Species Guide: Common Nitrogen-Fixing Plants Species Guide: Common Urban Trees

Petai Belalang

The tree is full of seedpods. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Leucaena, Lead Tree, Wild Tamarind

Malay name: Petai Belalang

Scientific name: Leucaena leucocephala

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (Central America)


A shrub or small tree that grows 3-15 m tall. Leaves are doubly divided. It bears white, hairy flowers arranged in round clusters. The tree produces long, flattened seed pods which turn from green to brown and burst open when ripe.

Habit: Perennial shrub or tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or cuttings

Ecological function: The flowers attract generalist pollinators. The tree can fix nitrogen in soil. The leaves are rich in nitrogen and can be used as green manure. It is planted as a shade tree as well as a living fence. This plant is used to control soil erosion.

Pollinator: Insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Well-drained, fertile soils. This tree is drought-tolerant

Shade: No shade

Use: Edible (seed, fruit, young leaf, flower bud), timber (paper pulp)

By ShangMing

A plant lover. I like small, medium, gigantic, ordinary, exotic, local, foreign plants. Just because they thrive to stand out.