Chamaecytisus palmensis

Scientific name

Chamaecytisus palmensis

Common name


Tree lucerne


The plant appears to have originated from the Canary Islands, but is found in most countries with a Mediterranean climate (Snook, 1982). It is also common in new Zealand and has been introduced to parts of Africa (Anonymous, 2000)


Chamaecytisus palmensis belongs to the Fabaceae family. It is a evergreen bushy tree with profusing white flowers and form flat black pods about 5 cm long, each pod containing about 10 seeds. The seeds are flat, oval and about 5 mm long by 3 mm wide by 1 mm thick. 1 kg contains about 45.000 seeds (Dann and Trimmer, 1986). If grown alone can Chamaecytisus palmensis reaches an hight of 7 – 8 m, but normally it grows multistemmed and spreading of which it reaches a hight of 5 – 7 m (Anonymous, 2000).


Chamaecytisus palmensis grows well in a range of enviroments and once established handles climates ranging well. It has been grown mainly in temperate regions with wet winters and dry summers, with annual rainfall ranging from 350 to 1600 mm. It is has been reported that Chamaecytisus palmensis is moderate frost tolerant (Milhorpe and Dann, 1991). However, there has also been reported, that in New South Wales in Australia due seedlings proliferate vigorously along roadside despite annual frost to – 15 ░C (Anonymous, 2000). Once Chamaecytisus palmensis is established is it resiliant to drought (Milhorpe and Dann, 1991). Anonymous (2000) reported that ‘seedlings are remarkably drought resistant and can survive six months of hotweather without rain or irrigation. Of more importance, established shrubs have a remarkable capacity to recover from defoliation. Regrowth occurs even in the prolonged absence of rain’. On the side there has been reported that Chamaecytisus palmensis is very sensitive to water logging (Dann and Trimmer, 1986).

It can be established on a wide range of soils types (gravels, loams, acid laterites and limestones), but is established best on sandy-surfaced soils and has been very useful for the reclamamtion of eroded soils (Dann and Trimmer, 1986; Anonymous, 2000). It can cope with at least moderately acid soils with a pH of 5.0 to 7.0, but requires soils that are free draining (Dann and Trimmer, 1986; Anonymous, 2000).

Pest and Diseases

No major attack have been describes (Snook, 1982). However, if there are waterlogged conditions, even for a short period has there been reported to arise problems with the root disease Fusarium oxycarpum (Dann and Trimmer, 1986). If bark from Chamaecytisus palmensis has been stripped of by browsing sheep has there been observed that many plants died of Phytophthora fungus (Dann and Trimmer, 1986).


Chamaecytisus palmensis can be established by drirect seeding or transplanting. The hard coat of tagasaste seed results in a very low gerination of untreated seed. The seeds have therefore be treated by scarifying or hot water treatment. The seed is is dropped into the hot boiling water and the container removed from the heat right away, where the seeds is left to soak. Swolen seeds can be sieved out, while those who are not are treated again (Dann and Trimmer, 1986). If the soil in which Chamaecytisus palmensis is planted does not contain rhizobia bacteria for the nodulation of the plant has the plant to be inoculated with appropiate rhizobia. This can be done by taking soil from around the roots of a healthy mature Chamaecytisus palmensis tree (Dann and Trimmer, 1986).

Although, Chamaecytisus grows rapidly, weed competition can be a problem, as well as young tree should be protected well for animals, since it is very palatable. Furthermore, does is it not tolerante to waterlogged conditions during the establishement, eventhough it is just for a short time (Milthorpe and Dann, 1991).


With spacing of 4 plants/m of over 4.5 kg/m of hedge were achieved in the third and fourth years after establishment from which 66% was ‘edible’ (McGowan and Mathews, 1992). Anonymous (2000) reported that ‘under current systems of dryland farming in Western Australia, plantations should produce at least 10 t/ha of edible dry matter from a single annual grazing or cutting. This is equivalent to 1.5 kg each for 18 sheep every day of the year. If plantations are harvested three or four times a year, or subjected to rotational or continuos grazing, yields can be even higher’.

Major uses and functions

Chamaecytisus palmensis is mainly used as forage, firewood, improving soil fertility through nitrogen fixation, against wind and water erosion and as a source of nectar for bees (Mengistu, 1997; Springwood, 1996).

Fedding value

Chamaecytisus palmensis has a high palatability and is normally readily consumed. In vitro dry matter digestibility of the leaves has been found to be high: 0.77 – 0.82 (Borens and Poppi, 1986) and 0.72 (McGowan and Mathews, 1992). It has a high feeding value, since the content of secondary plant compounds is generally low. Most elements have been found to be adequate in leaves, except from P which can be marginal and Na, which is low. It has therefore been suggested to offer a complete mineral mix to animals grazing Chamaecytisus palmensis (Borens and Poppi, 1990).

In an experiment of Varikko and Khalili (1993) cows were fed a basal diet of ad libitum native hay and replacing 4.5 kg a concentrate mix, which was based on noug (Guizotia abyssinica) cake and wheat middlings with Chamaecytisus palmensis on a weight-for-weight basis of 0, 33, 66 and 100 %. The cows refused to eat the higher levels of 66 and 100 %, which resulted in a significant (p<0.001) lower total dry matter intake crude protein intake. The decline in nutrient intake resulted in an decreased milk yield from 5.18 kg day-1 (100% concentrate mix) to 4.02 (100% Chamaecytisus palmensis), as well as the protein content content in the milk decreased.

Table 1. Chemical compostion of Chamaecytisus palmensis from different references.


Bonsi et al., 1995

Bonsi et al., 1995

McGowan and Mathews, 1992

Borens and Poppi, 1990

Description of sample

dry leaves

fresh leaves

6 month leaves


DM, g kg-1





OM, g kg-1 DM





N, g kg-1 DM





NDF, g kg-1 DM





ADF, g kg-1 DM





Hemicellulose, g kg-1 DM





ADL, g kg-1 DM





Lignin, g kg-1 DM





NDIN, g kg-1 DM





ADIN, g kg-1 DM





Soluble tannins, 500 nm g-1 NDF





Condensed tannins, 500 nm g-1 NDF





Minerals(g kg-1 DM)




























Minerals: (mg kg-1 DM)
























References used in the text above

Anonymous, 2000.

Bonsi, M.L.K.; Osuji, P.O.; Tuah, A.K. (1995). Effect of supplementing teff straw with different levels of leucaena or sesbania leaves on the degradabilities of teff straw, sesbania, leucaena, tagasaste and vernonia and on certain rumen and blood metabolites in Ethiopian Menz sheep. Animal Feed Science And Technolog 52(1-2), pp. 101-129.

Borens, F. and Poppi, D. P. (1986) Feeding value of tagasaste. New Zealand agricultural science 20 (3), pp. 149-151.

Borens, F. M. and Poppi, D. P. (1990). The nutritive value for Ruminants of Tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis), a Leguminous Tree. Animal Feed Science and Technology 28, pp. 275 – 292.

Dann, P. and Trimmer, B. (1986). Tagasaste: a tree legume for fodder and other uses. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Science 20, pp. 142 – 145.

McGowan, A.A. and Mathews (1992) Forage production from hedges of tagasaste in a high rainfall temperate environment, and the effects of plant spacing and frequency of harvesting. Australian journal of experimental agriculture 32 (5) pp. 633-640.

Milthorpe, P.L. and Dann, P. R. (1991). Production from tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis) at four contrasting sites in New South Wales. Australian journal of experimental agriculture 31 (5), pp. 639-644.

Snook, L.C. (1982) Tagasaste (tree lucerne), Chamaecytisus palmensis: a shrub with high potential as a productive fodder crop. Journal - Australian Institute of Agricultural Science. 48 (4), pp. 209-213

Varvikko, T. and Khalili, H. (1993). Wilted tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis) forage as a replacement for a concentrate supplement for lactating crossbred Friesian x Zebu (Boran) dairy cows fed low –quality native hay. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 40, pp. 239 – 250.


Other references which are including Chamaecytisus palmensis

Arredondo, S.; Aronson, J.; Ovalle, C.; del Pozo, A.; Avendano, J. (1998) Screening multipurpose legume trees in central Chile. Forest Ecology And Managemen 109 (1-3), pp. 221-229

Assefa, G. (1998) Biomass yield, botanical fractions and quality of tagasaste, (Chamaecytisus palmensis) as affected by harvesting interval in the highlands of Ethiopia. Agroforestry systems an international journal 42 (1), pp. 13-23.

Berhe, K. and Mohammed-Salem, M. A. (1996). The potential of Calliandra calothyrsus as a fodder tree on acidic Nitosols of the southern, western and southwestern highlands of Ethiopia, pp. 234 – 245 In: Evans, D. O. (eds) Int Workshop on the genus Calliandra Proc. workshop held in Bogor, Indonesia, 23 – 27 Jamuary, 1996. Forest, Farm and Community Tree Research Reports (Special Issue). Winrock International, Morrilton, Arkansas, USA.

Borens, F. and Poppi, D. P. (1986). Feeding value of tagasaste. NewZealand Journal of Agricultural Science 20, pp. 149 – 151.

Condon, J. (1994) Anatomy and ultrastructure of the primary endophyte of Ileostylus micranthus (Loranthaceae). International journal of plant science 155 (3) pp. 350-364.

Dann, P. (1986) Tagasaste: a tree legume for fodder and other uses. New Zealand agricultural science 20 (3) pp. 142-145.

de Lacy, H. (1984) Tree lucerne--a plant for all reasons. The New Zealand farmer 105 (22), pp. 13-14.

Francisco-Ortega, J. (1993) Numerical analyses of RAPD data highlight the origin of cultivated tagasaste (Chamaecytisus proliferus ssp. palmensis) in the Canary Islands. Theoretical and applied genetics 87 (1/2) pp. 264-270.

Francisco-Ortega, J., Jackson, M.T., Santos-Guerra, A., Fernandez-Galvan, M. (1990). Genetic resources of the fodder legumes tagasaste and escobon (Chamaecytisus proliferus (L. fil.) Link sensu lato) in the Canary Islands (English) In: Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter (IBPGR/FAO) , 1990

Gault, R.R. (1994) Nodulation studies on legumes exotic to Australia: symbiotic relationships between Chamaecytisus palmensis (tagasaste) and Lotus spp. Australian journal of experimental agriculture. 1994. v. 34 (3) pp. 385-394.

International Livestock Center for Africa (ILCA) (1987). Forage Network in Ethiopia Newsletter. Addis Ababa, ILCA, pp. 21 – 23.

Kaitho, R.J. (1998) Nitrogen in browse species: ruminal degradability and post-ruminal digestibility measured by mobile nylon bag and in vitro techniques. Journal of the science of food and agriculture 76 (4) pp. 488-498.

Kaitho, R.J.; Umunna, N.N.; Nsahlai, I.V.; Tamminga, S.; Van Bruchem, J. (1998) Effect of feeding graded levels of Leucaena leucocephala, Leucaena pallida, Sesbania sesban and Chamaecytisus palmensis supplements to teff straw given to Ethiopian highland sheep (Animal Feed Science And Technology 72( 3-4), pp. 355-366.

Kaitho, R.J.; Umunna, N.N.; Nsahlai, I.V.; Tamminga, S.; van Bruchem, J.; Hanson, J. (1997) Palatability of wilted and dried multipurpose tree species fed to sheep and goats. Animal Feed Science And Technology 65(1-4), pp. 151-163.

Longland, A.C.; Theodorou, M.K.; Sanderson, R.; Lister, S.J.; Powell, C.J.; Morris, P. (1995) Non-starch polysaccharide composition and in vitro fermentability of tropical forage legumes varying in phenolic content. Animal Feed Science And Technology 55 (3-4), pp. 161-177.

Lyttle, L.A. (1986) Establishment of tree lucerne in hill country. Proceedings - New Zealand Weed and Pest Control Conference. July 1986. v. 39 pp. 67-69.

Muzquiz, M. Robredo, L.M. Burbano, C. Cuadrado, C. Ayet, G. Mendez, P. (1996). Variation in the alkaloid content of different subspecies of Chamaecytisus proliferus from the Canary Islands. Journal of Chromatography A 719 (1), pp. 237 – 243.

Newbold, C.J. (1997) Influence of foliage from African multipurpose tress on activity of rumen protozoa and bacteria. The British journal of nutrition 78 (2), pp. 237-249.

Nsahlai, I.V. (1998) The utilization of teff (Eragrotis tef) straw by sheep fed supplementary forage legumes with or without either crushed maize grain or wheat bran. Small ruminant research : the journal of the International Goat Association. July 8, 1998. 29 (3), pp. 303-315.

Nsahlai, I.V.; Umunna, N.N.; Bonsi, M.L.K. (1998). The utilization of teff (Eragrotis tef) straw by sheep fed supplementary forage legumes with or without either crushed maize grain or wheat bran. Small Ruminant Research 29(3), pp. 303-315.

Odenyo, A.A.; Osuji, P.O.; Karanfil, O. (1997) Effect of multipurpose tree (MPT) supplements on ruminal ciliate protozoa .Animal Feed Science And Technolog 67( 2-3) pp. 169-180

Oldham, C. (1991) Animal production from tagasaste growing in deep sand in a 450 mm winter rainfall zone. Journal of agriculture 32 (1) pp. 24-30.

Osuji, P.O.; Odenyo, A.A. (1997) The role of legume forages as supplements to low quality roughages -- ILRI experience. Animal Feed Science And Technology 69 (1-3), pp. 27-38.

Perez-Alonso, M.J.; Velasco-Negueruela, A.; Gil-Pinilla, M.; Perez de Paz, P.L.; Vallejo, C.G.;

Esteban, J.L. (1996) The Volatiles of Five Micromeria Species Endemic to the Canary Islands Biochemical Systematics And Ecolog 24(6), pp. 571-575

Poveda, A.; Santamaria, M.; Bernabe, M.; Prieto, A.; Bruix, M.; Corzo, J.; Jimenez-Barbero, J. (1997). Studies on the structure and the solution conformation of an acidic extracellular polysaccharide isolated from Bradyrhizobium Carbohydrate Research 304(3-4) ,pp. 209-217

Radcliffe, J.E. (1986) Management of tagasaste. New Zealand agricultural science 20 (3), pp. 145-148.

Sanchez-Yelamo, M.D. (1995) Electrophoretical evidence of variation in populations of the fodder legume Chamaecytisus proliferus from the Canary Islands. Biochemical systematics and ecology 23 (1) pp. 53-63.

Sanchez-Yelamo, M.D.; Espejo-Ibanez, M.C.; Francisco-Ortega, J.; Santos-Guerra, A. (1995). Electrophoretical Evidence of Variation in Populations of the Fodder Legume Chamaecytisus proliferus from the Canary Islands. Biochemical Systematics And Ecology 23 (1), pp. 53-63

Syrett, P. (1992) Feeding range of Sitona regensteinensis Hbst. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), a potential agent for biological control of Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link (broom) in New Zealand. Biocontrol science and technology 2 (3), pp. 261-265.

Tolera, A.; Khazaal, K.; ěrskov, E. R. (1997).Nutritive evaluation of some browse species Animal Feed Science And Technology 67(2-3), pp. 181-195.

Umunna, N.N.; Nsahlai, I.V.; Osuji, P.O. (1995) Degradability of forage protein supplements and their effects on the kinetics of digestion and passage. Small Ruminant Research 17(2), pp. 145-152.

Umunna, N.N.; Osuji, P.O.; Nsahlai, I.V.; Khalili, H.; Mohamed-Saleem, M.A. (1995) Effect of supplementing oat hay with lablab, sesbania, tagasaste or wheat middlings on voluntary intake, N utilization and weight gain of Ethiopian Menz sheep. Small Ruminant Research 18 ( 2), pp. 113-120

Webb, C. L. (1982). Tree lucerne: its taxonomic status and naturalisation in New Zealand. In : Tree lucerne in New Zealand. Christchurch (New Zealand): Division of Scientific and Industrial Research, pp. 2 – 5.