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Ipil-ipil (tree)

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years ago
Ipil-ipil Tree


Description and Rationale



Environmental Challenge Part 1


Ipil-ipil in the Philippines



The ipil-ipil, otherwise known as the Leucaena leucocephala, is not native to the Philippines. However, it has been growing fast and well over the entire country. The ipil-ipil plant can be a bush, shrub, hedge, or even a tree. It does not have a single identified size, as it can be trimmed, or left to grow. It has adapted to the Philippines very well and can be found easily, as it is a type of a tropical rainforest plant.

What is the impact of the plant called ipil-ipil? Is it an insignificant plant like a weed, or is it useful for people? It has been known that there are abundant numbers of ipil-ipil plants in the Philippines, but what can be used from them? Can it be used to control erosion? Could it be used to make handcraft items?

Most of the time, ipil-ipil plants are used for agriculture and animal feed. The ipil-ipil plants can be planted as hedgerows to prevent erosion in the soil and act as mulch or other things as well. Meanwhile, it can also be used to feed animals raised on the farm, such as goats, sheep, and other animals. People themselves can also use ipil-ipil as firewood or building materials. As it can be seen, ipil-ipil seems to have many effective uses. However, are there any other new efficient ways to use the ipil-ipil plant?

Perhaps researching more about the ipil-ipil plant will yield more knowledge. Meanwhile, it would be best to use the plant for the uses we already know. That is why, like the livelihood partnership in Thailand, it would seem effective to have the school plant ipil-ipil seeds, and give the planted seeds to the local people to plant for themselves and use them.

The process of this project will be to research the basic information about the ipil-ipil plant, the related ecology to the plant, and the possible benefits for the people in the Philippines. If possible, it is hoped that a system of planting ipil-ipil at school and giving them to the local people type project can be accomplished.

By the end of this environmental challenge experiment, the goal would be too use the ipil-ipil plant to help and benefit the people of the Philippines. Also, if possible, the new ways to use the ipil-ipil plant through research and experiments.

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Common Names and Synonyms


The local common name of the plant for this environmental challenge is called ipil-ipil. Its scientific name is Leucaena leucocephala. Along in the Philippines, it is also called komkompitis in Ilocano, and loyloi in Bisaya.




Kingdom:       Plantae

Phylum:         Tracheophyta

Class:            Leguminosae

Order:           Fabales

Family:          Fabaceae

Genus:          Leucaena

Species:        L. leucocephala


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Morphology and Physical Description


Ipil-ipil is a thorn less long-lived shrub or tree which may grow to heights of 7-20 meters. The leaves are bipinnate with 6-8 pairs of pinnate bearing 11-23 pairs of leaflets 8-16 mm long. The inflorescence is a cream colored globular shape which produces a cluster of flat brown pods 13-18 mm long containing 15-20 seeds. Three morphological types are noted by a small bushy type less than 5 meters; a giant type with a trunk and great size to 20 meters. The most common form is the shrubby free-seeding one which tends to be weedy and low-yielding. It was this form which was transported around the world during the 16th to 19th centuries and is now pan-tropical. The true giants have better forage and wood production than the shorter varieties.

It is also fast growing, up to 20 meters tall, with a trunk of 10-25 cm long. If it is a short variety, slender trunks are formed with short bushy tuft at crown. Leaves are evergreen and alternate, 10–25 cm long, malodorous when crushed, and bipinnate with 3–10 pairs of pinnate. Each of these with 10–20 pairs of sessile narrowly oblong to lance late, gray-green leaflets 1–2 cm long, and less than 0.3 cm wide. The flowers are numerous, axillaries on long stalks, white, and in dense global heads 1–2 cm across. The fruit pods have raised borders and it is flat and thin.  It becomes dark brown and hard, 10–15 cm long, and 1.6–2.5 cm wide. Seeds are copiously produced, 15–30 per pod, oval, flattish, and shining brown.



Getting Food


The following are the favorable conditions for the plant to grow best:


Soil: Ipil-ipil is adapted to medium and coarse soil. It has low anaerobic tolerance, has medium salinity tolerance, and has medium pH of 5.0 with the maximum pH of 8.0. Also, it has medium requirement of fertilizers.


Sunlight: Ipil-ipil can take full sun exposure and is intolerant to shade.


Moisture: Ipil-ipil has medium drought tolerance and can take up to minimum precipitation of 15 cm with the maximum being 80 cm.


Temperature: Ipil-ipil is a tropical plant and can take hot temperatures and climate. The minimum temperature it can take is 17 degrees in Fahrenheit.


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The ipil-ipil is self-fertile, meaning that it is promoting seed production even on isolated individuals. Some are out crossing and pollinated by a wild range of generalist insects including large and small bees. It also re-sprouts after cutting. Also, flowering and seeding continues throughout the year as long as moisture permits. Trees usually live short for about 20-40 years. The hard seed coat means that germination occurs over a prolonged period after seed dispersal and that seed can remain viable for long periods in the soil.


Environmental Factors


Ipil-ipil requires warm temperatures (25-30 degrees Celsius) for optimum growth. At higher latitudes, growth is reduced. Heavy frosts will kill all aerial growth, although the crowns survive and re-grow vigorously in the following summer with multiple branches. Shading reduces growth, although it has moderate tolerance of reduced light when compared with other tree legumes. Ipil-ipil can be found performing well in a wild range of rainfall movements. It is well adapted to clay soils and requires good levels of phosperus and calcium.

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Origin and Distribution


Ipil-ipil is believed to have originated from Mexico and Central America and introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish. Ipil-ipil has long been grown for non-forage uses throughout the tropics. It was developed as forage in Hawaii and studied since the thirties. Increased interest and research in the pre-war period led to its development as a fodder in commercial farming in the Australian tropics and in many part of tropical Asia. During the 1970’s and 80’s, the ipil-ipil was known as the “miracle tree” because of its worldwide success as a long-lived and highly nutritious forage, and its great variety of other uses.


Importance to People


The main uses of ipil-ipil are as a hedge, bush, tree, or coppice. However, it can also be used to feed grazing or herding animals. The ipil-ipil leaves can be dried for use in concentrate feeds. Ipil-ipil is also well known for its high nutritional value and for the similarity of its chemical composition with that of the alfalfa. Basically, its use can be effective in agriculture as mulch, hedgerows that prevent erosion, legumes for fertilization, and others. It can also be used to feed animals and even be helpful to people’s daily lives as firewood or building materials.


Survivability and Endangered Status


Ipil-ipil is able to grow vigorously and numerously. It will grow in most condition and survive well in a tropical area.  It grows fast and is not endangered at the present time. It is usually found in the tropical regions growing and used well. Compared to other plants, there are not much pests and diseases that the plant experiences.

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Potential Solutions


Possibility 1


Erosion Control


As for erosion control, ipil-ipil trees are great for preventing erosion. That is why most ipil-ipil trees are grown in hedgerows and trimmed to prevent the soil from being eroded. Ipil-ipil plants can survive in most conditions in the Philippines, resulting in the widespread distribution of the plant.


Advantages: By planting many ipil-ipil trees, which are well adapted to this country, it will lead to the plant absorbing excess water from rain, cover the soil from some heavy water, and protect the soil from flowing away. Thus, it has all the basic components for preventing erosion. In addition, the tree has a high survival rate, it is easy to obtain ipil-ipil seeds, and the fact that it can absorb enough amount of water qualifies it to be a plant fit for erosion control.


Disadvantages:  However, there are also some possible problems that may occur. Because of pests and diseases, by planting only the ipil-ipil trees, it may kill all the plants in that area. If there is no biodiversity in an area, it will be easier for that one plant to be attacked by specific pests and diseases. That is why, to solve this problem, it is advisable to plant other plants that will help prevent erosion along with the ipil-ipil trees to create more biodiversity. Besides, by only planting one specific plant, specific nutrients in the soil cannot support all the same plants in that area. By creating biodiversity, the nutrients in the soil will be used and added equally, creating a harmonious balance. 

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Possibility 2




Mentioned above, ipil-ipil trees are well adapted to tropical climate, such as the Philippines. That is why they are a good choice of plants to plant for reforestation. So why not plant them to reforest a barren area?


Advantages:  In addition to the ipil-ipil plant being well adapted to the climates in the Philippines, ipil-ipil trees have legumes in their roots, which help fertilize the soil. It seems that ipil-ipil plants are a great choice to plant for reforestation since ipil-ipil trees are well adapted to the Philippine’s climate, have legumes to fertilize the soil, and are easy to find and access. Because the ipil-ipil trees in the Philippines are well adapted and abundant, it seems to indicate that it will survive and be able to reforest an area. Through reforestation, not only will it help the environment, but it can also help people by using them as tools mentioned above in the overview or the first paragraph.


Disadvantages: Once again, mentioned above, only planting ipil-ipil plants is dangerous. Because of the lack of biodiversity, the ipil-ipil plants face danger of pests, diseases, and lack of nutrients. Besides, if there is only one biodiversity, it cannot really be considered as a reforestation. The main reason for reforestation is to restore an area that once was a natural habitat. By only planting ipil-ipil trees, it cannot be considered a tropical rainforest. To overcome this conflict, it is best to plant the ipil-ipil plants first as a pioneer plant, and add other plants that will help reforest a specific area. 

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Possibility 3


Green Manure


Ipil-ipil plants are known to be good food for animals and plants as well. For animals, ipil-ipil plants contain good nutrients that helps feed the animals. For plants, ipil-ipil helps plants by providing mulch, returning some nutrients to the soil, preventing erosion, and acting as hedgerows.


Advantages: One of the main advantages of using ipil-ipil plants is the low cost. Rather than all the other expensive fertilizers for plants and food for animals, ipil-ipil can be easily substituted for them. Sometimes, ipil-ipil animal feeds are even better than other products for the animals. Ipil-ipil plants have rare and natural nutrients that are essential for animals. Also, ipil-ipil plants have legumes in their roots that help fertilize the soil, and act as hedgerows and erosion control as an added bonus. In addition, toxin and chemicals that are mixed in the fertilizers and animal feeds are harmful for the plants and animal, but ipil-ipil plants are naturally non-hazardous. Overall, ipil-ipil plants are clean, safe, and environmentally friendly fertilizers and animal feeds.


Disadvantages: Similar to the disadvantages above, by only feeding animals with ipil-ipil is not necessarily good for the animals. Too much ipil-ipil feed to the animals can have a negative effect instead. Likewise, fertilizing the soil with only ipil-ipil legumes could cause negative effect on plant growth, as ipil-ipil legumes does not necessarily create nutrients for every specific plants. Overall, just using too much of one thing, is not always a good thing.



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Bautista, Karmela. “Telephone Interview.” May 1, 2007.

Binggeli, Pierre. “Leucaena leucocephala.” May 1997. April 24, 2007 <http://members.lycos.co.uk/WoodyPlantEcology/docs/web-sp7.htm>.

Fores, Rey. Personal Interview. April 29, 2007.

“Ipil-ipil.” Philippine Medical Plants. March 31, 2007. April 24, 2007 <http://www.stuartxchange.org/Ipil-ipil.html>.

“Ipil-ipil with Annual and Perennial Crops.” AGROFORESTRY Information Network. 2003. April 24, 2007 <http://www.pcarrd.dost.gov.ph/cin/AFIN/ipil%


LEUCAENA GLAUCA (Linn) Benth. 2005. April 24, 2007 <http://www.bpi.da.gov.ph/Publications/mp/html/i/ipil-ipil.html>.

“Leucaena leucocephala.” Tropical Forages. 2005. April 24, 2007 <http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/Leucaena_leucocephala.htm>.

Suttie, J.M. “Leucaena leucocephala.” Grassland Species. April 17, 2007. FAO Crop and Grassland Service. April 24, 2007 <http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/agpc/doc/Gbase/DATA/Pf000158.htm>.




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