The proanthocyanidin (PA) status of 116 accessions from the Leucaena genus representing 21 species, 6 subspecies, 3 varieties and 4 interspecific hybrids was evaluated under uniform environmental and experimental conditions at Redland Bay, Queensland, Australia in October 1997. The PA content of lyophilized youngest fully expanded leaves was measured spectrophotometrically by the butanol/HCl assay referenced to L. leucocephala ssp. glabrata standard PA and expressed as L. leucocephala ssp. glabrata PA equivalents (LLPAE). Considerable interspecific variation in PA concentration existed within the genus, ranging from 0–339 g LLPAE/kg dry matter (DM). Taxa including L. confertiflora, L. cuspidata, L. esculenta and L. greggii contained very high (>180 g LLPAE/kg DM) PA concentrations. Similarly, many agronomically superior accessions from L. diversifolia, L. pallida and L. trichandra contained extremely high (up to 250 g LLPAE/kg DM) PA concentrations, although these taxa exhibited wide intraspecific variation in PA content offering the potential to select accessions with lower (120–160 g LLPAE/kg DM) PA content. Commercial cultivars of L. leucocephala ssp. glabrata, known to produce forage of superior quality, contained low amounts of PA (33–39 g LLPAE/kg DM). Artificial interspecific hybrids had PA contents intermediate to those of both parents. Lesser-known taxa, including L. collinsii, L. lanceolata, L. lempirana, L. macrophylla, L. magnifica, L. multicapitula, L. salvadorensis and L. trichodes, contained undetectable to low (0–36 g LLPAE/kg DM) quantities of PA and have potential as parents to breed interspecific hybrids of low PA status and superior forage quality. Extractable PA was the dominant PA component, accounting for 91% of total PA within the genus. Regression analysis of accession ranks from different experiments compared to these results indicated that genetic regulation of Leucaena spp. PA content was consistent (P<0·01) under different edapho-climatic environments. The distribution of PA within the Leucaena genus did not concur with the predictions of various evolutionary and phylogenetic plant defence theories.