There has been considerable confusion amongst botanists over the status of the genus Deguelia, with it variously being included in Derris and Lonchocarpus. We are following the treatment in Camargo & A.M.G. Azevedo Tozzi. 2014. A synopsis of the genus Deguelia (Leguminosae, Papilionoideae, Millettieae) in Brazil. Brittonia 66(1): 12-32, which treats it as distinct[
Derris nicou auct
Derris utilis (A.C.Sm.) Ducke
Lonchocarpus nicou auct
Lonchocarpus nicou utilis (A.C.Sm.) F.J.Herm.
Lonchocarpus utilis A.C.Sm.
Deguelia alata M.Sousa
Deguelia utilis is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing up to around 3 metres tall when young, but generally adopting a more climbing habit as it grows older with stems that can climb 15 metres into the surrounding trees[
This species is one of the important sources of the organic insecticide rotenone (the active ingredient in derris). The plant was first cultivated in S. America by the native people before the arrival of the Europeans. They used it as a fish poison and to kill ants. It is now cultivated on a fairly large scale in parts of tropical S. America, the rotenone being exported to various other countries throughout the world[
The plant contains rotenone and has been used traditionally as a fish poison[
] - the rotenone kills or stuns the fish making them easy to catch, but the fish remain perfectly edible for mammals. Rotenone is classified by the World Health Organization as moderately hazardous. It is mildly toxic to humans and other mammals, but extremely toxic to many insects (hence its use as an insecticide) and aquatic life, including fish. This higher toxicity in fish and insects is because the lipophilic rotenone is easily taken up through the gills or trachea, but not as easily through the skin or the gastrointestinal tract. The lowest lethal dose for a child is 143 mg/kg, but human deaths from rotenone poisoning are rare because its irritating action causes vomiting. Deliberate ingestion of rotenone, however, can be fatal.
The compound decomposes when exposed to sunlight and usually has an activity of six days in the environment.
S. America - Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guyanas.
Both dense, primary rainforest and also in more open areas of secondary growth, often as a relict of cultivation. It is found in a range of conditions, sometimes in soils subject to periodic flooding, often near rivers, in acid to neutral soils[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
A plant of the moist, lowland tropics, usually in areas with year-round rainfall.
Succeeds in moderate sun to fairly deep shade so long as the top growth can climb towards the light. Prefers a neutral to acid soil, usually found on more or less clay soils in the wild[
]. In some areas where it grows it is subject to periodic inundation of the soil[
]. Found in the wild on neutral to strongly acid soils[
Some forms of this plant do not produce seed, probably as a result of long term cultivation with propagation by cuttings[
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.
The plant contains some compounds similar to curare. Traditional healers crush the bark until a white milky substance exudes, they take one spoonful of this and retire. Twenty-four hours later they relate their visions to the tribes people[
The roots contain rotenone, which can be used as an insecticide[
Cuttings root easily[
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