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GLIRICIDIA sepium

Image of Gliricidia sepium

Forest & Kim Starr

Family

Fabaceae

Botanical Name

GLIRICIDIA sepium

Plant Common Name

Mexican Lilac, Mother-of-coffee, Quickstick

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Filling the tropical countryside with pink-flowering branches that look like apple or cherry trees in springtime, quickstick's pink blossoms are a delightful sight. A fast growing, very briefly deciduous tree from tropical reaches of the New World, it has a orange-tan bark and its sapwood is heavy and strong. It will attain a rounded canopy, but often it is rather open and rangy in appearance.

Historically, this tree was grown over the cacao (chocolate tree) in fields by the Aztecs and more recently to shade coffee in the plantations in Central America. In the West Indies large branch cuttings are commonly sunk into the ground to create a fence; these coarse cuttings quickly root and sprout to create the living barrier.

Quickstick's leaves are pinnate (feather-like) with medium to dark green leaves that can be softly hairy. These leaves drop briefly in spring in time for a copious display of pink and white pea-like flowers that are pollinated by honeybees. The seed pods that form are green, ripending to dark brown, and pop explosively open, propelling the seeds great distances across the landscape. In garden culture, it seems seed production is much less common.

Grow quickstick in any average soil that is moist in the growing season and is well-drained. It is highly tolerant of drought and can handle moderate saltspray exposure near the coast. It may be used as an ornamental small shade tree, as a living property fence-line or screen. While growing the limbs are known to easily break in tropical storms; it may also be invasive when planted in the wild where natural conditions favor the production of more seedpods.

Potential health concerns exist for this plant, for more information visit:

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 13, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    20'-32' / 6.1m - 9.8m

  • Width

    15'-25' / 4.6m - 7.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring

  • Native To

    Mexico, Central America, South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Pink, Light Pink

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Chocolate

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Orange, Tan, Sandy Brown

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Shade Trees, Street Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes