Madre de Cacao

Gliricidia sepium

Family: Fabaceae

Common names: kakawate, madre de cacao

Reference:, Tropical Forages, Living Fences

Origin: introduced by the Spaniards from Mexico, thoroughly naturalized throughout the Philippines

  • found all over the farm
  • easy to propagate by stem cuttings
  • used as living fence
  • pioneer tree
  • used as cut and carry feed for ruminants, green manure
  • leguminous – provides nitrogen for the soil
  • this tree was given a Medal of Honor in Honduras!
  • when it is in bloom, the leaves fall off


  • Fresh leaves applied to the skin as insect repellant
  • Leaves have a fetid smell; crushed, used to rid dogs of fleas and ticks and cattle, of ticks
  • In Latin American, used by farmers to repel insects. Leaves are ground up, mixed with water, and the resulting paste use to bathe animals, and repeated every 7 to 14 days, decreasing the infections from tropical warble fly
  • I want to see this: “As the tree pods hang-dry in the sun, they curl and explode, making a popping cracking sound. A cluster of trees with their pods snapping and popping and falling to the ground, in unison, make a fascinating afternoon of nature’s concoction of sound.”
  • And this: “The tree is common in the southern Tagalog areas, shedding leaves around December and flowering February and March. In some areas, the blooming of its pink flowers is so profuse to deserve a comparison with the cherry blossoms. “
madre de cacao
madre de cacao


madre de cacao in bloom
madre de cacao in bloom


madre de cacao flower and buds
madre de cacao flower and buds


madre de cacao in bloom
madre de cacao in bloom

trees and shrubs

37 thoughts on “Madre de Cacao”

  1. I haven’t bought any because we have a lot already. I’ve seen cuttings for sale in some of the farming groups I’ve joined on Facebook. I It’s pretty easy to grow, but you won’t able to harvest the leaves until the plants start growing. Here are some links:

    Some guy selling a madre de cacao-based spray for dogs (mange). I don’t know him and have not tried his product! Just happened to see it on Facebook:

    An old ad from a Facebook farming group. I personally know the seller Maila Vilela-Toreja:

    Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Aries, according to the link to Tropical Forages (at the top of my article), it’s used as a feed for cows but they may not accept it if they are used to other feeds. I haven’t tried it myself because I don’t have cows. My horses don’t eat it.

  2. hi! they say it is a treatment for dogs who has mange. but I don’t know how to apply it to my dog who has mange. can you please teach me how to apply it to my dog? because we have already try the soap for dogs who has mange but it didn’t work. can you please help me?

    1. Hi Tracy! My friend tried it on her puppy that had mange. She said to just boil the leaves and then use the water to bathe the dog. She also said that even better than the madre de cacao water was used cooking oil applied to the skin of the dog. It suffocates the mange organism. I’m not sure if the oil has to be ‘used” because she also said that coconut oil should work just as well, but the dog kept licking it and she was worried that it would attract insects. Hope your dog gets well.

    2. Hi again Tracy, more info on using Madre de Cacao to treat mange in dogs.
      This study:

      From a member of Manila Vegans: “In the above study they used soap made w the herb–but, much better, you can get the fresh leaves, pound them to a paste with mortar and pestle, then add water and strain through a fine cloth. You will get a fragrant green liquid that you can apply liberally after a bath and leave on the skin to dry. If you strain it through a very fine cloth you can put it in a spray bottle, you can apply periodically to the most troubled areas without need of a bath. You can refrigerate the liquid to preserve it for maybe 5 days or a week. Keep in mind that potency decreases with time.

      Personally I find kakawati soaps better as a preventive rather than a cure–they are too weak, for example, to help a full-blown case. And it is impractical to have to keep bathing the dog to apply such a small percentage of herb that will be washed away anyway. I posted the study to show skeptics that madre de cacao/kakawate has already been shown to help mange.”

  3. Hi, i just want to share how our Grandfather Hipolito used Madre de Cacao trees. During pre-war time in Cebu, he planted these trees around the perimeter of the property where he mined coal from. Our Dad Uldarico said, that the strong root system of this tree grows straight down that helps hold the soil, hence helping prevent soil collapse. They also planted these trees as living fences along the entire border of the farm. Then Dad said, during flowering season, they loved looking at the Madre de Cacao trees full of beautiful flowers. The tree trunks were also used to make ‘uling’ or charcoal. I wanted to give you a perspective of how and why they used the Madre de Cacao tree during pre-war time, and to some extent the same until today. Hope this is ok.

    1. Thanks for sharing that! It’s a good tree to use for making charcoal because you can cut it and it will grow back. Plus when you cut it, it some of the roots die back and the dead roots add nutrients and water channels to the soil. It’s also
      a nitrogen-fixing plant. It makes nitrogen available to other plants.

  4. I would like to know if growing madre de cacao from seed or seedling is good. When is the best time to plant. I want to plant them in my land as fence. Do you sell the seeds/seedling or know someone who does, please let me know. Thank you

    1. Hi Sean, it grows very easily from seeds. The seeds that fall on the ground sprout easily. Most people use cuttings to make a living fence. You just need to cut off branches and stick it in the ground. Most of them will grow. The best time to plant is rainy season. Sorry, I don’t sell any seeds or seedlings. I think you can get cuttings for free if you know someone nearby who has madre de cacao. It’s actually a weedy and invasive plant and can easily spread all over your property. I think if you have neighbors who have it, they won’t mind giving you some. Cutting it down does not kill it, it just sprouts new branches. The plus side is that it’s good for the soil and a continuous supply of green material that you can use for mulch or other things.

  5. Wow where in Batangas are you from? Just wondering if I can plant Madre de Cacao in 45 deg angle and criss cross it with another Made de Cacao as fence, will it grow well? Thanks 😀 I also have a small lot in
    Tanauan Batangas which I hope to start farming soon.

    1. Hi Joana, I think it might fall over if it’s only being supported from one direction. I think it will grow, but maybe you need to find a way to make it more stable. I’m near the border of San Juan, Batangas.

  6. Hi,
    Can we buy seedlings or ready to plant made de cacao?

    We needed as much as more than hundreds as a starter.

    Thank you!

    1. Sorry, I don’t know where you can buy cuttings. I tried looking on Facebook, but I only saw vendors of madre de cacao soap. Maybe you can ask one of them for cuttings?

  7. Hi Sylvia. Thanks for sharing this. Do you know where we could source madre de cacao for planting as living fence? Our farm is in Batangas as well. Thanks so much or the lead!

    1. Hi Marilyn, you’re welcome. You can try Shopee. I’ve seen cuttings, rooted cuttings, and seeds for sale. They grow easily from cuttings. If you have a neighbor with madre de cacao, you could ask for cuttings. It’s similar to growing malunggay. You cut a branch and stick it in the ground.

  8. Re the madre de cacao blooms , do they have a pleasant scent ? We’re planning on planting madre de cacao along the street on both sides leading to our Barangay river . Would that work ?
    Thanks .

    1. Hi, it doesn’t have a noticeable scent. I am wondering why you want to plant madre de cacao? Maybe you want to plant a native tree instead? Something with flowers and a nice shape? You could plant Ipil (different from Ipil-Ipil) or Banaba.

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