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Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana)


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Common names 

Poro, coraltree, immortelle tree, mountain immortelle [English]; bois immortel, erythrine bucare, immortelle jaune [French]; eritrina-do-alto, sinã [Portuguese]; poró, madre del cacao, amapola, amapola de sombre, amasisa, barbatusco, brucayo, bucare ceibo, bucayo, bucaro, bucayo gigante, cachingo, cámbulo, ceibo, písamo, poró extranjero, poró gigante, saibo [Spanish]; dadap [Bahasa indonesia]; chuku yura [Kichwa]


Erythrina micropteryx Poepp., Micropteryx poeppigiana Walp.


Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana (Walp.) O.F. Cook) is a tropical evergreen tree with conspicuous orange-red flowers. Poro is mainly used as a shade tree in coffee and cocoa plantations (hence the spanish name "Madre de cacao") where trees are usually kept pruned to 2-3 m. Poro foliage can be a valuable source of fodder for livestock.


Poro is an evergreen or partially deciduous, conspicuous tropical tree that can reach 25-35 m in height. It has a spreading crown arising from a branchless bole, 1.2-2m in diameter (Orwa et al., 2009; Cook et al., 2005; Oyen, 1997; Duke, 1983). The tree can be multi-stemmed and, under cultivation is kept small to 2-2.5 m in height by cutting the stems (Oyen, 1997). The bark is smooth or slightly furrowed, greenish brown to greyish-brown in colour, equipped with conical thorns on the branches and young twigs (Cook et al., 2005; Oyen, 1997). Poro leaves are alternate, borne on pubescent petiole, 10-40 cm long (including petiole) and trifoliate, thin-papery, often scabrous beneath. The 3 leaflets are rhomboid-oval or oval in shape. The lateral ones have cup-shaped glands at their base, and the terminal leaflet is 8-30 cm long x 5-30 cm broad (Oyen, 1997; Duke, 1983). Leaflets are generally larger in saplings than in big trees (Cook et al., 2005). The inflorescence is a 10-40 cm long raceme held at the distal end of shoots on 4-8 cm long peduncles. The racemes bear conspicuous red-orange (hence the name of the genus, which comes from the Greek word for the color red "eruthros"), caducous, pentamerous flowers. The pods are many-seeded, 12-25 cm long, cylindrical, long-stalked, slightly curved and depressed between seeds, pointed at both ends, green in colour. The seeds are 1-2 cm long, slightly curved, brown in colour (Orwa et al., 2009; Cook et al., 2005; Oyen, 1997). Density is about 4500 seeds/kg (Cook et al., 2005).


Erythrina poeppigiana is an invaluable shade tree and is widely used in coffee, pepper and cocoa plantations (hence the spanish name "madre del cacao", mother of cocoa). In plantations, it is often planted in combination with the agroforestry tree Cordia alliodora (Oyen, 1997). Poro can shade pastures (Oyen, 1997). Poro foliage is used as fodder for ruminants in Central America, where it provides protein to poor quality diets (Benavides, 1991; Kass et al., 1992).

Poro flowers are edible and used in Colombia to make soups and salads (Duke, 1983). Stem cuttings readily root and can be used to make fence posts which can be lopped for green manure or for fodder (Cook et al., 2005; Oyen, 1997; Duke, 1983). Poro is a N-fixing tree that can be planted in alley cropping systems as hedgerow species. It is a showy tree that is planted for ornament in gardens and along roads and avenues (Oyen, 1997). Poro seeds are known to produce fish poison. The wood has poor fuel value but could be used to make paper or particle boards (Oyen, 1997).


The original range of Erythrina poeppigiana goes from Panama and Venezuela in the North to the western parts of the Bolivian and Peruvian Amazon in the South. It has been extensively planted and naturalized in Central America and the Caribbean. It has been reported to be invasive in Cuba. It was introduced into the humid tropics of the Old World, noticeably South-East Asia (Fern, 2014; Oyen, 1997).

Poro occurs in humid and subhumid tropical lowlands that are not prone to flooding, from sea level up to 2000 m altitude. At higher altitude, the tree survives but remains stunted and is blanketed with epiphytes (Oyen, 1997). Poro does better where average annual temperatures are between 22 and 24°C and where annual rainfall ranges from 1000-4000 mm, but it still grows in places where extremum temperatures range from 16°C to 36°C and where rainfall is 800 mm to 4500 mm with tolerance of temporary waterlogging. It can be used to drain very wet soils and can withstand up to 6 months of reduced rainfall (Fern, 2014; Cook et al., 2005; Oyen, 1997). Leaf-fall occurs during the dry season and top growth of poro is killed by frost (Cook et al., 2005). Poro can be cultivated on a wide range of soils ranging from sandy rocky soils to deep heavy clays that includes poor and acid-infertile soils with pH 4.3 and poorly drained soils. However, it does better at a pH ranging from 5 to 7 and does not tolerate salinity (Cook et al., 2005). Poro is a full sunlight species that can however withstand light shade (Cook et al., 2005). Poro was reported to be resistant to fire, including controlled burning (Oyen, 1997).

Forage management 

Erythrina poeppigiana can be propagated from 0.5-1.5 m stems obtained from the cutting of 1-2 year-old branches from low to medium section of the tree (Orwa et al., 2009; Cook et al., 2005). Fully defoliated stem cuttings should then be planted 30 cm deep (Orwa et al., 2009). Poro can be propagated from seedlings but requires weeding during the first year of establishment. In coffee plantations, poro trees intended to be lopped twice a year should be planted a 6 x 6 m spacing. Spacing should be larger (8 x 8 m or 12 x 12 m) if the trees remain unpruned (Orwa et al., 2009; Cook et al., 2005).

Poro can be planted in hedgerows surrounding maize/bean alley farming systems and has been reported to be assessed as hedgerow for Brachiaria grass (Cook et al., 2005). In some countries, poro is integrated in white mulberry (Morus alba) plantations: its foliage is used as a mulch to sustain good DM yields from white mulberry (Benavides, 1999). In Costa Rica, planting poro trees (density of 3333 trees/ha and 3 cuts/year) in association with king grass (Pennisetum purpureum x P. americanum) improved total DM yield (31 t/ha vs. 22 t/ha) and protein yield (2.82 t/ha in the mixture vs. 1.03 t/ha in pure stands). Poro enhanced the protein content of king grass (Benavides et al., 1989).

Pruning of poro trees may start 9-12 months after planting. Afeter pruning, poro does not recover carbohydrate reserves quickly. Pruning kills the N-fixing nodules which will need 6 weeks to regrow. Heavy and frequent pruning is thus deleterious and poro should not be pruned more than twice a year after being pruned completely. Defoliation should leave at least 10-25% of leaf area for better regrowth (Orwa et al., 2009; Cook et al., 2005).

Environmental impact 

Green manure and mulch producer, N fertilizer

Thanks to its tolerance to coppicing and its N-fixing habit, Erythrina poeppigiana provides a high amount of green manure and mulch with high N value to the soil (Oyen, 1997). Poro was shown to improve the rate of soil mineralization (5.64 mg N/kg soil) in coffee plantations. It was suggested that the use of poro in coffee plantations could bring 100 kg N/ha with a variation from 56 to 555 kg/ha (Villarreyna Acuña et al., 2016).

Agroforestry species

Poro has many traits that make it a valuable agroforestry species. A thorny species, it can be planted as a living fence to keep livestock off the stand. However, it can be sensitive to strong winds and be uprooted (Oyen, 1997). In alley cropping systems and plantations, poro provides light shade. Once coppiced, its N-rich leaves produce high grade litter for the soil and its root nodules return high amounts of N to the neighbouring crops (cocoa, pepper, or grasses) (Fern, 2014; Oyen, 1997). In alley cropping systems, poro planted in dense hedgerows (1-2 m between trees), with wide alleys (6 - 8 m) between tree rows can sustain high bean yields (Fern, 2014). In Costa Rica, the use of poro with 2 maize crops per year was possible over 8 years without fertilization (Fern, 2014).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Poro leaves are rich in protein (20-32% DM) but are also relatively high in fibre (ADF 31-46% DM).

Potential constraints 


All Erythrina species, including Erythrina poeppigiana, contain potentially toxic alkaloids in their seeds and foliage. On small animals, these alkaloids have effects similar to that of curare poisoning, i.e. muscular paralysis that may cause death by respiratory failure (Paterson, 1994). It has been reported that some Erythrina spp. can cause sterility and even death in rabbits (Martin, 1984 cited by Paterson, 1994). However, this toxicity has not been demonstrated in larger domestic animals (Paterson, 1994), and, in the case of Erythrina poeppigiana, its consumption by cattle or goats did not affect their health (Orwa et al., 2009). Traces of β-erythroidine were detected in the milk of goat fed with leaves of Erythrina berteroana or Erythrina poeppigiana, which raised the question of whether the milk was suitable for human consumption (Soto-Hernandez et al., 1993).


Erythrina spp. seeds and leaves contain lectins that have a selective hemagglutinating effect on erythrocytes, but this effect depend on the Erythrina species and on the mammal species. For instance, lectins from Erythrina poeppigiana seeds agglutinated human red cells but not red cells from rabbits, goats and horses, while lectins from Erythrina steyermarkii seeds affected red cells from humans and rabbits (Quesada et al., 1998).


Erythrina spp. leaves are generally lower in soluble polyphenolic compounds than other tropical legumes, which is a positive characteristic for livestock feeding (Paterson, 1994).


Erythrina poeppigiana foliage is used in diets for cattle, sheep and goats in Central America and is considered to be a useful protein supplement to grass, especially in subhumid tropical regions during times of feed shortage (Benavides, 1991; Kass et al., 1992).

Degradability, intake and digestibility

The in sacco degradability of DM and nitrogen are quite low (about 40% and 50% respectively), possibly due to the high cell wall content of the plant, but of same magnitude as other tropical forages (Aumont et al., 1994; Cerneau et al., 1993). DM degradability and rumen fermentation parameters of poro were very similar to those of Gliricidia sepium when tested with a basal diet containing jaragua (Hyparrhenia rufa) hay, rice bran and molasses (Camero et al., 2001). Hay DM degradability and total volatile fatty acids concentrations were significantly higher when legume trees diets were compared to urea based diets and ammonia concentration was lower for legume trees diets compared to urea based diet (Camero et al., 2001). Poro foliage should be supplemented with energy sources that are readily degradable in the rumen.

In Cuba, poro was reported to have lower dry matter (50 %) and crude protein (57 %) digestibilities than other trees, shrubs and forage plants, but was eaten at medium values by sheep (68 g/kg LW0.75) and cattle (142 g/kg LW0.75)(Gonzalez Garcia et al., 2002) .

Dairy cows

Compared to urea, N supplementation with poro increased milk yield to the same extent as Gliricidia sepium (Camero et al., 2001; Camero Rey, 1993). Both foliages may be alternative protein supplements for dairy cows fed on low-quality grass hay, and they are more valuable than urea, including from an economic point of view (Camero Rey, 1993). A daily supplementation of 0.5 kg DM/100 kg LW of fresh poro forage seems to be adapted to dairy cows grazing around 30 kg DM/cow/day and supplemented with either sorghum grain or green banana, or polished rice or sugarcane molasses (Jiménez-Ferrer et al., 2015).

Beef cattle

Daily liveweight gain of beef cattle was improved when the basal diet (Paspalum fasciculatium, Axonopus compressus and Cynodon nlemfluensis) was supplemented with either poro alone or a mixture of poro and bananas. The best results were ontained when the paddocks had a three-month resting period, compared to a two-month resting period (Ibrahim et al., 2000).

Dairy goats

Supplementation of fresh poro leaves at 1.5 % LW to a basal diet of king grass (Pennisetum purpureum × P. americanum) and bananas improved milk yield (820 g/day with poro vs. 326 g/day without supplement) (Esnaola et al., 1990). As suggested by Preston, 1987, a feed needs to be evaluated in a framework of making optimum use of feed and animal resources by matching the production system to the available resources, rather than trying to maximize productivity per animal. In this case, Erythrina poeppigania foliage is a valuable feed at periods with feed shortage.


Fresh forage

Foliage of Erythrina species are frequently used as forage for cattle, goats or rabbits (Russo, 1991), but has sometimes been observed to cause sterility and even death in rabbits, possibly due to the presence of toxic alkaloids and lectins (Martin, 1984, cited by Paterson, 1994). However, leaves of Erythrina poeppigiana have been fed safely to growing rabbits with results similar to those obtained with Morus alba leaves or alfalfa (Albert, 2006, cited by Caro et al., 2013). In a comparison with fresh tropical forages provided ad libitum in addition to 50 g of a balanced concentrate, the growth rate obtained with Erythrina poeppigiana was close to that observed with Morus alba. Erythrina poeppigiana leaves represent 42% of the total daily DM intake (Sánchez-Laiño et al., 2018).

Productive parameters of fattening rabbits fed with 3 tropical forages : Morus alba, Erythrina poeppigiana and Tithonia diversifolia.

Leaf meal

No specific information seems available on the use of dried Erythrina poeppigiana leaves for rabbits, but it was demonstrated that dried Erythrina berteroana leaves, fed with a concentrate, could be used safely up to 71 g/day in the ration of growing rabbits (Villatoro Rivas, 1993). Since fresh Erythrina poeppigiana leaves seem to be safe and valuable for rabbits, it may be assumed that dried leaves may be used too.

As a conclusion Erythrina poeppigiana leaves may be considered as a good forage for growing rabbits, due to their high content in protein and fibre. However, before providing a general recommendation for the use of theses leaves in rabbit feeding, some experiments with reproducing does would be necessary.

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 23.4 1.2 22.1 25.3 5  
Crude protein % DM 25.2 2.5 19.8 32 28  
Crude fibre % DM 31.3         *
Ether extract % DM 2       1  
Ash % DM 10.1 2 7.5 12.5 10  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 51.9 7 41.8 64.5 12  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 36.9 5 30.8 45.7 10  
Lignin % DM 12.7 2 10 15.8 8  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.8         *
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin) % 53 3 46 57 14  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.5         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.1         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 55.9         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 58.4         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 57.6   56.1 59.1 2  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 47   39 53 2 *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 51   44 55 2 *
a (N) % 29   18 39 2  
b (N) % 39   26 52 2  
c (N) h-1 0.053   0.04 0.065 2  
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=6%) % 41   34 48 2 *
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=4%) % 44   37 50 2 *
a (DM) % 27   20 34 2  
b (DM) % 28   25 30 2  
c (DM) h-1 0.062   0.055 0.069 2  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 8         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 7.1         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 42.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 68.4         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Aumont et al., 1991; Camero Rey, 1993; Cerneau et al., 1993; CGIAR, 2009; Esnaola et al., 1990; González et al., 2002 Gonzalez Garcia et al., 2002; Ibrahim et al., 2000; Jiménez-Ferrer et al., 2015; Kass et al., 1992; Larbi et al., 1996; Larbi et al., 1997; Samur, 1984; Sotelo et al., 2016

Last updated on 07/08/2019 10:50:00

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Giger-Reverdin S., Lebas F., 2019. Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/608 Last updated on August 7, 2019, 10:50