Flemingia macrophylla

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Related Links
Flemingia macrophylla showing foliage and flowers. (Tropical Forage Legumes, FAO, 1988)
© www.ecoport.org
Flemingia macrophylla at Baptist Rural Life Center in Mindanao, Philippines
© Shelton H.M.
Flemingia macrophylla alley cropping system in Baptist Rural Life Center Mindanao, Philippines
© Shelton H.M.

Local names:
Chinese (niudexun,jia'yanpiguo,da'yeqianjinba,qianjinhong), English (large leaf flemingia), Filipino (gewawini,malabalatong,laclay-guinan), Hindi (samnaskahat,bhalia), Indonesian (apa-apa,hahapaan,pok-kepokan), Javanese (apa-apa), Lao (Sino-Tibetan) (thw

Flemingia macrophylla is a woody, deep-rooting, tussock-forming shrub, 1-4 m tall. Young branches greenish, ribbed, triangular in section and silky. Old stems brown, almost round in section.

Leaves digitately trifoliate; stipules lanceolate, 1-1.5 cm long, covered with silky hairs, early caducous; petiole up to 10 cm long, narrowly channelled, slightly winged; leaflets elliptical-lanceolate, 6-16 x 4-7 cm, papery, dark green, base rounded, veins covered with silky hairs, apex rounded to acuminate.

Inflorescence a dense axillary raceme, sub-spiciform, sessile, 2.5-10 cm long, pale velutinous, green, with 5 lanceolate lobes; corolla with greenish elliptical standard and distinct parallel red veins, wings narrow and much shorter than the keel, light purple at the apex.

Pod oblong, inflated, 8-15 x 5 mm, covered with fine glandular hairs, dehiscent, dark brown, 2-seeded. Seed globular, 2-3 mm in diameter, shiny black.

The specific name, ‘macrophylla’, means large leaved; from the Greek ‘makros’ (large) and ‘phyllon’ (leaf).


F. macrophylla can tolerate fairly long dry spells and is capable of surviving on poorly drained soils with waterlogging. The species is found naturally growing along watercourses in secondary forest, as well as under drier conditions such as in fields infested with Imperata cylindrica. It is tolerant of light shade and is moderately able to survive fires.

Native range
Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Province of China, Thailand, Vietnam

Tree management

Good weed control is required during the 1st 6 months of sowing since the plants are relatively slow to establish; once established, they require little attention. Mulching at a rate of 3 t/ha effectively controls the germination of weed seeds for about 3 months. Under tropical, humid, lowland conditions in Cote d’Ivoire, with 10 000 plants/ha and 9 regrowth cycles of 3 months each, an average annual production of 12 t/ha of leaf dry matter has been achieved, although typical yields in Southeast Asia may be closer to 8 t/ha. Plants can be cut more frequently than every 3 months, but preferably not at intervals of less than 40 days. With an excellent coppicing capacity, the shrub will survive under this cutting regime for many years.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox. There are 45 000-97 000 seeds/kg.

F. macrophylla can tolerate fairly long dry spells and is capable of surviving on poorly drained soils with waterlogging. The species is found naturally growing along watercourses in secondary forest, as well as under drier conditions such as in fields infested with Imperata cylindrica. It is tolerant of light shade and is moderately able to survive fires.

F. macrophylla is propagated by seed. Standard hot-water treatment ensures good germination. Scarification of the seed is usually required to increase the germination percentage.

A good weed-free seedbed should be prepared, and the necessary fertilizers for a particular soil should be worked in before sowing, or banded under the row of seed. When planting in a new area, seed should be sown with a suitable strain of Bradyrhizobium such as CIAT 4203 or 4215. Planting density varies according to the projected use of the stand.

Erosion control: Grown on terraces to control soil erosion.

Fodder: In some areas, such as Ghana, F. macrophylla remains green throughout the year and retains most of its leaf during the dry season, making it suitable as a dry-season browse species. Palatability of immature herbage is considerably better than that of old mature herbage.

Fuelwood is a valuable byproduct. A 2-year-old stand with a spacing of 0.5 x 4 m can produce about 6.8 t of dry woody stems/ha.

Shade or shelter: A cover and shade crop in young plantations of cocoa, sisal, coffee, banana, plantain, oil palm and rubber; also acts as a good windbreak. In Madagascar, it is planted as a windbreak in tea plantations at Lac Alaotra.

Tannin or dyestuff: One of the sources of the Arab dye called ‘waras’ or ‘warrus’. It is a coarse purple or orange-brown powder consisting of the glandular hairs rubbed from dry Flemingia fruit; capable of dying silk but not wool or cotton, the active component is called flemingin.

Medicine: In Indonesia and Malaysia, the leaves are used medicinally. In China, a decoction is used to bathe sores and swellings, while in Taiwan it is an antipyretic for treating postpartum fever and is used to treat paralysis and pain in the joints.

Nitrogen fixing: F. macrophylla forms root nodules and fixes atmospheric nitrogen in symbiosis with Bradyrhozobium strains. Root nodules are often difficult to locate, partly because they are very small.

Grown in hedges; promising when used as a live fence. In Malaysia, it is a useful bush to plant with creeping legumes, as it provides support for them to climb on and is deep rooting.

Soil improver: Provides mulch for associated food crops. Owing to the slow decomposition of the leaves, the mulch has long-term effects in weed control, moisture conservation and reduction of soil temperature. Flemingia mulch forms a relatively solid layer that effectively prevents germination of weed seeds or stunts their early development for 100 days.

Intercropping: Grown in alley-cropping systems, used in Cote d’Ivoire in pineapple plantations to control nematode infestation. Grown as an understorey for the Honduras pine (Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis). Useful as a cover crop in perennial plantations.