White leadtree, jumbay, river tamarind, white popinac (Eng); aromo blanco, acacia pálida, tamarindo silvestre (Spa); aromèr blanc (Cat); acácoa-esponjeira, aroma-branco (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? The green seed of the white leadtree is the main ingredient of ‛huaxmole', a traditional Mexican stew.
A small tree or tall shrub with no thorns that grows to around 3 m tall, although it can reach 12 m in its native lands. Its slender trunk has greyish-brown, lightly cracked bark and supports a rounded, gently open, sparse crown. The leaves are perennial, alternate, compound and bipinnate. The 3-10 pairs of pinna are variable in length and each pinna has numerous leaflets (10-24 pairs), but always an even number (even-pinnate). The 8-15 mm-long leaflets are hairless, oblong-lanceolate in shape, asymmetric, and somewhat oblique. They have a pointed tip and an entire margin. They are matt green, and a little glaucous on the underside. The white leadtree blooms throughout the year, depending on the availability of water. Its creamy-white flowers are gathered in globular clusters (glomeruli) up to 2 cm in diameter. The long (11-30 cm), flattened, narrow (1.2-2.3 cm) fruits are legumes. They are green when tender and brown when ripe. They either appear on their own or together in groups of up to 20 pods. Each one contains 15-30 shiny, dark brown seeds covered by a substance that slows down water absorption during germination.
In its natural range, the white leadtree grows at altitudes of between 800-1700 m, in a very warm tropical climate that experiences 5 months of intense rainfall. Nevertheless, it adapts well to a great variety of climatic conditions and soils, with the exception of acidic substrates. In the Canary Islands it is mainly naturalised in the lower zones, but always in somewhat moist soils. Sometimes it appears close to watercourses running down ravines. Although it currently has little impact on the natural habitats, this species can become very competitive for resources and space.
This species originated in Mexico and Central America and has been introduced and become naturalised in many parts of the world, including the Canary Islands. The 2004 list of wild species in the Canaries (Listado de especies silvestres de Canarias) only recorded that it had naturalised in Gran Canaria, but currently, according to the Biodiversity Data Bank of the Canary Islands, this species is now considered to be established in the wild on the other of islands in the archipelago (El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote), where it has begun to gain an invasive character.