Albizia versicolor

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Ailanthus triphysa
Albizia adianthifolia
Albizia amara
Albizia anthelmintica
Albizia chinensis
Albizia coriaria
Albizia ferruginea
Albizia gummifera
Albizia julibrissin
Albizia lebbeck
Albizia odoratissima
Albizia procera
Albizia saman
Albizia versicolor
Albizia zygia
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Flowers and leaves
© Bart Wursten
© Bart Wursten

Local names:
Afrikaans (grootblaarvalsdoring), English (poison-pod albizia,large-leaved false thorn), Swahili (mnduruasi,mkenge,mchani-ndovu), Zulu (umVangazi,umPhiso,umBhangazi)

Albizia versicolor is a deciduous tree up to 20 m tall with a spreading rounded to flat crown. Bark on young branches covered with dense brownish to yellowish hairs, but corky, greyish brown and rough on older branches and stems.

Leaves bi-pinnate, up to 30 cm long, with 1-3 pairs of leaflets, the top pair the largest, hairy, venation prominent and much raised below, margin smooth, new leaves soft and bright reddish brown, autumn leaves yellow.

Flowers faintly, scented, in half-spherical heads, creamy white, stamens up to 4 cm long.

Fruit a large pod, reddish brown when young but pale brown when mature, up to 27 cm long, thinly textured, with thickened margins.

Albizia is named after Albizzi, nobleman from Florence who brought an Asian species Albizia julibrissin into cultivation in Europe in 1749, and versicolor means variously coloured, referring to the leaves.


A. versicolor occurs from Ethiopia to as far south as Natal in South Africa. It is common in deciduous woodlands, bushlands and wooded grasslands. In some countries such as Uganda, it is very rare, occurring only on stony hillsides in Mbarara, Bushenyi and Ntungamo Districts.

Native range
Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia

Tree management

A. versicolor has a medium growth rate and is normally managed by lopping and pollarding.

Pods are collected while still hanging on the trees because seeds on the ground are usually infested with insect pests.  There are 6 000-8 000 seeds/kg. The seeds can be stored for long periods if kept dry and in insect free conditions.

A. versicolor occurs from Ethiopia to as far south as Natal in South Africa. It is common in deciduous woodlands, bushlands and wooded grasslands. In some countries such as Uganda, it is very rare, occurring only on stony hillsides in Mbarara, Bushenyi and Ntungamo Districts.

Fresh seeds require no pre-treatment but stored seeds need to be soaked in hot water, left overnight and sown the next morning in seedling trays filled with a mixture of river sand and compost (4:1). Sound seed usually gives 80-90% germination rate within a period of about 30 days. It can also be easily propagated from cuttings and root suckers.

Poison:  Young pods can cause poisoning of cattle and sheep, resulting in a condition termed albiziosis. Outbreaks of this disease occur in late winter or early spring when pods are blown from the trees. Poisoned animals can be treated with high dosages of vitamin B6.

Leaves and shoots eaten by elephant and kudu whereas the seeds are eaten by the brown-headed parrots.

Apiculture:  When in flower, A.versicolor  is a source of nectar and pollen for bees.

It produces firewood and quality charcoal.

Fibre:  The inner bark produces a fairly strong rope.

Timber: The termite-resistant wood is often used for making furniture, cabinets, parquet floors and as general timber woods on the farm and in the building trade. 

Shade or shelter:  It makes a beautiful shade tree and can be planted along lands for much needed shade for farm workers during the hot summer months.

Tannin or dyestuff: The bark contains about 5% tannins and is used for tanning leather.

Medicine:  The root bark is used as an enema and purgative. The leaves and bark are used to soothe headaches. An infusion made from the bark is used as a wash for sore eyes and to treat skin diseases.

Nitrogen fixing: A. versicolor is a nitrogen fixer.

Ornamental:  This tree makes a beautiful specimen plant and is strongly recommended for use in any large gardens or parks. 

Intercropping: It fixes nitrogen and does not have an invasive root system. It can therefore be used in intercroppings.