and Mn contents.
Range Native to Mesoamerica: Belize, Costa Rica (north-east), Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico (south), Nicaragua (east), Panama. South America: Bolivia (north), Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela. Naturalised in many parts of the tropics and subtropics.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Stylosanthes guianensis Estilo

Harry Rose
Stylosanthes guianensis Estilo


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Physical Characteristics

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Stylosanthes guianensis is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
It can fix Nitrogen.
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 and very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Astyposanthes gracilis (Kunth) Herter. Stylosanthes gracilis Kunth. Stylosanthes guianensis subsp. guianensis. Stylosanthes guyanensis (Aubl.) Sw. [Spelling variant]. Sylosanthes guianensis (Aubl.) Sw. [Spelling variant]. Trifolium guianense Aubl. Trifolium guianensis Aubl. Trifolium guyanense Aubl. [Spelling variant].


Edible Uses

None Known

Medicinal Uses

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None Known

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Other Uses

Long and short-term pasture (grazed or cut & carry), intercropping in rice, ground cover (erosion control) in orchards, green manure, hay for leaf meal and pellets [415]. Not readily eaten by cattle early in the growing season but becomes relatively more palatable than associated grasses later into the dry or cool season. It is also of value for small ruminants. With rotational grazing, animals graze the leaves first, successively taking more stem, ultimately damaging the woody main stem. Also fed to pigs [415]. Nutritive value: 12-20% CP, 52-60 % IVDMD , 0.2-0.6% P, 0.6-1.6% Ca. Stylo is a N-fixing legume that readily nodulates and improves soil N mineral status. It is able to extract P from soils that are very poor in this nutrient and it is tolerant of low Mo levels. Carbon Farming Solutions - Agroforestry Services: nitrogen, understory legume (Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland).

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Understory legume  Management: Fodder  Management: Hay  Minor Global Crop

Climate: tropical, tropical highlands. Humidity: semi-arid to humid. Hot, humid climates, and is neither frost nor drought tolerant. Prefers well-drained, open-textured soils from sands to light clays (e.g. tropical latosols, gleys, loams and sandy podzolic soils); poor on heavy montmorillonitic clays. Found on soils with pH from 4.0-8.3. Moderately tolerant of high Al and Mn but not of high salinity. Tardío types are more tolerant of high levels of Al and Mn than are the common types. Can extract P very efficiently from low P soils, but still responds to applications of P, as well as K, S, Ca, and Cu in soils with low levels of these nutrients. Needs lower levels of Mo than many other tropical legumes [415]. Occurs in areas with rainfall from 700-5,000 mm/year, but mostly from 1,000-2,500 mm/year. Although cultivars survive in lower rainfall areas and can survive long dry periods, they are generally best adapted to regions with >1,500 mm average annual rainfall. Tolerance of flooding and short term waterlogging vary with ecotype. Occurs from about 20ºN in Mexico to 32ºS in Argentina, and from near sea level to 2,200 m asl. This equates to a range in average annual temperatures from about 23-27ºC, but down to 19ºC. Primarily adapted to the hot, humid tropics, although some ecotypes grow satisfactorily in the humid subtropics as well. Tops burnt by frost, but plants generally survive. Mostly to 1,000 m asl , although in some parts of the tropics to 2,000 m [415]. In the humid tropics, the preferred legumes for fertile and infertile soils have traditionally been centro (Centrosema pubescens) and stylo (Stylosanthes guianensis) respectively. However, when soil mineral deficiencies are corrected and seed is inoculated with an effective bacteria, centro has been more productive than stylo on all land classes[310 ]. Strengths: Adapted to acid infertile soils. Low P demand. Tolerant of Al and Mn. Easily established from seed or cutting. Good growth habit for cut-and-carry. Does not twine. Leaf stays green into dry season. Limitations: Will not stand heavy grazing. Frost susceptible. Can reduce the yield of subsequent crops. Seed tends to shatter on ripening, thus reducing yields [415]. Carbon Farming Solutions - Cultivation: minor global crop. Management: hay, fodder (Describes the non-destructive management systems that are used in cultivation) [1-1].

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Easily established from seed or cutting. Seed can be scarified to reduce this level of hard seed by soaking in water at 55°C for 25 minutes, 70°C for 10 minutes or at 85°C for 2 minutes. Alternatively, it can be mechanically scarified with an abrasive disc or rice polisher, or treated with concentrated sulphuric acid for 10 minutes (important to wash seed thoroughly after acid treatment) [415].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Brazilian stylo, brazilian lucerne, common stylo, stylo, (English); luzerne brésilienne, luzerne du Brésil, luzerne tropicale (French); brasilianische Luzerne (German); alfalfa-do-nordeste, trifolio, mangericão do compo, saca-estrepe (Portuguese (Brazil)); alfalfa de Brasil, lengua de rana, tarbardillo (Spanish).

Found In

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

Native to Mexico, Central America (i.e. Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) and tropical South America (i.e. French Guiana, Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay).

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.

Listed as a weed in the Global Compendium of Weeds, but appears to pose little threat in most situations [415]. Common stylo (Stylosanthes guianensis) is regarded as an environmental weed in northern Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, Australia. Stylo was reported to control weeds such as Striga asiatica, Rottboellia exaltata, Borreria alata, Boerhavia diffusa and Imperata cylindrica

Conservation Status

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

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(Aubl.) Sw.

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