more Images
Mexican sunflower /Tree marigold
Scientific name:
Tithonia divesifolia
Local names:
Embu (Kirurite); Kamba (Ilaa, Mulaa); Kikuyu (Maruru); Kisii (Amaua, amaroro); Luhya (Amatwele); Luo (Maua makech); Teso (Emaua)
General Distribution:
It is indigenous to Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, US and Zanzibar. It was introduced from Central America to other parts of the world. Here, in Kenya, is found in Western and Central Provinces as well as in coastal areas and parts of Rift Valley.
Distribution of Tithonia in Kenya
© Maundu P. and Bo Tengnas. (2005). Useful trees and shrubs for Kenya, World Agroforestry Centre.

Mexican sunflower / Tree marigold
© Bo Tengnas
General Information about the Tree:
It is native to Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and US. It was initially introduced as an ornamental garden plant but escaped and is now found in hedges, along roads and on other disturbed grounds. Tithonia flowers and produces seeds throughout the year. It is recommended by scientists that it be used as green manure with or without addition of inorganic sources of phosphorus. It is also invasive and hence a potential weed. It also has moderate resistance to drought.

Biophysical Limits:
Tithonia flourishes in an altitude of 550-1 950 m; mean annual temperatures of 15-31 degrees; mean annual rainfall of 1 000-2 000 mm and is may be found in agroclimatic zones II - IV.
Propagation and Tree Management
Cuttings, wildings, seedlings and direct sowing at site may be used for propagation. For direct sowing, care should be taken so that the tiny seeds are not washed away. The best method is to make a farrow for the seeds and then cover them lightly with sandy soil and finally apply mulch to protect soil and retain moisture. Cuttings (20-30cm long) from mature wood can also be used

  • Fodder: it is a suitable species for fodder for cows and goats. The leaves, soft branches and even the plant?s yellow flowers can be eaten by animals as fodder. Tithonia has a high nutrition value
  • Fuel: Tithonia provides farmers with firewood of it burns up quickly.
  • Medicine: The leaves are used as a medicine for constipation, stomach pains, indigestion, sore throat and liver pains. The leaves should be ground into small pieces, mixed with water, and then the juice drunk. It is also used in treating skin diseases (such as athlete's foot), night sweats, as a diuretic, hepatitis, jaundice and cystitis.
  • Manure; Biomass from the existing locally available shrubs of tithonia that commonly grows on the fields and farm boundaries might be a more economic source of nutrients for crops than the biomass from planted trees as they grow faster and are readily available.

  • Soil improver; maize is known to respond well when leaves and cuttings are applied. Best results are obtained with 5 t/ha of leafy dry matter being applied. It has also been observed that yields of kale, French beans, tomatoes and Napier grass all increased when these crops were planted with tithonia.
  • Ornamental: In Kenya, it was first planted as an ornamental plant before escaping and started growing everywhere.
  • Boundary: In some ares, tithonia is used for live fencing and boundary demarcation.
  • Intercropping: Tithonia has a positive effect on crop yields when intercropped.
Information Source Links
Mexican sunflower / Tree marigold
Yellowish discoloration of the whites of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes caused by deposition of bile salts in these tissues. It occurs as a symptom of various diseases, such as hepatitis, that affect the processing of bile. Also called icterus.
Plant material such as straw, leaves, crop residues, green manure crops, saw-dust etc. that is spread upon the surface of the soil. A mulch cover helps protect the soil from erosion and evaporation, nourishes soil life, increases soil organic matter content and provides nutrients to the crop.
Ability of a living organism not to get affected by a disease or pest; or of a pest not to be affected by a pesticide.

Pesticide Resistance is the ability of a life form to develop a tolerance to a pesticide. Pests (weeds, insects, mites, diseases, etc.) that become resistant to a pesticide will not be affected by the pesticide. When pests are resistant, it is more difficult to control the pest. Therefore, it is important to try to prevent pesticide resistance.
Green manure
A crop grown before or between the main crop rows, cut before maturation and subsequently ploughed in or used as mulch. It provides nutrients to the main crop through decomposition and helps to build up humus in the soil.