Leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala)

Also known as: lead tree, coffee bush

Leucaena is a small tree that has been planted for fodder. Unless controlled, it rapidly spreads to adjacent areas.


How does this weed affect you?

It is a small tree that has been planted for fodder in tropical areas of Queensland. Unless heavily grazed or otherwise controlled, Leucaena is able to rapidly spread to adjacent areas. 

What does it look like?

Leucaena is a tree or shrub growing to 2-8 m tall. Leaves are fern-like and made up of many leaflets. The leaflets are greyish-green and up to 1.5 cm long. Flower heads are creamy-yellow, sphere shaped, up to 2 cm in diameter and on stalks up to 4 cm long. Seed pods are glossy brown, up to 18 cm long and flattened in dense clusters. 

Where is it found?

Leucaena grows on the North Coast and in the greater Sydney region. 

It is native to Central and South America. The leaves are edible to livestock and it was introduced as fodder in Queensland.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Leucaena grows in tropical and subtropical climates. Frost damages the trees and they do not grow well in low temperatures. Plants usually grow in areas with annual rainfall from 650- 3000 mm, though they are drought tolerant. 

Plants grow in a variety soil types but grow best in deep well drained alkaline, low-mid fertility soils. They tolerate some salinity. Although they tolerate partial shade they cannot grow under a forest canopy and they prefer full sun.  

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Leucaena during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2024)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

More information

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By hand

Dig out small individual plants. Remove all the roots to prevent regrowth.

Chemical control

Basal barking

Apply herbicide mixed with diesel to cover the lower stem, all the way around. A higher concentration of herbicide is used for stems over 5 cm in diameter.

Cut stump method

Cut trunks or stems, and apply herbicide to the stump within 15 seconds of cutting.

Stem injection with capsules

Capsules are injected into the stem's sapwood and then sealed. Use on actively growing plants.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.

Metsulfuron-methyl 75 g/kg + Aminopyralid 93.7 g/kg (Di-Bak AM)
Rate: 1 capsule for every 10 cm of circumference
Comments: Capsule herbicide: See critical comments on the label for details on how to apply and seal the capsule into the sapwood of the tree trunk.
Withholding period: Nil
Herbicide group: 2 (previously group B), Inhibition of acetolactate and/or acetohydroxyacid synthase (ALS, AHAS inhibitors) + 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: High/Moderate

Picloram 44.7 g/L + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump application: Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm. Stem inject application for trees: Make a series of cuts 15-20 mm deep around the trunk using an axe or saw. Space cuts evenly with no more than a 20-40 mm gap between them. Apply a 5 mm layer of gel over the lower surface of the cut.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate

Triclopyr 240 g/L + Picloram 120 g/L (Access™ )
Rate: 1.0 L in 60 L of diesel (or biodiesel such as Biosafe).
Comments: Basal bark application for plants with stems up to 5 cm diameter at the base. Liberally spray the bark around the stem from ground level to 30 cm high, wetting thoroughly to the point of runoff. Cut stump application for plants with a diameter up to and more than 5 cm at the base. Apply herbicide immediately after the cut is made. See label for information about using biodiesel.
Withholding period: Nil
Herbicide group: 4 (previously group I), Disruptors of plant cell growth (Auxin mimics)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All pest plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
North Coast
Exclusion (eradication) zone: Bellingen Shire LGA, Clarence Valley LGA, Lord Howe Island, Nambucca Valley LGA, Port Macquarie-Hastings LGA. Core infestation (containment) zone: Ballina Shire LGA, Byron Shire LGA, Coffs Harbour City LGA, Kempsey Shire LGA, Kyogle Shire LGA, Lismore City LGA, Richmond Valley LGA, Tweed Shire LGA.
Regional Recommended Measure* (for Regional Priority - Containment)
Whole of region: Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. A person should not buy, sell, move, carry or release the plant into the environment. Exclusion zone: Notify local control authority if found. Land managers should eradicate the plant from the land and keep the land free of the plant. Core infestation: Land managers should mitigate spread of the plant from their land. Land managers should reduce the impact of the plant on assets of high economic, environmental and/or social value.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.

Reviewed 2024