Leucaena leucocephala – White Leadtree
Other Common Names: Lead Tree, Ekoa, Koa Haole, Leucaena, Jumbie Bean, Horse Tamarind, White Popinac
Leucaena leucocephala is a small tree or shrub that is part of the Fabaceae or pea family. It grows wild and is naturalized in the tropics, but is native to Mexico and Central America. It is known by its several common names such as White Popinac, Subabul, Jumbay, Jumbie Bean, River Tamarind, Ekoa, Koa Haole, and White Leadtree.
White Leadtree can grow up to 16 feet or 5 meters in height. It grows quickly, forming dense groves, that is why it is considered as highly invasive.
The leaves are bipinnate, which means that they are subdivided in a pinnate arrangement. They are arranged oppositely and are about 10 inches or 25 centimeters long. The leaflets are lanceolate in shape and are about 0.35 to 0.47 inches or 9 to 12 millimeters long, and 0.08 inches to 0.14 or 2.3 to 5 millimeters wide. Branches are thornless and have brown, cork-like pores. They are also hairy when young, but lose their hair and turn brown as they mature.
On the end of the branches, flowers grow in clusters. The individual flowers are round and white, but turn brown as they reach maturity. They have hairy anthers that are pale yellow in color. Then, the flowers develop thin and flat bean pods, which are about 7 inches or 18 centimeters long, colored green at first but turns papery brown when it dries.
The bean pods contain flat, oval seeds that are glossy brown in color and about 0.24 inches or 6 millimeters long. In some countries, the seeds and the green pods of the White Leadtree are eaten provided that they are cooked first and consumed in limited amounts. Proper preparation is important because it contains a toxic amino acid called mimosine, which can cause a number of health problems such as reduced thyroid function.