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Species Guide: Common Nitrogen-Fixing Plants

Sunn Hemp

Sunn hemp plants with their green, narrow leaves. Photo by Khim Joe

Common name: Sunn Hemp

Malay name: 

Scientific name: Crotalaria juncea

Conservation status: Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (India)

Description

An evergreen shrub that grows up to 2.5 m tall. It has a straight stem and hairy branches. Leaves are narrow and spirally arranged. It bears yellow, pea-like flowers and short, puffy seedpods.

A patch of leafy sunn hemp. Photo by Khim Joe
Note the yellow flowers of sunn hemp. Photo by Khim Joe

Habit: Annual shrub

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds

Ecological function:  This plant is used as green manure. It is planted as a cover crop to suppress weeds. It fixes nitrogen in soil. Its flowers attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Bees, insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils. Established plants are drought-tolerant

Shade: No shade

Use: Edible (leaf, flower), fibre (paper, string, fishing net)

Categories
Species Guide: Common Nitrogen-Fixing Plants

Gemunggai

A moringa plant with its spreading, pagoda-like crown.

Common name: Moringa, Drumstick Tree, Horseradish Tree

Malay name: Gemunggai, Kacang Kelor, Remunggai

Scientific name: Moringa oleifera Lam.

Conservation status: Least concern, Cultivated, Naturalised, Introduced (India)

Description

A small, fast-growing tree that grows 8-10 m tall. Tree crown is umbrella-shaped. Leaves are divided into many small leaflets that move in the slightest breeze. It bears white, sweet-scented flowers. Fruits are long, pointed and three-sided.

Habit: Perennial shrub or tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or cuttings

Ecological function:  This plant is planted for erosion control and soil improvement. It is used as living fence, windbreak, shade tree and support for climbing plants. As it is fast growing, it is a good pioneer species for reforestation. Its flowers attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Bees, sunbirds

Soil: Sand, loam, clay

Moisture: Well-drained, fertile soils

Shade: No shade

Use: Edible (flower, seed, seedpod, leaf), seed oil (perfumery, soap-making, lubricant for watches and other fine machinery), ornamental

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Species Guide: Common Nitrogen-Fixing Plants Uncategorized

Kacang Hias

Reinhart Sulaiman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Common name: Pinto Peanut, Yellow Peanut Plant

Malay name: Kacang hias, Kacang Pintoi

Scientific name: Arachis pintoi

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

Description

A low, creeping plant that forms a dense, ground-hugging mat. Leaves are divided into egg-shaped leaflets. It bears yellow, pea-like flowers.

Habit: Perennial herbaceous plant

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds or cuttings

Ecological function: This plant can be used as a groundcover. It fixes nitrogen in soil. Its flowers attract pollinators.

Pollinator: Insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay. It tolerates poor soils and high levels of aluminium and manganese.

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils

Shade: No shade, semi-shade, full shade

Use: Ornamental

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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)

Description

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)