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Lebbek (Albizia lebbeck)


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

East Indian walnut, lebbeck, lebbek tree, flea tree, frywood, koko, woman's tongue tree, siris tree [English]; ébano oriental [Spanish]; albízia, faveiro, cabeça-de-negro, coração-de-negro, língua de sogra, língua de mulher [Portuguese]; lebbekboom [Dutch]; شجرة اللبخ , ذقن الباشا [Arabic]; শিরিষ [Bengali]; നെന്മേനിവാക [Malayalam]; शिरीष, कालो शिरीष [Nepali]; வாகை [Tamil]; దిరిసన, దిరిసెన [Telugu]; พฤกษ์ [Thai]


Acacia lebbeck (L.) Willd., Acacia lebbek (L.) Willd., Acacia macrophylla Bunge, Acacia speciosa (Jacq.) Willd., Albizia latifolia B. Boivin, Albizia lebbeck (L.) Benth. var. leucoxylon Hassk., Albizia lebbeck (L.) Benth. var. pubescens Haines, Albizia lebbeck (L.) Benth. var. rostrata Haines, Albizia lebbek sensu auct., Feuilleea lebbeck (L.) Kuntze, Inga borbonica Hassk., Inga leucoxylon Hassk., Mimosa lebbeck L., Mimosa lebbek L., Mimosa sirissa Roxb., Mimosa speciosa Jacq., Pithecellobium splitgerberianum Miq.

Related feed(s) 

Lebbek (Albizia lebbeck (L.) Benth.) is a deciduous, perennial medium-sized legume tree. It reaches 3-15 m in plantations and up to 30 m in the open. Its dense shade-producing crown can be as large as 30 m in diameter. Leaves are bipinnate with 3-11 pairs of bright green, oblong leaflets, 1.5-6.5 cm long x 0.5-3.5 cm broad. Inflorescences are globular clusters of 15-40 white fragrant flowers. The fruits are 10-30 cm long x 3-6 cm broad, reddish-brown pods that contain 5-15 flat rounded, free moving seeds. They produce an incessant rattle in the wind, reminding women's chatter, hence the name "women's tongue" (FAO, 2010; Orwa et al., 2009; Lowry et al., 1992).

Lebbek is a multipurpose tree. As a fodder tree, its foliage, twigs, flowers and immature pods are relished by different classes of livestock (camels, cattle, small ruminants and rabbits) (FAO, 2010). It is also a source of firewood and timber. Lebbek is suitable for agroforestry regimes in which the benefits of animal production are combined with wood production (Lowry et al., 1998), and it is used for shelter belts and as shading tree in coffee and tea plantations (Orwa et al., 2009; Duke, 1983).


Lebbek is native to tropical Africa, Asia and Northern Australia. It is widely naturalized within sub-humid, semi-arid tropics and subtropical areas where there is a marked dry season and a reliable rainy season. It is found from sea level up to an altitude of 1800 m (Cook et al., 2005; Lowry et al., 1992; Duke, 1983).

Optimal growth conditions are average day temperatures ranging from 19°C to 35°C, annual rainfall between 500 mm and 2500 mm and fertile, well-drained loamy soils. It may, however, withstand lower and more irregular rainfall conditions. It can also grow on a wide diversity of soils such as acid, alkaline or saline soils, eroded soils and laterites except heavy clays (Orwa et al., 2009; Lowry et al., 1992). It is tolerant of heavy grazing and fire (Lowry et al., 1992). Seedlings are sensitive to frost and heavy browsing but older plants can survive (NAS, 1980).


Pods have to be harvested early, when they turn yellow, to avoid insect attacks (particularly by bruchids) and to ensure good palatability. They are sun-dried until they rattle and become brittle. Collection bags should be kept open to prevent fungal development. Storage has to be as short as possible as insect attacks may also occur during storage. Pods are indehiscent and have to be beaten with a flail to extract seeds. Seeds are then directly sun-dried and pod segments and debris are removed in a seed cleaning machine (Cook et al., 2005). Pods can be ground and made into a meal (Lamela et al., 1998).

Forage management 

A fast growing tree, lebbek can grow up to 5 m/year in favourable conditions, though growth is much lower in dry conditions (Lowry et al., 1998). Lebbek should not be browsed regularly since it does not readily regrow (FAO, 2010). It should instead be lopped or browsed by cattle twice a year as lopping enhances coppicing and yields about 2500 kg/ha/year edible material in low rainfall areas where leucaena yields only 1500 kg/ha/year. Triennial pollarding is also worth practising since it yields 1700 kg/ha/year. Leaf dry matter yields may be as high as 5 t/ha/year (Lowry et al., 1998).

Environmental impact 

Soil and pasture quality improver and erosion control

Lebbek is a very efficient N-fixing legume that nodulates abundantly without needing seed inoculation (Orwa et al., 2009). Thanks to its shade-providing dense canopy, soil moisture remains high under lebbek. Fallen leaves provide a lot of litter rich in organic matter during the dry season. The soil moisture increases litter breakdown and mineralisation of organic matter (Wild et al., 1993). Grasses growing under that canopy during the dry season are thus greener, have higher yields (1710 kg/ha under lebbek vs. 753 kg between lebbek rows) and maintain their nutritive value longer. Moreover, lebbek has an extensive shallow root system that quickly binds soil in eroded lands and riverbanks (Lowry et al., 1998).

Shade provider and shelter belt

Lebbek is used to provide shade in tea, coffee or cardamom plantations. It can withstand saline sprays and is thus valuable in exposed coastal situations where it can be used to form shelter belts for less hardy plants (Orwa et al., 2009).

Nutritional aspects
Potential constraints 

While leaves and flowers contain no adverse constituents, pods contain saponins that may limit intake but appear to have no other adverse effect (Lowry et al., 1998).


General considerations

Lebbek leaves, flowers and pods are all valuable feeds for ruminants. They are particularly interesting in extensive grazing systems, as they drop sequentially during the dry season (in comparable amounts for mature trees) and are eaten directly by grazing animals without requiring management (Lowry, 1989). They are recommended to supplement ruminant diets when forage matures or when dry seasons occur. In agro-pastoral systems, lebbek trees may be cultivated in rows or woodlots and provide protein supplement or feed for times of scarcity (Lowry et al., 1998). In India, lebbek is one of the preferred forage tree for cows, buffalo and draught animals (Maharaj Singh et al., 2002).

Lebbek forage enhances digestible dry matter intake of low quality diets. The lower quality of the basal diet, the higher the enhancement due to lebbek (Lowry et al., 1998). Lebbek also increased nutrient digestibility and utilization in pregnant ewes fed on a Cenchrus ciliaris based diet (Pailan et al., 2003).

Lebbek forage can be fed as hay or silage, alone or mixed with grasses. Foliage mixed with grass makes a good quality silage for lactating goats (Soca et al., 1999; Solorio-Sanchez et al., 2007).

The lebbek tree has also a very positive side-effect: because of the high quality shade it provides (light transmission reduced by 60%), animal heat stress is decreased and milk yield is enhanced (+ 0.9 litres milk/cow/day) (Sanchez et al., 1999; Lowry et al., 1998).


Lebbek leaves can have a protein content as high as 23% DM when young, but protein content in leaf litter is about 10%. Cell wall content (as NDF% DM) increased with maturity but remained relatively high, between 40 and 50% (Prinsen, 1986). Being short-lived, lebbek leaves have a low lignin content and compare favourably with other legume tree leaves. They are remarkably free of toxic compounds and tannins and have very low levels of soluble phenolics and other secondary metabolites (Rai et al., 2007; Garcia et al., 2005; Garcia et al., 2006a; Bhatta et al., 2005).

Reported in vitro and in vivo digestibility values are in the 45-70% range, mature leaves being about 50% digestible. Leaf digestibility is highest early in the season, or in regrowth after cutting, but is only moderate for mature leaves, although still of higher quality than mature grass. ME value ranges between 7.5 and 9.0 MJ/kg DM. In sheep, DMI for lebbek leaves ranges from 55 to almost 100 g DMI/kg LW0.75. Fallen leaves seem to be more appreciated than dry green leaves (84.0 vs. 61.5 DMI/kg LW0.75, Lowry, 1989). Young leaves taste bitter: intake may be limited when offered as the whole diet, but this does not affect their value as a supplement (Lowry et al., 1998).

Lebbek leaves can be included in roughage-based diets to improve the protein nutrition status of ruminants (Raghuvansi et al., 2007; Amanullah et al., 2006). Fallen leaves have considerable feed value as a supplement to dry season grass. This may be due to both its N content and a low molecular weight constituent, as well as the differing morphology and chemistry of the lignocellulose substrates between lebbek leaves and grass (Kennedy et al., 2002). Leaves can be fed to goats as the sole roughage during periods of feed scarcity (Bais et al., 2002)

Lebbek leaves can replace cottonseed cake as a protein supplement for goats (Ndemanisho et al., 2006). They are better than wheat bran in improving the utilization of ammonia-treated bagasse in smallholder owned goats during the dry season (Balgees et al., 2009).


Fallen flowers are relished by sheep and considered as an excellent feed (Cook et al., 2005; Lowry et al., 1998).


Immature pods are accepted readily by livestock but mature pods are not palatable (FAO, 2010). While pods fed alone give a poor animal response, the response becomes very positive when they are used to supplement poor quality grass. Pods can be used both as a moderate protein source (protein content is about 20% DM) and as an energy source (Ram Ratan et al., 2005).

Dried pod meal can supplement lactating dairy cows diet up to 50-85% of the supplement (Lamela et al., 1998).


No information found (as at 2011).


Inclusion of toasted lebbek seed meal in broiler rations resulted in lower performance and carcass characteristics even at low levels (5%). Higher incorporation resulted in increased mortality. It was suggested that toasting did not decrease the anti-nutritional factors in the seeds to safe levels (Olorunsanya et al., 2010).


Rabbits have shown good growth when fed lebbek leaves up to 50% of the diet (Lowry et al., 1992).

Other species 


Lebbek trees are good sources of honey, as bees are particularly fond of the pollen and nectar of the fragrant flowers (FAO, 2010; Ecocrop, 2010).

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
Crude protein % DM 24.0 1
NDF % DM 46.9 44.6 49.2 2
ADF % DM 33.7 30.5 36.9 2
Lignin % DM 9.2 8.1 10.3 2

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


Balogun et al., 1998

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:26

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 35.7 31.7 39.6 2
Crude protein % DM 16.2 4.1 11.2 22.0 5
Crude fibre % DM 29.6 5.6 26.5 39.5 5
NDF % DM 50.0 8.1 43.2 59.0 3
ADF % DM 35.5 5.6 31.0 41.7 3
Lignin % DM 9.9 1.1 8.7 11.0 3
Ether extract % DM 5.4 2.8 2.5 10.0 5
Ash % DM 10.1 2.7 7.0 13.1 5
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.8 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 19.3 18.4 20.2 2
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.7 1.4 2.0 2
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Arginine % protein 4.8 1
Cystine % protein 1.3 1
Glycine % protein 4.7 1
Histidine % protein 1.9 1
Isoleucine % protein 3.9 1
Leucine % protein 6.8 1
Lysine % protein 4.4 1
Methionine % protein 1.5 1
Phenylalanine % protein 4.1 1
Threonine % protein 4.3 1
Tryptophan % protein 1.2 1
Tyrosine % protein 3.7 1
Valine % protein 4.9 1
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Tannins (eq. tannic acid) g/kg DM 0.9 0.0 1.8 2
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 65.6 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 62.7 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.8 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.4 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 64.5 1

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


CIRAD, 1991; Gaulier, 1968; Khajuria et al., 1968; Malik et al., 1967; Sharma et al., 1966

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:26

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 91.5 1
Crude protein % DM 21.1 1
Crude fibre % DM 23.0 1
Ether extract % DM 4.6 1
Ash % DM 4.6 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.7 *
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 86.8 *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 54.0 *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 10.6 *

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


Bhannasiri, 1970

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:26

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Sauvant D., 2015. Lebbek (Albizia lebbeck). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/334 Last updated on May 11, 2015, 14:30

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)