Crotalaria eriocarpa Benth.
Crotalaria guatemalensis Benth.
Common Name: Chipilin
Crotalaria cajanifolia is an erect, herbaceous perennial that sometimes forms a woody base[
]. It commonly grows about 1 - 1.5 metres tall, though sometimes it is smaller[
This species is used commonly as a vegetable in Mesoamerica and, along with C. Longirostrata, is the most commonly eaten Crotolaria in Mesoamerica[
No specific mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, but many members of this genus are known to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, the most potent of which in this genus are monocrotaline, retrorsine and retronecine[
]. These alkaloids have a cumulative effect upon the body and, unless concentrations in a plant are high, occasional consumption is generally completely safe. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids are derived from amino acids including ornithine. Many of these alkaloids have pronounced hepatic toxicity, but the lungs and other organs may be affected as well. Mutagenic and carcinogenic activities of pyrrolizidine alkaloids have also been reported[
Central America from Panama north to Mexico, also in Cuba.
Moist thickets and fields, often in waste or cultivated ground, sometimes on brushy rocky hillsides, at elevations of 200 - 2,400 metres[
Plants in this genus generally prefer a sunny position, succeeding in dry to moist, well-drained soils[
We have no specific report for this species, but most species in this genus have a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria; these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The leaves and young shoots are used as a vegetable or potherb[
]. One of the two most commonly used members of this genus in Mesoamerica[
Seed - pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water can help to reduce germination time. If you have sufficient seed then it can be sown in situ. Otherwise sow in trays in a nursey and, when the seedlings are large enough to handle, pot them up into individual pots. Plant out when 15cm or more tall.
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