Animal feed resources information system

Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana)

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This datasheet is pending revision and updating; its contents are currently derived from FAO's Animal Feed Resources Information System (1991-2002) and from Bo Göhl's Tropical Feeds (1976-1982).


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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.

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Related feed(s) 

Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana) 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 of poro 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 (Erythrina poeppigiana) 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, 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, 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. 4500 seeds/kg (Cook et al., 2005).

The latin name of the genus "Erythrina" comes from the Greek word "eruthros" : red characteristical colour of the showy flowers of the genus.


Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana) is an invaluable shade tree and for this reason, has been 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 also shade pastures (Oyen, 1997). Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana) foliage has been reported to be used as fodder for ruminants (Cook et al., 2005). The flowers are edible and used in Colombia, to make soups and salads (Duke, 1983). Stem cuttings readily roots and can thus 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 also 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).


Poro original range is 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 also 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 remain stunted and are blanketed with epiphytes (Oyen, 1997).

Poro does better in places 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 are ranging from 16°C to 36°C and rainfall is 800 mm to 4500 mm with tolerance of temporary waterlogging. It can be used to drain very wet soils and can also 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. It however does better at a pH ranginf 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 

Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana) can be propagated from 0.5 to 1.0 m stems obtained from the cutting of 2 year-old branches. It can also be propagated from seedlings but then requires weeding during the first year of establishment. In coffe plantations, poro trees intended to be lopped twice a year should be planted a 6 x 6 m spacing. Spacing should be larger (12 x 12 m) if the trees remain unpruned (Cook et al., 2005).

Poro can also be planted in hedgerows surrounding maize/bean alleyfarming 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) plantation: 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 ton/ha vs. 22 t/ha) and CP yield (2.82 t CP/ha in the mixture vs. 1.03 t CP/ha in pure stands). Poro had also enhanced king grass protein content (Benavides et al., 1989).

Heavy and frequent pruning is deleterious to poro. It should not be pruned more than twice a year since pruning completely kills the N-fixing nodules which will need 6 weeks to regrow. Defoliation should leave at least 10-25% of leaf area for better regrowth (Cook et al., 2005).

Environmental impact 

Green manure and mulch producer, N fertilizer

Thanks to its tolerance of coppicing and its N-fixing habit, poro provides high amount of green manure and mulch with high N value to the soil (Oyen, 1997). Poro was shown to improve soil mineralization rate (5.64 mg N/kg soil) in coffee plantations. It was suggested that the use of poro in coffee platation could bring 100 kg N/ha with a variation from 55 to 556 kg/ha (Villareyna 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 useful to keep livestock off the stand. It can however be sensitive to strong winds and be uprooted (Oyen, 1997).

In alley cropping systems and in plantations, it provides light shade. Once coppiced, its N-rich leaves produce high grade litter for the soil and its root nodules return high amount 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 metres between trees), with wide alleys (6 - 8 metres) between tree rows can sustain high bean yield (Fern, 2014).  In Costa Rica, the use of poro with 2 maize crops per year was possible over 8 years without fertilization  [303] (Fern, 2014).

Nutritional aspects

Poro (Erythrina poeppigiana) foliage has been used in diets for cattle sheep and goats in Central America and proved a useful protein supplement to grass, especially in some sub-humid tropical regions like Central America at periods with feed shortage (Benavides, 1991; Kass et al., 1992).

Degradability, intake and digestibility

In sacco dry matter and nitrogen degradations are quite low (43.7 % and 52.6 %), but of the same magnitude as other tropical forages (Aumont et al., 1994; Cerneau et al., 1993). Dry matter degradation and rumen fermentation parameters of Erythrina poeppigania were very similar to those of Gliciridia sepium when tested with a basal diet containing Hyparrhenia rufa hay, rice bran and molasses (Camero et al., 2001). Hay DM degradation 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).

According to (González and Cáceres, 2002) Erythrina poeppigania has lower dry matter (50 %) and crude protein (57 %) digestibilities compared to other trees, shrubs and forage plants found in Cuba, but is eaten at medium values by sheep (68 g/kg BW0.75) and cattle (142 g/kg BW0.75).

Dairy cows

Compared to urea, nitrogen supplementation with Erythrina poeppigania increased milk yield to the same extent as Gliciridia sepium (Camero et al., 2001; Camero Rey, 1993). Both tree foliages might be alternative protein supplements for dairy cows fed on low-quality grass hay as they are more interesting than urea also from an economic point of view (Camero Rey, 1993). A supplementation of 0.5 kg dry matter/100 kg/LW of Erythrina poeppigania fresh forage daily 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 live-weight gain of beef cattle was improved when the basal diet (Paspalum fasciculatium, Axonopus compressus and Cynodon nlemfluensis) was supplemented with either Erythrina poeppigania or a mixture of Erythrina poeppigania and bananas (Ibrahim et al., 2000). 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 Erythrina poeppigania leaves at 1.5 % of body weight to a basal diet of king grass (Pennisetum purpureum × P. americanum) and bananas improved milk yield (326 g/day no supplement vs 820 g/day with poro) (Esnaola and Rios, 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 leaves are an interesting feed at periods with feed shortage.

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DATASHEET UNDER CONSTRUCTION. DO NOT QUOTE. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/608 Last updated on June 19, 2019, 18:29