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Calliandra calothyrsus Meissn.


Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Toxicity
  5. Description
  6. Germplasm
  7. Distribution
  8. Ecology
  9. Cultivation
  10. Harvesting
  11. Yields and Economics
  12. Energy
  13. Biotic Factors
  14. References


Calliandra is unusually promising as a firewood source because of its excellent coppicing ability and very quick growth. In Indonesia it is cut for fuel after only a year's growth and harvested annually for the next 15–20 years. Even when harvested on such short rotations, it produces a sizable yield of branch wood that makes good household fuel. Like many other genera favored for charcoal making, Calliandra often travels under the Spanish name of 'carbonaria' or 'carbonero'. Indonesians use the tree to supress Imperata, and to make firebreaks. Livestock relish the leaves of this good fodder crop, grown with elephant grass in large areas previously unable to support any crop. An exciting ornamental, producing beautiful red "powderpuff" flowers, it forms attractive hedges. Planted in strips on Indonesian state forest lands to protect the forest against fire (as well as illegal woodcutting). Honey produced by bees foraging on Calliandra has a bittersweet flavor. The species grows very quickly, its dense foliage provides ground cover, and its extensive and deep root system makes Calliandra particularly suitable for erosion control on slopes and for rejuvenating degraded soils. By nitrogen fixation and litter production, Calliandra improves soil quality and productivity. Farmers in East Java sometimes rotate agricultural crops with Calliandra plantations. Calliandra serves as a suitable host for the shellac insect, Kerria lacca (NAS, 1980a, l983b).

Folk Medicine

Closely related Calliandra houstoni is reported to be febrifugal in homeopathic doses (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979). The root bark has been sold in Mexico under the name 'pambotani'.


Calliandra houstoni is reported to contain tannin, fat, resin, glycosides, alkaloids, and saponins (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979). Dry fodder


"No toxic components have been found so far, although tannin levels are high." (NAS, 1983b).


Slender shrubs, rarely to 10 m tall, nearly glabrous; leaves with 15–20 pairs of pinnae; the leaflets rounded or very obtuse, not curved. Flowers in pink, mimosa-like "powderpuffs", the corolla glabrous or nearly so. Pods 8–11 cm long, ca 1 cm wide, with 3–15 seeds (14,000/kg).


Reported from the American Center of Diversity, calliandra, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate heavy soils, poor soils, some shade, slope, and weeds (NAS 1980a, 1983b). It does not tolerate prolonged waterlogging, nor poorly drained calcareous clay soils.


The plant is native to Central America, but seeds were introduced from Guatemala to Indonesia in 1936. Calliandra proved so successful as a plantation crop that in 1950 the Indonesian State Forest Enterprise (Perum Perhutani) began planting it on a large scale, so that by early 1979 about 30,000 ha in Central, East, and West Java were under cultivation.


Estimated to range from Subtropical Dry to Rain through Tropical Moist to Wet Forest Life Zones, this Calliandra is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 10–44 dm and estimated to tolerate annual temperatures of 20–26°C and pH of 4.5–8.0. On Java, the plant grows at altitudes between 150 and 1,500 m. It can withstand drought for several months. It grows on many different soils, including infertile ones (reported from andosols, laterites, latosols, litosols, podsols, regosols, ultisols, and vertisols; NAS, 1983b) tiles, or bricks. It converts to charcoal (34% yield in one test) with a fuel value of 7,200 kcal/kg. Indonesians estimate one hectare can produce 14 tons charcoal (NAS, 1983b).


Plantations are established by direct seeding or by seedlings, usually Planted at the beginning of the wet season. Seedlings are transplanted from nurseries at about 4–6 months, spaced at 2m x 2m or 1m x 1m. Seeds are treated with hot water and then soaked in cold water for 24 hours. Because it grows so rapidly and densely, Calliandra supresses competing plants very quickly. There is little information on performance of this species on different sites. The plant is so hardy and reproduces so easily that it may become a weed of sorts, difficult to keep in check.


Cut as needed, regenerating rapidly. Cut stumps coppice readily.

Yields and Economics

Indonesian trials showed initial growth of 2.5–3.5 m in 6–9 months. After 1 year's growth, calliandra can be cut at about 50 cm above the ground, reportedly yielding about 5–20 m3 per ha. Afterwards, yearly cuttings are possible, producing between 35 and 65 m3 of small-sized fuelwood per ha, a rather incredible yield. In Indonesia, annual yields of 7–10 MT of dry fodder (22% crude protein) per ha have been recorded. In Toyomarto, East Java, villagers earn more money selling calliandra firewood than they do from food crops, often intercropped with calliandra. A hectare of Calliandra is estimated to Yield 1 MT honey (NAS, 1983b).


In parts of Java, Calliandra is a favorite fuelwood. (In one instance, an experimental plantation of 0.5 ha was established in 1963; by 1975, over 250 ha of firewood plantations had been independently established on nearby privately owned farms and home lots.) The wood has a specific gravity of 0.51–0.78, its calorific value is 4,500–4,750 kcal per kg, and its ash content is 1.8%. It is used for cooking as well as in small industries; for example, those making lime, derived from Calliandra calothyrsus contains 22% protein, 30–75% fiber, 4–5% ash, 2–3% fat, and 1–3% tannin. There is ca 1% quercetin-3-rhamnoside.

Biotic Factors

Bees forage heavily on the flowers. Ravenelia reticulatae, a rust, has been reported on an Arizonan species of Calliandra called False-mesquite (Ag. Handbook 165). Few pests have been reported from Calliandra calothyrsus in Indonesia—a scale insect on branches and stems, a trunk borer, and a looper eating the leaves. Snails and rats may destroy seedlings in nurseries. Fungi (e.g. Corticium salmonicola and Xylaria sp.) may kill weakened stems following careless coppicing (NAS, 1983b).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Tuesday, December 30, 1997