Common Name: Chepil
Crotalaria longirostrata is a slender, erect, sometimes much branched plant that is essentially annual but often persists for more than a year[
]. It can grow 1 metre or more tall[
This is an important food plant of Guatemala, and is probably the species of Crotalaria most used as food[
]. It is sometimes cultivated in Mesoamerica, with large quantities of the plant, tied in small bunches, being sold in all the local markets[
]. Much of the market material is taken from spontaneous plants that spring up in gardens and cornfields, but often the plants are grown in gardens like other vegetables[
The roots are considered poisonous in Guatemala, and are sometimes mixed with maize paste and placed in fields to poison marauding mammals[
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 north to Mexico.
Moist or rather dry thickets or open, often rocky hillsides, frequently in pine or oak forest, often abundant in cultivated fields, and commonly planted in fields or gardens, at elevations up to 2,300 metres[
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Plants in this genus generally prefer a sunny position, succeeding in dry to moist, well-drained soils[
The plant has been known to escape from cultivaion - it is recorded as 'Invasive' in Hawaii[
This species has 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[
Young shoots - cooked. The young leafy shoots are cooked and eaten like spinach and other pot herbs[
]. The leaves and flowers are stripped off and used separately, whilst the shoots are steamed and served whole[
It is stated that when the plant is eaten it sometimes produces drowsiness, which may well be true, since some of the species of the genus are known to contain small amounts of a poisonous alkaloid[
Leaves and flowers. A pronounced french bean-like flavour[
The leaves are used in folk medicine as a purgative or emetic[
]. It is said that they act as a purgative if the leaves are held downward, whilst they act as an emetic if they are held upward![
Seed - sow in situ. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water can help to reduce germination time.
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