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Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Guanacaste, elephant's ear, earpod, mexican walnut, mulatto ear, monkey ear, mulatto ear, monkeysoap, pichwood [English]; caro, oreille d'éléphant, oreille de singe, bois tanniste rouge [French]; algarrobo de orejas, arbol de las orejas, carita, caro, cascabel, cascabel sonaja, corotú, costa-mahogany, dormilón, flamboyan extranjero, guanacaste, jenizaro, juana, nacastillo, nacastle, nacaztle, oreja, oreja de mono, orejón, parota, pich, picho [Spanish]


Albizia longipes Britton & Killip, Enterolobium cyclocarpa (Jacq.) Griseb., Feuilleea cyclocarpa (Jacq.) Kuntze, Inga cyclocarpa (Jacq.) Willd., Mimosa cyclocarpa Jacq., Mimosa parota Sessé & Moc., Pithecellobium cyclocarpum (Jacq.) Mart., Prosopis dubia Kunth

Related feed(s) 

Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum (Jacq.) Griseb.) is a fast growing forage tree legume from tropical America. It is a multipurpose species that can be used to feed browsing livestock in its native range (Francis, 1988). Guanacaste has high nutritive value and moderate palatability (Hughes et al., 1990; Kaitho et al., 1996). The seeds are edible and sometimes used as human food. Guanacaste is a promising species for agroforestry systems in humid areas (Ezenwa, 1998).


Enterolobium cyclocarpum is a fast growing, showy, deciduous forage tree legume that reaches a height of up to 20-30 (-45) m. It has a deep and extensive root system. The trunk is straight and may reach 3 m in diameter. The bark is 2 to 3 cm thick, smooth or sometimes lightly furrowed, pale grey to grey in colour, and lenticellated. The branches are upright, forming a dense, hemispheric crown, with large diameter. Guanacaste is a leafy species. The leaves are 15-40 cm long, paripinnately compound bearing 4-15 pairs of pinnae. Leaflets are numerous, borne in 15 to 30 pairs, bright green in colour, folding at night. The flowers are axillary, pedunculated and grouped in green rounded heads of 1.5-2 cm in diameter. The fruit is an ear-shaped woody pod (hence the name "ear tree" in many languages), 7-12 cm in diameter, indehiscent and flattened. The pods are glossy dark brown in colour and sweet flavoured. In the dry season, once the tree has shed its foliage, the brown pods can be seen dangling high on the tree (see the pictures above). The seeds are large, ovoid, flattened, glossy brown in colour, 2.3 cm long x 1.5 cm broad. They are surrounded by a sweet, fragrant, spongy and fibrous flesh. The seeds are hardcoated (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999).


Guanacaste is a multipurpose species. The seeds are edible, highly nutritious, and they can compare to beans. They can be cooked in soups and sauces, or be toasted and ground to make flour. In some areas, the seeds are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. Guanacaste foliage, pods and seeds are traditionally used in Central America to feed herbivores such as goats, sheep, cattle or horses (Francis, 1988; Moscoso et al., 1995; Piñeiro-Vázquez et al., 2013; Hernández et al., 2014), and pigs (Flores et al., 2012).

Guanacaste foliage as well as the fruits and seeds are relished by all cattle, pigs, goats and horses. The foliage is best suited for cut-and-carry systems and serves to supplement basal diets. Tall animals can browse directly from the tree.

Guanacaste is a valuable firewood and can make charcoal. The wood is highly resistant to fungi and dry-wood termites. It is used for construction and to make handycrafts, toys and ustensils. It has a very low density and can make floating materials for fish nets or canoes. The flesh from the pods contains saponins and is used as a detergent to wash clothes. Guanacaste is a sappy tree: the exudate is a gum used to make adhesives. Guanacaste has many ethnomedicinal uses. It is a shade tree that provides environmental services. It is used as an ornamental in parks, though it is too large for gardens. Guanacaste trees may be dangerous in places where winds are very strong as they break easily (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999).


Enterolobium cyclocarpum is native to Mexico, and to Central and Northern South-America. It is widespread in tropicals parts of both Americas, in the Caribbean Islands and in Guyana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. It was introduced in many other tropical areas of the world, such as Nigeria, for example. It was introduced in experimental plantations in Sumatra and Indonesia, and in Queensland (Australia), in order to evaluate its growth potential, and foliage and wood production (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999).

Guanacaste is naturally found in coastal areas and along river banks (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999). It is often found in degraded areas of humid and subhumid lowlands, and in disturbed forestal places (Andreu et al., 2015). It occurs from 23°N to 7°N in America (CABI, 2013). Guanacaste grows from sea level up to an altitude of 500 m. It does well on a wide range of soils but is particularly suited to sandy, clayey and alkaline soils. It prefers warm and moist climates. It shows some drought tolerance in regions with a dry season. The guanacaste tree can withstand temporary flooding but is only fairly tolerant of salty conditions and is thus best planted inland. Once mature, guanacaste trees are resistant to fire (Andreu et al., 2015).

Forage management 


In the humid lowlands of Western and Central Africa, guanacaste could have a high potential for crop-livestock agroforestry as it yields high amounts of fodder and has valuable concentrations of protein and fibre (Larbi et al., 2005).


Guanacaste is propagated from seeds. They should be previously soaked in boiled water for 30 seconds followed by soaking in water at room temperature for 24 hours or overnight. This treatment gives vigorous and fast growing seedlings. It is useful to raise seedlings in nursery and to outplant them after six months (Ezenwa, 1998).

In Nigeria, the best management practice for good quality forage production is to cut foliage every 12 weeks at 50 cm above ground (Ezenwa, 1998).

Environmental impact 

Afforestation and soil improver

Enterolobium cyclocarpum has been used in reclamation programmes in degraded forests. It is an N-fixing tree that helps binding the soil, preserving soil moisture, thus preventing erosion (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999).


Guanacaste has been used as a shade tree in coffee plantations and in silvopastoral systems. It makes windbreaks (Vázquez Yanes et al., 1999). In silvopastoral systems, it produces 3 to 10 times more fruits than other trees (CABI, 2013).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 


Guanacaste foliage is rich in protein (17-27% DM) with moderate but variable amounts of fibre (ADF 22-46% DM, lignin 7-15% DM).


Guacanaste seeds have been little studied. They seem to be rich in protein (19-27% DM) and starch (21% DM), low in fat (4%) and moderately rich in fibre, but information is limited. The amino acid profile looks similar to that of other legume seeds: rich in lysine (5%, less than soybean) and poor in sulphur-containing amino acids.

Potential constraints 

Antinutritional factors in the seeds

Raw guanacaste seeds contain high amounts of trypsin-inhibiting factors and alkaloids (Proll et al., 1998).


All parts of guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) can be fed to ruminants. Seeds and pods are particularly nutritious for livestock and can be used as supplements. They have a good OM digestibility, and are rich in metabolizable energy and short chain fatty acids.


Guanacaste leaves provide valuable fodder though they are less nutritious than fruits and seeds, and are only moderately palatable (to sheep), probably due to their saponin content (Babayemi et al., 2009; Kaitho et al., 1996). Guanacaste foliage was reported to favor moderate methane production (CABI, 2013; Martinez Pacheco et al., 2012). Guanacaste foliage is used in Nigeria to feed goats with a concentrate (Oni et al., 2008).

Palatability and digestibility

In Nigeria, guanacaste foliage has been assessed as a feed supplement for ruminants during the dry season as they had valuable protein content, moderate fibre content and less than 11% lignin throughout the year. In vitro fermentation and in sacco degradation of DM indicated the presence of potentially degradable nutrients (Anele et al., 2009). In Cuba, guanacaste foliage was reported to have low in vitro rumen degradability and were then supposed to be a potential source of rumen undegradable protein. However, N intestinal digestibility was only moderate, possibly due to the presence of saponins in the leaves (Mota et al., 2005).


In Nigeria, guanacaste foliage was recommended to supplement sheep rations during the dry season. In vitro OM and protein degradabilities, both above 60%, indicated that guanacaste foliage was highly degradable in the rumen (Arigbede et al., 2012).

In Colombia, the inclusion of guanacaste dried foliage at 10% dietary level resulted in higher voluntary feed intake, digestible matter intake and nitrogen digestibility. The observed correlation between wool growth and guanacaste foliage intake suggested that the foliage enhanced dietary and maybe amino acid absorption in the small intestine (Navas-Camacho et al., 1993).

Antiprotozoal activity

In the rumen, protozoa are responsible for reducing the protein:energy ratio which is detrimental to diet digestibility. Guanacaste foliage was shown to have antiprotozoal activity in sheep rumen during short (7-8 days) or long (40 days) feeding periods (Ivan et al., 2004; Leng et al., 1992). However, the antiprotozoal effect is transitory and only occurs during the first distribution of guanacaste leaves.

A similar effect of guanacaste foliage was reported in Colombia where dried foliage was included at high (30%) dietary level. Because guanacaste foliage reduced the amount of protozoa in the rumen and subsequently reduced the flow of bacterial-N to the small intestine, it was considered to be a valuable alternative to increase the protein:energy ratio. However, this level of inclusion (30%, DM basis) reduced DM intake and might hinder animal performance (Navas et al., 1992).



In Mexico, up to 50% guanacaste pods were included in Pelibuey lamb rations without affecting DM intake, apparent digestibility of the ration and metabolizable energy intake. The potential rumen degradation of entire pods was superior (866 g/kg DM) to that determined for tropical fruits with good potential for ruminant feeding, such as Pithecellobium saman (707 g/kg DM) and Caesalpinia coriaria (683 g/kg DM) (Piñeiro-Vázquez et al., 2013). Ground pods of guanacaste could supplement a sheep diet based on elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum). Guanacaste inclusion improved rumen function (increased propionic and butyric acids, reduced acetate:propionate ratio and lowered methane emissions). In addition, the conversion of glucose into volatile fatty acids was increased. Ground pods of guanacaste included at 45% in sheep diets had a positive effect on feed intake and resulted in animal performances comparable to those obtained with a commercial diet. These good results could be explained by a reduction of rumen protozoa by up to 40% (hence a better N assimilation) and of methane emissions by up to 36% (no useless losses) (Albores-Moreno et al., 2017).

In Honduras, an earlier experiment concluded that guanacaste pod meal offered to sheep at up to 36% in a diet based on Digitaria eriantha hay and concentrate had no impact on DM intake, animal weight gain, carcass weight and carcass yield. From an economical point of view, the best return on investment was at 36% guanacaste pod meal inclusion (Moscoso et al., 1995).


Roasted guanacaste pods were fed to growing bulls and had an in vivo digestibility of 69,5%. The bulls fed ad libitum for 45 days with guanacaste pods had 1.10 kg daily weight gain (Ortiz et al., 1989 cited by Moscoso et al., 1995).


Guanacaste foliage has been reported to be used by Mayan communities in Yucatán to feed pigs (Flores et al., 2012).



Guanacaste foliage has been reported to be used by Mayan communities in Yucatán to feed poultry (Flores et al., 2012).


In Mexico, Enterolobium cyclocarpu) seeds were included in broiler diets at 5 and 10%, as a protein source intended to replace commercial concentrate. Final weight and overall weight gain were negatively correlated with the level of inclusion of guanacaste seeds in the diet. Feed conversion ratio was degraded when the level of guanacaste increased. Including guanacaste seeds at 10% of the diet reduced feed costs by 65% compared to commercial diet, but the final weight of broilers was less than half that of broilers fed on commercial diet (Doña et al., 2017). These results are in accordance with the assessment of guanacaste seeds as a replacer of soybean meal in 2 week-old broilers. Inclusion at 5 and 10% of the diet reduced protein digestibility, feed intake, body weight gain, and degraded feed conversion ratio. Moreover, many organs of the animals showed hypertrophy and the mortality increased in broilers fed 10% guanacaste seeds. It was thus not recommended to use raw seeds in broiler diets. It was suggested to process seeds to decrease their contents in trypsin inhibitors and alkaloids (Iyayi et al., 2006a; Iyayi et al., 2006b; Proll et al., 1998).


No information seems available in the international literature on use of Enterolobium cyclocarpum in rabbit feeding (July 2017). As mentioned in the sections above, the plant is used successfully to feed many livestock species. The presence of a moderate level of saponins in the foliage (Babayemi, 2006) is not a particular problem for rabbits since this species is not disturbed by relatively high levels of saponins, as seen in alfalfa for example (Auxilia et al., 1983). For these reasons, guanacaste foliage, pods and seeds could probably be used in rabbit feeding. Pods are mainly a potential source of fibre, and foliage and seeds should be considered a potential source of protein. However, while these proteins are rich in lysine (135% of rabbit requirements), they are deficient in sulphur-containing amino acids (81% of requirements) (Lebas, 2013). Feeding trials with rabbits would be required before guanacaste foliage, pods or seeds can be recommended in rabbits feeding.

Horses and donkeys 

Guanacaste foliage has been reported to be used by Mayan communities in Yucatán to feed horses (Flores et al., 2012).

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 36.3 4.2 29.9 43.9 8  
Crude protein % DM 21.1 3.5 15.7 26.5 16  
Crude fibre % DM 27.5         *
Ether extract % DM 4.6   4 6 4  
Ash % DM 6.6 2 4.3 10.6 8  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 45.6 8 31.2 61.6 15  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 32.1 6.8 22.1 45.7 14  
Lignin % DM 9.9 2.1 7.1 14.6 14  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.6         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.7       1  
Sulfur g/kg DM 2.7       1  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 20 10 10 40 5  
Tanins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 2   0 4 3  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.4         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.8         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 63         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 66         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 56 3 50 58 5 *
a (N) % 43 5 35 48 5  
b (N) % 34 3 31 38 5  
c (N) h-1 0.036 0.012 0.025 0.053 5  
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=6%) % 27   25 28 3 *
a (DM) % 23   21 25 3  
b (DM) % 16   16 17 3  
c (DM) h-1 0.019   0.015 0.023 3  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Ahn et al., 1989; Anele et al., 2009; Arigbede et al., 2012; Kaitho et al., 1998; Larbi et al., 2005; Mahyuddin et al., 1988; Monforte-Briceño et al., 2005; Mota et al., 2005

Last updated on 21/12/2017 23:01:39

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 90.8   88.7 93 2  
Crude protein % DM 22.7 2.2 19.8 25.5 5  
Crude fibre % DM 14.1   13.5 14.6 3  
Ether extract % DM 4.4   1.7 10.3 4  
Ash % DM 4.1   3.8 4.5 4  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 39.9       1  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 21.5       1  
Lignin % DM 4.9       1  
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 21.1       1  
Total sugars % DM 7.4       1  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.1       1 *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Lysine g/16g N 5   4.5 5.6 2  
Threonine g/16g N 2.7   2.2 3.2 2  
Methionine g/16g N 0.6   0.6 0.6 2  
Cystine g/16g N 1   0.8 1.2 2  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 1.7         *
Tryptophan g/16g N 0.7       1  
Isoleucine g/16g N 3.2   2.6 3.7 2  
Valine g/16g N 3.5   2.8 4.2 2  
Leucine g/16g N 6.6   5.4 7.8 2  
Phenylalanine g/16g N 3   2.5 3.6 2  
Tyrosine g/16g N 4       1  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 7         *
Histidine g/16g N 2.3       1  
Arginine g/16g N 4.9   3.8 6.1 2  
Alanine g/16g N 3.5   2.9 4.2 2  
Aspartic acid g/16g N 8.3   6.4 10.2 2  
Glutamic acid g/16g N 12.1   9.8 14.5 2  
Glycine g/16g N 3.9   3.3 4.6 2  
Serine g/16g N 4.5   3.6 5.3 2  
Proline g/16g N 5       1  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 3.1       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.8       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.6         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 89         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 90         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 79         *
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=6%) % 72       1  
a (DM) % 42       1  
b (DM) % 94       1  
c (DM) h-1 0.028       1  
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 12.7         *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 11.9         *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 8.2         *
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 66         *
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 78         *
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 9.7         *
AMEn broiler MJ/kg DM 9.5         *
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 12.4         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 11.5         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 74         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


INFIC, 1978; Iyayi et al., 2006; Moscoso et al., 1995; Piñeiro-Vázquez et al., 2013; Proll et al., 1998

Last updated on 21/12/2017 21:34:19

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Thiollet H., Tran G., Boval M., Lebas F., 2019. Guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://feedipedia.org/node/296 Last updated on March 21, 2019, 10:20