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Useful Tropical Plants

Mucuna pruriens

(L.) DC.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Carpogon capitatus Roxb.

Carpogon niveus Roxb.

Carpopogon pruriens (L.) Roxb.

Dolichos pruriens L.

Marcanthus cochinchinense Lour.

Mucuna atropurpurea sensu auct.

Mucuna axillaris Baker

Mucuna bernieriana Baill.

Mucuna cochinchinense (Lour.) A.Chev.

Mucuna cochinchinensis (Lour.) A.Chev.

Mucuna esquirolii H.Lév.

Mucuna luzoniensis Merr.

Mucuna lyonii Merr.

Mucuna minima Haines

Mucuna nivea (Roxb.) DC.

Mucuna prurita (L.) Hook.

Mucuna prurita Wight

Mucuna sericophylla Perkins

Mucuna velutina Hassk.

Negretia mitis Blanco

Stizolobium capitatum (Roxb.) Kuntze

Stizolobium cochinchinense (Lour.) Burk

Stizolobium niveum (Roxb.) Kuntze

Stizolobium pruriens (L.) Medik.

Stizolobium pruritum (Wight) Piper

Stizolobium velutinum (Hassk.) Piper & Tracy

Common Name: Cowitch

Mucuna pruriens
Flowers
Photograph by: Ton Rulkens
Creative Commons License
Mucuna pruriens Mucuna pruriens Mucuna pruriens Mucuna pruriens Mucuna pruriens

General Information

Mucuna pruriens is very variable in habit, ranging from an annual to a short-lived perennial or a climbing shrub producing slender, climbing, semi-woody stems that are usually 1 - 6 metres long[
328
Title
African Flowering Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/recherche.php
Publisher
Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques.
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains information on over 150,000 plant names (including synonyms) giving a description and habitat, plus a distribution map.
]. These stems scramble over the ground, or twine into other plants for support. The plant is sometimes stated to climb to the tops of tall trees[
328
Title
African Flowering Plants Database
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/recherche.php
Publisher
Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques.
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Contains information on over 150,000 plant names (including synonyms) giving a description and habitat, plus a distribution map.
].
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and a medicine. It is cultivated in parts of the tropics as a medicinal plant and for its content of L-DOPA, which is used by the pharmaceutical industry, and is also grown as a green manure to improve the soil. It is also used for grazing animals, though the irritant hairs on the seed pods restrict this use somewhat.

Known Hazards

The seed pods are covered with reddish-orange irritant hairs that are readily dislodged and can contaminate clothes or other objects. The hairs act as a mechanical-chemical skin-irritant and, even Mucuna species in general possess irritant hairs on the leaves, seedpods etc. These hairs consist of 1-2 small basal cells and a large needle-like top cell. The top cell breaks off easily, piercing the skin and injecting chemical compounds that are present in the hairs. The proteolytic enzyme 'Mucunain' is said to be the active agent[
1533
Title
Notes on Malesian Fabaceae (Leguminosae-Papilionoideae) 16. The genus Mucuna
Publication
Blumea 61, 2016: 90-124
Author
Wiriadinata H.; Ohashi H.; Adema F.
Website
http://dx.doi.org/10.3767/000651916X692799
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent treatment
].
The hairs can contaminate clothes or other objects, and remain active when dried, though they can be destroyed by heat[
299
Title
Protabase - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa.
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.prota.org
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent on-line database with detailed information on over 3,200 species of useful plants of Africa.
,
374
Title
Contact-Poisonous Plants of the World
Publication
 
Author
Rohde. M.
Website
http://mic-ro.com/plants/
Publisher
 
Year
2006
ISBN
 
Description
A document on the internet. Gives brief information on about 35 species of plants that can cause severe problems from a single contact with the skin.
,
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
]. Intense itching, with reddening of the skin and small papules or urticaria occur a few minutes after contact with the hairy parts of the plant. There is no serious danger, unless the hairs get into the eye, in which case, in extreme situations, they have caused blindness. To remove the hairs from the skin, adhesive tape and washing with water and soap are considered useful. Dermatitis can be treated with corticosteroid ointment. See a doctor immediately if hairs go into the eyes[
374
Title
Contact-Poisonous Plants of the World
Publication
 
Author
Rohde. M.
Website
http://mic-ro.com/plants/
Publisher
 
Year
2006
ISBN
 
Description
A document on the internet. Gives brief information on about 35 species of plants that can cause severe problems from a single contact with the skin.
].

The seed contains a range of anti-nutritive substances and can be toxic for human and non-ruminant animal consumption. The most important toxic compounds are the non-protein amino acids L-dopa (content in seeds <2% - >7%) and hallucinogenic tryptamines[
415
Title
Tropical Forages
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/index.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Mainly focussed on forage plants, the site gives a lot of information on the plant, with a good botanical description, details of cultivation, plant uses and a good selection of photographs.
]. Furthermore, trypsin-inhibiting activities have been detected in the seed[
415
Title
Tropical Forages
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.tropicalforages.info/key/Forages/Media/Html/index.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Mainly focussed on forage plants, the site gives a lot of information on the plant, with a good botanical description, details of cultivation, plant uses and a good selection of photographs.
].

Botanical References

200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Tropical Africa - Senegal to Somalia, south to Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, S. Africa; E. Asia - India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia to New Guinea.

Habitat

Primary and secondary forests, monsoon forest, grasslands, along hedges and fields, along rivers,
at the sea coast, along roads[
1533
Title
Notes on Malesian Fabaceae (Leguminosae-Papilionoideae) 16. The genus Mucuna
Publication
Blumea 61, 2016: 90-124
Author
Wiriadinata H.; Ohashi H.; Adema F.
Website
http://dx.doi.org/10.3767/000651916X692799
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent treatment
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *  *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitAnnual/Perennial
Height4.00 m
PollinatorsSelf
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details

A plant of the hot and humid tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 2,100 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 30°c, but can tolerate 10 - 34°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Young growth can be severely damaged at 5°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 400 - 3,100mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Prefers a well-drained, moist, humus-rich soil and a position in full sun or partial shade[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. Found in the wild on sandy soils, loams, limestone, and volcanic soil.s[
1533
Title
Notes on Malesian Fabaceae (Leguminosae-Papilionoideae) 16. The genus Mucuna
Publication
Blumea 61, 2016: 90-124
Author
Wiriadinata H.; Ohashi H.; Adema F.
Website
http://dx.doi.org/10.3767/000651916X692799
Publisher
 
Year
2016
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent treatment
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 7, tolerating 4 - 8[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Established plants are drought tolerant[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The plant can grow in a range of habitats and could become naturalised in grasslands, bushland, riverine forest and forest edges throughout tropical and subtropical regions. It can form woody thickets and smother underlying vegetation. It has been classified as 'Invasive' in some Pacific Islands, in Indonesia and in Thailand[
305
Title
Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.hear.org/pier/scientificnames/index.html
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A very good website detailing weed species that have been introduced into the Pacific Islands.
].
The plant can mature a crop of seeds within 100 - 130 days in N. America and 210 - 270 days in the tropics[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
In India seed yield are reported to average between 0.7 - 1.1 tonnes per hectare[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Yields of seed up to 3.3 tonnes can be obtained[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
There are numerous cultivars of Mucuna pruriens, some of which were formerly treated as separate species[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
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[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.

Edible Uses

The seeds are a common famine food, made edible by boiling them in several changes of water[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
1587
Title
Genetic Resources of Under-exploited Legumes/Tribal Pulses of Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu
Publication
J. Econ. Taxon. Bot. Vol. 35 No.2 (2011)
Author
Kalidass C. & Mohan V.R.
Publisher
 
Year
2011
ISBN
 
Description
 
].
The immature seedpods and the seeds in them are soaked then cooked and eaten as a vegetable or are mixed with salt and taken as a snack[
346
Title
Economic Plants. An index to Economic Products of the Vegetable Kingdom in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
,
1587
Title
Genetic Resources of Under-exploited Legumes/Tribal Pulses of Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu
Publication
J. Econ. Taxon. Bot. Vol. 35 No.2 (2011)
Author
Kalidass C. & Mohan V.R.
Publisher
 
Year
2011
ISBN
 
Description
 
].
Mature seeds can be ground into a flour or roasted and used as a coffee substitute[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Medicinal

Cowitch has a long history of medical use, with records of it being used in Ayurvedic medicine over 2,000 years ago[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. It is an irritant, rubefacient herb that destroys internal parasites, is diuretic and aphrodisiac[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The seeds of the plant are a source of the substance L-DOPA, which revolutionized the treatment of Parkinson's Disease in the 1960's[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The seeds also contain hallucinogenic toxic compounds[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

The roots are diuretic and purgative[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
346
Title
Economic Plants. An index to Economic Products of the Vegetable Kingdom in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
,
354
Title
Plants of Guam
Publication
 
Author
Moore P.H. & McMakin P.
Website
http://university.uog.edu/cals/people/POG/scipn.htm
Publisher
University of Guam.
Year
1979
ISBN
 
Description
Brief details, usually with a photo, of plants native to the island of Guam, often together with some information on their uses. An online version is available.
]. They are used internally in the treatment of paralysis, nervous complaints, cholera and kidney problems[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
346
Title
Economic Plants. An index to Economic Products of the Vegetable Kingdom in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
]. Externally, they are used in the treatment of elephantiasis and dropsy[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The roots are harvested as required and can be dried for later use[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

The irritant hairs on the seedpods are taken internally in the treatment of roundworms[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
348
Title
Medicinal Plants of the Guianas
Publication
 
Author
DeFilipps, R. A.; Maina, S. L.; & Crepin, J.
Website
http://botany.si.edu/bdg/medicinal/index.html
Publisher
Smithsonian Museum
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
A down-loadable PDF document of a book in pre-publication awaiting illustration. An excellent, if rather terse, guide to the traditional medicinal uses of the plants of the region
]. Great care should be taken in this treatment - the irritant hairs can be fatal if taken in excess[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. The seedpods are harvested when ripe and the hairs scraped off[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. These are dried, powdered then mixed with treacle, honey or added to ointments[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
,
346
Title
Economic Plants. An index to Economic Products of the Vegetable Kingdom in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
].

The seeds are aphrodisiac[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

A vinous tincture of the pods was formerly used in the treatment of dropsy[
346
Title
Economic Plants. An index to Economic Products of the Vegetable Kingdom in Jamaica
Publication
 
Author
Fawcett. W.
Publisher
Government of Jamaica, Kingston.
Year
1891
ISBN
 
Description
A nice little guide giving a terse description and details of useful plants grown economically in Jamaica. Rather dated, so many of the names have been changed since then. Also available for download from the Internet.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The plant can be grown as a ground cover and green manure, being able to suppress vigorous weeds like Imperata cylindrica[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed -
Cite as: Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. tropical.theferns.info. 2019-08-19. <tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Mucuna+pruriens>

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