Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Abrus precatorius
(rosary pea)

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Datasheet

Abrus precatorius (rosary pea)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 13 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Abrus precatorius
  • Preferred Common Name
  • rosary pea
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. precatorius, a high-climbing, twining or trailing woody vine, is listed as an ‘agricultural weed’, ‘environmental weed’, ‘weed’ and ‘naturalised’ in the Global Compendium of Weeds (

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); general view of foliage. Tree Top Park, Florida, USA. November, 2003.
TitleFoliage
CaptionAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); general view of foliage. Tree Top Park, Florida, USA. November, 2003.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); general view of foliage. Tree Top Park, Florida, USA. November, 2003.
FoliageAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); general view of foliage. Tree Top Park, Florida, USA. November, 2003.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); leaves and stems. County Nursery Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2006.
TitleLeaves and stems
CaptionAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); leaves and stems. County Nursery Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2006.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); leaves and stems. County Nursery Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2006.
Leaves and stemsAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); leaves and stems. County Nursery Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2006.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers and foliage. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.
TitleFlowers and foliage
CaptionAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers and foliage. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers and foliage. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.
Flowers and foliageAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers and foliage. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.
TitleFlowers
CaptionAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.
FlowersAbrus precatorius (Black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); flowers. Gulfstream Park, Florida, USA. September, 2009.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); seeds. Kalepa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
TitleSeeds
CaptionAbrus precatorius (black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); seeds. Kalepa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Abrus precatorius (black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); seeds. Kalepa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.
SeedsAbrus precatorius (black-eyed Susan, rosary pea); seeds. Kalepa, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February, 2009.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Abrus precatorius L.

Preferred Common Name

  • rosary pea

Other Scientific Names

  • Abrus abrus (L.) W. Wright
  • Glycine abrus L.

International Common Names

  • English: bead vine; black-eyed Susan; coral bead plant; coralbean; crab's eye; crab's-eye; false licorice; gidee-gidee; Indian licorice; jequirity; jequirity bean; jumbie bean; licorice plant; licorice vine; love bean; lucky bean; minnie-minnies; prayer beads; prayerbead; precatory; precatory bean (USA); red beadvine; weatherplant; weathervine
  • Spanish: bejuco de chochos; bejuco de pionia (Nicaragua); cochos de pinta (Colombia); colorines (Honduras); guairuros (Bolivia); ojo de canzero; ojos de cangrejos; peronia
  • French: abrus à prière; arbre à chapelets; cascavelle; grain d'église; graine diable; guen léglise; herbe de diable; jéquirity; liane à réglisse; pater noster; pois rouge; réglisse; réglisse d'Amérique; réglisse marron; soldat
  • Chinese: ji mu zhu; xian xi teng; xiang si zi

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: carolina-miuda; crisnala; jiriquiti; olho-de-pombo
  • Cook Islands: kirikiri rangi (Maori); koviriviri mata tako (Maori); koviriviri mata-tako (Maori); pitipiti‘o (Maori); uiui, uiui, uiui (Maori)
  • Cuba: peonía; peonía de San Tomas; pepusa
  • Dominican Republic: ojo de cangrejo; peonía; peronia; peronila
  • Fiji: lele; lere ndamu; leredamu; ndiri ndamu; nggiri ndamu
  • French Guiana: petit panacoco
  • French Polynesia: pepitio; pitipiti‘o
  • Germany: Kranzerbse; Paternoster-Erbse
  • Guyana: lickrish
  • Haiti: cain ghe; graines réglisse rouges et noires; jéquerit; quinqet
  • Italy: fagiolo corallino; regolizia d'America
  • Jamaica: red bead vine
  • Japan: toazuki
  • Korea, Republic of: hong du
  • Lesser Antilles: gwen léglise; wire wiss
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: kaigus; kaikes en iak
  • Myanmar: chek-awn; ywe; ywe-nge; ywe-nwe
  • Netherlands: paternostererwt; weesboontje
  • Niue: mata‘ila; pomea mata‘ila
  • Northern Mariana Islands: kolales halomtano; kulales halom tano
  • Samoa: fuefue laulili‘i; matamoso
  • Suriname: kokriki; paternosterboontje
  • Tonga: matamoe; matamoho; moho
  • USA/Hawaii: pukiawe; pukiawe; pukiawe lei; pukiawe lei; pukiawe lenalena; pukiawe lenalena; pukiawe lenalena (Ni`ihau); pupukiawe; pupukiawe

EPPO code

  • ABRPR (Abrus precatorius)

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. precatorius, a high-climbing, twining or trailing woody vine, is listed as an ‘agricultural weed’, ‘environmental weed’, ‘weed’ and ‘naturalised’ in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012) and has been declared a Category I noxious weed in the US state of Florida (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2011; USDA-ARS, 2014). The species is considered native to the Old World tropics and introduced to the Neotropics (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012), and has been valued in various cultures, especially its seeds and roots, for a wide range of uses including medicine, food, beverage sweetener, liquorice substitute, ornamental plant, jewelry and beads, weighing unit, and for traditional cultural and spiritual purposes (Motooka et al., 2003; Francis, 2014; Lewis et al., 2005). However, the species is also well known for the high toxicity of its seeds, as a single seed is potent enough to kill a human (Perry and Metzger, 1980; Padua et al., 1999; Jang et al., 2010). A. precatorius reproduces by these bright red seeds, which are spread by both biotic and abiotic factors. The species is known to be invasive to Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012), and many parts of Asia-Pacific (Holm et al., 1979), and is naturalized in many parts of the tropics including Hawaii (Wagner et al., 2014), parts of the Marquesas (French Polynesia) (Wagner and Lorence, 2014), and Singapore (Chong et al., 2009).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Faboideae
  •                                 Genus: Abrus
  •                                     Species: Abrus precatorius

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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A member of the economically important and large Fabaceae, or Leguminosae, ‘pea’ family, Abrus is a genus of 17 species native to the paleotropics, predominantly Afro-Madagascan in distribution with the remaining species African, Asian and pantropical. Its name is a derivative of the Greek word ‘habro’, meaning delicate, elegant, pretty, soft, in reference to the species’ delicate foliage and pretty flowers (Lewis et al., 2005).

The accepted name A. precatorius was published in 1767 by Linnaeus, who in 1753 had named this species as Glycine abrus; however, the international code of botanical nomenclature forbids the transfer of this earlier name into the genus Abrus as the resulting combination would produce a tautonym. The species name precatorius is Latin for ‘prayerful’ or ‘one who prays’, referring to the use of the species’ seeds as prayer beads (Macfadyen, 1837; Motooka et al., 2003).

Description

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Slightly woody vine, twining, much branched from the base, attaining 3 m in length. Stems green, cylindrical, puberulent, turning dark gray, rugose, glabrous and slightly flattened when mature. Leaves alternate, pinnate, 3-5 cm long; 8-15 pairs, 0.8-1.5 × 0.3-0.7 cm, oblong or oblanceolate, membranaceous, the apex rounded and mucronate, the base rounded, the margins entire; upper surface glabrous, dull, with inconspicuous venation; lower surface puberulent, dull, with the midvein prominent; petiolules minute, slender; rachis without glands, puberulent, with a minute stipel at the base of each leaflet; petioles minute, slender, with the base slightly swollen; stipules filiform, 2-3 mm long, persistent. Inflorescences of small axillary or terminal pseudoracemes, with 5-7 flowers clustered on the swellings of the rachis; bracts minute, deciduous. Calyx campanulate, green, 3-5 mm long, puberulent; corolla pink, the standard ovate, with the center dark pink, up to 1 cm long,concave, the apex acute, the wings and keels as long as the standard, unguiculate. Legumes oblong, 2-4.5 × 1-1.5 cm, slightly inflated, with the apex elongate and recurved and the margins slightly undulate, opening along the two sutures. Seeds ellipsoid, brilliant red, with a black spot at the base, 6-8 mm long (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005).

Plant Type

Top of page Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vine / climber

Distribution

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The species A. precatorius is native to Africa, Asia, Malesia, Australia, and the Pacific Region, but has since been introduced to the Neotropics and is now naturalized and quite common in many of its introduced places such as Hawaii, and the West Indies (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Wagner et al., 2014). Forzza et al. (2010) mistakenly lists this species as native to Brazil.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

CambodiaPresentNativePIER, 2014
ChinaPresentNativePIER, 2014
-Hong KongPresentNativePIER, 2014
JapanPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
MalaysiaPresentNativePIER, 2014
MyanmarWidespreadKress et al., 2003
PhilippinesPresentNativePIER, 2014
SingaporePresentIntroducedChong et al., 2009
TaiwanPresentNativePIER, 2014
ThailandPresentNativePIER, 2014
VietnamPresentNativePIER, 2014

Africa

SeychellesPresentPIER, 2014

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedWagner et al., 2014Hi’hau, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, Hawai’i

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
BahamasPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
BonairePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Anegada, Guana, Jost van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda
Cayman IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
CuraçaoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
DominicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
GrenadaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
JamaicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
MartiniquePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
MontserratPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
SabaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Sint EustatiusPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Sint MaartenPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas

South America

BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlagoasPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-AmazonasPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-BahiaPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-CearaPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Espirito SantoPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-MaranhaoPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Minas GeraisPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-ParaPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-ParaibaPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-ParanaPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-PernambucoPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-PiauiPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Rio de JaneiroPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Rio Grande do NortePresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Rio Grande do SulPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Santa CatarinaPresentForzza R et al, 2010
-Sao PauloPresentForzza R et al, 2010
EcuadorPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Margarita I (West Indies)

Oceania

American SamoaPresentPIER, 2014Ofu, Ta'u
Caroline IslandsPresentWagner et al., 2012Belau (Ngeaur, Ngemelachel), Pohnpei (Pohnpei), Truk Islands (Dublon, Moen, Parem, Udot), Yap Islands (Yap)
Cook IslandsPresentNativePIER, 2014
FijiPresentNativePIER, 2014
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014; PIER, 2014Gambier, Marquesas, Society Is, Tuamotu Arch, Tubuai
-MarquesasPresentIntroducedWagner and Lorence, 2014Hatuttaa, Nuku Hiva, Ua Huka, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva
GuamPresentIntroducedWagner et al., 2012; PIER, 2014
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014Pohnpei I
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
NiuePresent Invasive PIER, 2014
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Wagner et al., 2012; PIER, 2014Agrihan, Alamagan, Anatahan, Asuncion Island, Pagan, Rota, Saipan, Tinian
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Pitcairn IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
TongaPresentNativePIER, 2014
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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A. precatorius is of paleotropical origin but is now widespread in both the old and new world tropics. In the West Indies, the species was present by 1837, as it was included in Macfadyen’s Flora of Jamaica. In 1881 it was observed by Bello in his Flora of Puerto Rico (Bello Espinosa, 1881), and by 1914, Boldingh reported the species to be present in Curacao and Margarita, as well as in the Bahamas and Antilles (Boldingh, 1914), although it was not included in Britton’s 1918 work on Bermuda. By 1924, the species had been introduced to Culebra, Vieques, St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. Jan, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda, as reported by Britton in his survey on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (Britton and Wilson, 1924). By 1924 the species was also present in the USA, as it was included in Bailey’s (1924) work on cultivated plants; certainly introduced to Florida as an ornamental before 1923 (Morton, 1976). In Hawaii, the species was introduced and naturalized prior to 1871 (Motooka et al., 2003).

Risk of Introduction

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Risk of introduction of A. precatorius is very high. It received a high score of 16 in the PIER Risk Assessment (score of 6 and above recommends to reject the plant for import to Australia) which identifies the species as likely to be of high risk (Pacific and Florida) (PIER, 2014). In Florida A. precatorius is listed as a noxious Category I invasive plant species, defined as an invasive exotic that is causing major ecological damage in Florida, altering native plant communities by displacing native species or changing community structures or ecological functions (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2011). The species has a wide distribution range, dominates native flora, and produces seeds prolifically with 3-8 seeds per pod, which can remain viable for more than a year and which are dispersed by human and bird movements (Weber, 2003; PIER, 2014). It is known to be invasive in Cuba (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012) as well as the Marianas Islands, Ecuador, Micronesia, French Polynesia, Hawaii, New Caledonia, Niue, and the Pitcairn Islands, and is naturalized in many parts of the tropics including Hawaii (Wagner et al., 2014), parts of the Marquesas (French Polynesia) (Wagner and Lorence, 2014), and Singapore (Chong et al., 2009). Given these factors, risk of introduction is very high.

Habitat

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A. precatorius is a woody shrub species common in grasslands, edges of rain forests, and gallery forests up to 1500 m altitude in Southeast Asia (Padua et al., 1999). In Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands it grows in disturbed areas, such as secondary forests or along trails (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005). It can also occur in pine rockland and is known to spread quickly after fires (Weber, 2003). In Hawaii the species is naturalized in many low elevation, dry, disturbed sites (Wagner et al., 1999).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Chromosome count for A. precatorius is 2n = 22 (Wagner and Lorence, 2014).

Environmental Requirements

A. precatorius grows in subtropical moist forest (1000 to 2000 mm of precipitation), and subtropical dry forest (below 1000 mm of precipitation), and prefers well-drained soil but can tolerate most types. In India, all types of topography are colonized from near sea level to 1000 m in elevation (Parrotta, 2001). The species competes well with weeds and brush in abandoned farmland, disturbed areas, and early secondary forest. It requires disturbance to maintain itself in dense, closed stands (Francis, 2014).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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A. precatorius is spread by movement of seeds, which are produced in large quantities and remain viable for over a year (Weber, 2003). The species spreads short and long distances by both intentional and accidental introduction, as humans have cultivated and introduced it outside its native range for ornamental, medicinal, and food additive purposes (Padua et al., 1999; Motooka et al., 2003, Weber, 2003). The seeds can also be dispersed locally by birds and lateral extension of the vines (Francis, 2014).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionSpecies is cultivated for ornamental, medicinal, and food additive purposes Yes Yes Motooka et al., 2003; Padua et al., 1999; Weber, 2003
Escape from confinement or garden escapeSpecies is cultivated for ornamental, medicinal, and food additive purposes Yes Yes Motooka et al., 2003; Padua et al., 1999; Weber, 2003
Medicinal use Yes Yes Motooka et al., 2003; Padua et al., 1999; Weber, 2003
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes Motooka et al., 2003; Padua et al., 1999; Weber, 2003

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesSpecies is cultivated for ornamental, medicinal, and food additive purposes Yes Yes Motooka et al., 2003; Padua et al., 1999; Weber, 2003

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative

Environmental Impact

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A. precatorius spreads quickly, in many cases overtaking and dominating native flora. The state of Florida has labeled it as a noxious Category I invasive species, which identifies the species’ profound negative impact on environments; it has the ability to significantly alter native ecosystems by displacing native species and changing community structures with its dense, closed stands (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2011; Francis, 2014). While the species can be controlled by heavy grazing (Francis, 2014) and responds to herbicides, it roots deeply and tenaciously and remains difficult to eradicate (Langeland et al., 2008). A. precatorius has been recorded to ‘take full possession’ of a young forest and was impossible to remove even after several years of effort (Morton, 1976; Francis, 2014). 

Social Impact

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A. precatorius is widely used for a variety of social and economic uses; however, invasive spread of this species could increase risk of accidental contact or ingestion, and have significant negative repercussions on human and animal health. The seeds of this plant contain abrin, a toxic lectin fraction that is exceedingly dangerous and possibly fatal upon subcutaneous contact (Perry and Metzger 1980, Padua et al., 1999). Abrin is considered one of the two most toxic plant substances known, and ingestion of less than one seed can prove fatal if the tough seed-coat is damaged (Padua et al. 1999). Knowledge of the poisonous nature of these seeds has even been exploited as a method of attempted suicide (see eg, Jang et al. 2010). 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Poisoning
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Despite its toxicity, A. precatorius is well known for its variety of uses. The bark is used in a decoction for stomach ache, thrush, colds, coughs, sore throat and asthma, as an emollient, and as an extract for cancer treatment. In French Guiana, the stems and leaves are mixed in a concoction and used to remedy mild inflammations of the urinary tract, diarrhoea, aphthae and hoarseness. The leaves are boiled with other plants in a syrup for chest colds. The seed is widely used for a plethora of medicinal treatments, including chronic ulcers and ophthalmia, and has been researched for its use in treating trachoma of the conjunctiva. Historically the root has been used as a liquorice substitute, resulting in one of the species’ common names, ‘false liquorice’. Plant extracts of abrin have been used as an effective oral contraceptive, and have also been reportedly used to attempt suicide (Padua et al., 1999; Motooka et al., 2003; DeFilipps et al., 2004; Jang et al., 2010).

Macfadyen recorded additional uses observed in Jamaica in 1837: “The roots are used as a substitute for liquorice. The leaves have a sweet taste, and are made into tea for coughs and pleurisies. The seeds are principally employed, stringing like beads, to form necklaces and rosaries; and it is, from their being employed for the latter purpose, that the plant has received its specific designation. They are used by goldsmiths in India as weights” (Macfadyen, 1837).

Uses List

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General

  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Food additive
  • Seeds
  • Sweetener

Materials

  • Beads
  • Chemicals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Prevention and Control

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A. precatorius roots deeply and is difficult to eradicate (Langeland et al., 2008). However, it has been demonstrated to be responsive to herbicides applied to the basal stem and foliage, in the following instructions: “10% Garlon [triclopyr] to basal stem, 5% Roundup [glyphosate] (low volume) to foliage; remove seed pods if possible; site must be revisited several times to pull seedlings” (Langeland et al., 2011).

References

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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, 2005. Vines and climbing plants of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 51:483 pp.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
Catalogue of Seed Plants of the West Indieshttp://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm
Flora of the Marquesas Islandshttp://botany.si.edu/pacificislandbiodiversity/marquesasflora/query.cfm
USFS Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)http://www.hear.org/pier/

Contributors

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22/04/2014 Original text by:

Marianne Jennifer Datiles, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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