Calliandra calothyrsus (Calliandra)

Scientific name

Calliandra calothyrsusMeissn

Common names

Calliandra, red calliandra, powderpuff

Family

Fabaceae; subfamily Mimosoidea

Origin

The plant is native to the humid and subhumid regions of Central America and Mexico

Naturalised distribution (global)

Locations within which Calliandra calothyrsus is naturalised include the Indonesian archipelago. More recently it has been introduced to other areas of South-east Asia and is also under experimental evaluation in Africa, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia and Hawaii (Ella et al. 1989).

Introduced, naturalised or invasive in East Africa

Calliandra calothyrsus is naturalised in parts of Kenya and Tanzania and invasive in parts of Uganda  (A.B.R. Witt pers. obs.).

Habitat

Calliandra calothyrsus can very successfully colonise disturbed sites. It can be outcompeted in later successional stages but may persist in areas of continual disturbance such as along roadsides or where shifting cultivation is practiced. It has the potential to invade woodland areas.

Description

Calliandra calothyrsus is shrub or a small tree (2-12 m high), with a trunk diameter of up to 30 cm, with white to red brown bark and a dense canopy. Leaves are twice-compound (bipinnate) and alternate; the rachis (main stem) is 10-19 cm long, without glands; rachilla are 2-11 cm long; there are 19-60 pairs of leaflets; leaflets are linear, oblong and pointed (acute) 5-8 x 1 mm.

Flowers are in umbelliform (umbrella-like) clusters (outer whorl of sepals) of 10-30 cm length. Flower sepals and petals are green, calyx 2 mm long, corolla 5-6 mm long. The numerous red staminal filaments are 4-6 cm long. Fruits are broadly linear, flattened, 8-11 cm x 1 cm linear oblong pods with thickened and raised margins, finely hairy or hairless, brown dehiscent, 8(12) seeded. Seeds are ellipsoid, flattened, 5-7 mm long and mottled dark brown.

Reproduction and dispersal

Pollination is achieved in the native range by hawkmoths and bats Calliandra calothyrsus can flower within one year of planting. In East Africa its pollinators have not been definitely identified but the flowers are visited by a range of nectar-seeking insects including wasps (G.W. Howard pers. comm.). Pods ripen over several months and seed dispersal is through apical dehiscence (shattering) of the pods.

Pollination is achieved in the native range by hawkmoths and bats. Calliandra calothyrsus can flower within one year of planting. In East Africa its pollinators have not been definitely identified but the flowers are visited by a range of nectar-seeking insects including wasps. Pods ripen over several months and seed dispersal is through apical dehiscence (shattering) of the pods.

Economic and other uses

Calliandra calothyrsus is being used in a number of agroforestry applications throughout the tropics (Baggio and Heuveldop 1984). It has been widely promoted as a fodder tree in Africa. It produces high quality fuelwood which can be harvested on an annual coppice rotation. It grows over a wide range of soil types and is often outstanding on infertile sites where it is used extensively for reclamation and improvement of the nitrogen status of soils. It has been introduced to most countries in Africa as an ornamental plant.

Environmental and other impacts

Calliandra calothyrsus can naturalise notably in riverine areas and damper woodlands. Many farmers in Cameroon are abandoning its use because of the time it takes to clear from their land (Hauser et al 2008). It can negatively impact upon biodiversity by displacing native species.

Management

The precise management measures adopted for any plant invasion will depend upon factors such as the terrain, the cost and availability of labour, the severity of the infestation and the presence of other invasive species. Some components of an integrated management approach are introduced below.

The best form of invasive species management is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations when they are small to prevent them from establishing (early detection and rapid response). Controlling the weed before it seeds will reduce future problems. Control is generally best applied to the least infested areas before dense infestations are tackled. Consistent follow-up work is required for sustainable management.

Manual control of mature plants can be difficult as it rapidly resprouts. It can be controlled by suitable herbicides. When using any herbicide always read the label first and follow all instructions and safety requirements. If in doubt consult an expert.

The editors could find no information on any biological control agents for this species.

Legislation

Not listed as a noxious weed by the state or governments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

References

Baggio, A. and Heuveldop, J. (1984). Initial performance of Calliandra calothyrsus Meissn. in live fences for the production of biomass. Agroforestry Systems 2, 19-29.

Ella, A., Jacobsen, C., Stür, W.W. and Blair, G.J. (1989). Effect of plant density and cutting frequency on the productivity of four tree legumes. Tropical Grasslands 23, 28-34.

Hauser S., Nyajou, M. and Zapfack, L. (2006). Farmers' perception and use of planted Calliandra calothyrsus fallow in southern Cameroon. Conference on International Agricultural Research for Development, University of Bonn, October 11-13, 2006. www.tropentag.de/2006/abstracts/full/321.pdf.

Editors

Agnes Lusweti, National Museums of Kenya; Emily Wabuyele, National Museums of Kenya, Paul Ssegawa, Makerere University; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat - UK.

Acknowledgments

This fact sheet is adapted from The Environmental Weeds of Australia by Sheldon Navie and Steve Adkins, Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland. We recognise the support from the National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) - Tanzania and Makerere University, Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).

Contact

BioNET-EAFRINET Regional Coordinator: eafrinet@africaonline.co.ke