Native to: Mexico and Central America
Lead tree’s rapid growth, high drought tolerance, and prolific seed production have caused it to become invasive across the tropics. 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.
Habit: shrub or small tree growing up to 16 feet in height.
Leaves: 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, oppositely arranged.
Flowers: clustered on the end of branches in dense ball-like heads about 3/4 inch in diameter. Individual flowers are white, turning brown with maturity.
Seeds: 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.
Distribution in Florida: South and Central Florida
Forms dense thickets and displaces the native vegetation in disturbed areas, coastal strands, forest edges and canopy gaps.
Do not plant.
Hand pull seedlings.
Continuous cutting will eventually kill larger trees. Frequent mowing or grazing will kill smaller plants.
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.
Variable results have been reported. Cut stump: 50% Garlon 3A, 10% Milestone. Basal bark or cut stem: 10–20% Garlon 4 has been reported to be effective; others report only partial success with higher rates. 25% has been effective on trees with a diameter under 3 inches, but larger trees were not killed. Large trees must be completely girdled for frill/girdle applications. Foliar: 0.25% Milestone. Reach out to your local UF IFAS Extension for further assistance with management recommendations. Additional management recommendations can be found in the EDIS Publication Integrated Management of Non-Native Plants in Natural Areas of Florida.