Lead tree

Leucaena leucocephala-- Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

Leucaena leucocephala

Non-Native to Florida

lead tree

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Download a Recognition Card (PDF 551 KB)

Download a page (PDF 183 KB) from Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition, by K.A. Langeland, H.M. Cherry, et al. University of Florida-IFAS Pub SP 257. 2008.

For control information, see Integrated Management of Nonnative Plants in Natural Areas of Florida (SP 242) by K. A. Langeland, J. A. Ferrell, B. Sellers, G. E. MacDonald, and R. K. Stocker

Leucaena leucocephala, White Leadtree (EDIS Publication #FOR299)

This species is listed on the Florida Noxious Weed List – Rule 5B-57.007, making it “. . . unlawful to introduce, multiply, possess, move, or release . . . except under permit issued by the department . . . .” See 5B-57.004 for more information.

Date of introduction to Florida: 1898 (agriculture)

(from Strangers in Paradise, Impact and Management of Nonindigenous Species in Florida, Chapter 2: Florida’s Invasion by Nonindigenous Plants: History, Screening, and Regulation, by D.R. Gordon and K.P. Thomas, pp. 21-37. Island Press, Washington, DC, 1997.)



    Mexico and Central America is the native range of lead tree, or Leucaena leucocephala. Lead tree was most likely distributed by man because of its many uses. This multipurpose tree is used for fuel wood, lumber, animal fodder, and green manure. Ornamental uses include windbreaks, shade trees, and erosion control. Lead tree may have been introduced into Florida for cattle fodder and controlling erosion. Found in Southern Florida, including the Florida Keys, lead tree can be seen along roadsides and hammock margins in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Lead tree is a Category II invasive species.

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    Lead tree is a shrub or small tree growing up to 16 feet in height with bipinnate leaves to 10 inches long. There are approximately 12 pairs of lanceolate shaped leaflets each about 9-12 mm long, 2-3.5 mm wide. These are oppositely arranged. Flowers grow clustered on the end of branches. Individual flowers are white, turning brown with maturity. Lead tree is a prolific seed producer. The dark brown seed pods are flat, roughly 4 to 6 inches long, with about 20 seeds. Seeds are glossy brown, oval, flat, 6 mm long.

    The seeds are dispersed by birds and rodents. Seed may also be spread via cattle manure. Lead tree also produces multiple new shoots when cut back. Seed germination and vegetative regeneration from basal shoots will also occur following a fire.

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    In areas where lead tree is considered an invasive weed, it will forms dense thickets and displaces the native vegetation. Disturbed, cleared areas, coastal strands, outskirts of forests and canopy gaps are some locations regularly invaded by lead tree.


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    The first step in preventative control of lead tree is to limit planting and removal of existing plants within the landscape. If possible, removal should occur before seeds are produced.

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    Inform the public to refrain from purchasing, propagating, or planting lead tree due to its invasive tendencies. If used as a forage, grazing should be managed to prevent flowering and seed formation.

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    There are no known mechanical controls for lead tree. Continuous cutting will eventually kill larger trees. Frequent mowing or grazing will kill smaller plants.

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    An insect known as ‘jumping lice’, or the leucaena psyllid (Heteropsylla cubana), will damage plants but does not eliminate established plants. Goats will provide a large level of control if allowed to continuously graze.

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    Lead tree is sensitive to foliar-applied triclopyr. Triclopyr ester applied basal bark and stump bark is effective, while 2,4-D in combination with diesel fuel is effective for basal bark treatments.

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    References and Useful Links:

    Floridata Homepage

    University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

    University of Florida’s Cooperative Extension Electronic Data Information Source

    Langeland, K.A. and K. Craddock Burks. 1998. Identification and Biology of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas. IFAS Publication SP 257. University of Florida, Gainesville. 165 pp.

    The Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group. Weeds Gone Wild: Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas

    Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). Plant Threats to Pacific Ecosystems

    USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Plants Database.


    Excerpted from the University of Florida, IFAS Extension, Circular 1529, Invasive Species Management Plans for Florida, 2008 by:

    Greg MacDonald, Associate Professor Jay Ferrell, Assistant Professor and Extension Weed Specialist
    Brent Sellers, Assistant Professor and Extension Weed Specialist
    Ken Langeland, Professor and Extension Weed Specialist Agronomy Department, Gainesville and Range Cattle REC, Ona
    Tina Duperron-Bond, DPM – Osceola County
    Eileen Ketterer-Guest, former Graduate Research Assistant

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    More Resources:

    Leucaena leucocephala, White Leadtree (EDIS Publication #FOR299)

    See the UF/IFAS Assessment, which lists plants according to their invasive status in Florida.

    lead tree View the herbarium specimen image of the University of Florida Herbarium Digital Imaging Projects.

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