Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Mucuna pruriens
(velvet bean)

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Datasheet

Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Mucuna pruriens
  • Preferred Common Name
  • velvet bean
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. pruriens is an invasive annual vine that poses a high risk to native environments. The species has been extensively cultivated as a popular soil-improver and forage plant, as well as a cover crop, as it smot...

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC

Preferred Common Name

  • velvet bean

Other Scientific Names

  • Dolichos pruriens L.
  • Mucuna pruriens var. utilis (Wall. ex Wight) Bak. ex Burck
  • Stizolobium pruriens (L.) Medik.
  • Stizolobium pruritum (Wight) Piper

International Common Names

  • English: Bengal bean; cow itch; cowage; cowhage; itchweed; Mauritius bean; velvetbean
  • Spanish: ojo de buey; ojo de venado; pica-pica
  • French: pois a gratter; pois pouilleux; pois velu
  • Chinese: ci mao li dou

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: fava-de-cafe; feijao-cafe
  • Colombia: chiporro; guisante negro; ojo de venado; pica pica
  • Cuba: cadjuet; pica-pica
  • Germany: Juckbohne
  • Jamaica: cowitch
  • Lesser Antilles: cowitch; poil-a-gratter; pois-gratter
  • Malaysia/Peninsular Malaysia: kachang babi; kekeras gatal
  • Myanmar: gwin-nge; hko-mak-awa; khwele-ya; to-ma-awn
  • Netherlands: Jeukboontje
  • Nigeria: esisi; igekpe; karara; yerepe
  • Northern Mariana Islands: akangkang dangkulo
  • Puerto Rico: pica-pica
  • Sweden: klibona
  • United States Virgin Islands: cow-itch
  • West Africa: eesin; ejokun; esinsin; esise; ewe ina; irepe; werepe; yerebe

EPPO code

  • MUCAT (Mucuna aterrima)
  • MUCDE (Mucuna deeringiana)
  • MUCPR (Mucuna pruriens)

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. pruriens is an invasive annual vine that poses a high risk to native environments. The species has been extensively cultivated as a popular soil-improver and forage plant, as well as a cover crop, as it smothers weed plants (Duke, 1981; Holou et al., 2013). However, this species itself has the potential to invade and damage ecosystems, and is listed as “agricultural weed”, “environmental weed”, “garden thug”, “naturalized”, “sleeper weed”, and “weed” in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). The species spreads by seeds. Considered native to Asia and an introduction to the Neotropics (Acevedo-Rodriguez,2005), M. pruriens is known to be a serious weed in Mexico and Mozambique, a principal weed in Jamaica and Madagascar, and a common weed in Guatemala, Kenya, Micronesia, and Tanzania (Holm et al., 1979). The non-irritating variety more commonly used in agriculture can apparently revert to the type species over time, a trait which heightens the risk of the species’ introduction (Space and Imada, 2004). Hammerton (2003) reports it as a potential invasive species in the Bahamas, as it overgrows shrubs and small trees.

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Mucuna is a genus of about 100 species of tropical climbers, often very large, some with decorative flowers in large pendant spikes. The pods of many Mucuna species bear extremely irritant hairs, including the species M. pruriens (Lock and Heald, 1994). The name Mucuna is derived from the Brazilian Tupi-Guarani vernacular name for plants of the genus, ‘mucunã’ (Quattrocchi, 2012). The species name ‘pruriens’ refers to the itching sensation caused by the plant’s stinging hairs (Smith, 1971).

M. pruriens, along with many other Mucuna species, was previously often classified in the genus Stizolobium.

Description

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Slightly woody annual vine, twining, attaining 5-7 m in length. Stems pubescent, cylindrical, striate, glabrescent. Leaves alternate, trifoliolate; leaflets chartaceous, the apex acute or obtuse, mucronate, the upper surface dark green, dull, puberulent, the lower surface pale green, strigulose, with prominent venation, the margins slightly sinuate; terminal leaflet rhombic-ovate, (5.5)7.5-15 × 4-6 cm, the base obtuse, rounded to almost cuneate; lateral leaflets markedly asymmetrical, one side oblong, the other ovate, 5)7.5-13(18) x (2.8)4.5-7.2(10.3) cm, the base obtuse on one side, truncate on the other; petiolules pubescent, 4-6 mm long; rachis 1.2-2 cm long, strigose; petioles 4.5-16.5 cm long, strigose, with the base swollen; stipules minute, caducous; stipels linear, 4-5 mm long. Inflorescences of axillary pseudoracemes, 10-30 cm long, with 1-3 flowers per node. Calyx grayish green, campanulate-asymmetrical, 1-1.5 cm long, sericeous-pubescent, mixed with some stiff hairs, the sepals unequal, triangular, deep; standard ovate, 1.5-2 cm long, violet, the wings purple, oblong, ca. 4 cm long, the keel pale violet; staminal column almost white, exserted, the anthers violet. Legume more or less cylindrical, with the curved extremities forming an ‘s’, 4-10 × 1-1.4 cm, densely covered with stiff, extremely stinging hairs, dehiscent by valves that open in a spiral. Seeds ellipsoid, brown with black spots, ca. 1 cm long, with a cream-colored hilum, ca. 5 mm long. [Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005 for var. pruriens]

Both M. pruriens var. pruriens and var. utilis have hairy fruits; while the fruit of var. pruriens are ca. 1 cm wide, and have orange or brown irritant bristles, and uniformly colored seeds, the fruit of var. utilis are ca. 2 mm wide, have long pale silky hairs, are often irregularly swollen around seeds, and the seeds are often streaked in different colours (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014).

Plant Type

Top of page Annual
Herbaceous
Vine / climber
Woody

Distribution

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The origin of M. pruriens is uncertain, but it is likely native to tropical Asia (Wulijarni-Soetjipto and Maligalig, 1997; Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005) and possibly Africa (ILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). The species is likely to have been introduced and naturalized to Puerto Rico despite conflicting sources on native versus introduced status (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014; Acevedo-Rodriguez pers. comm. 2015) as well as to parts of the US southeastern states of Florida, Alabama, and North and South Carolina (ILDIS, 2014; USDA-NRCS, 2015).

Distribution data conflicted between sources for several countries. For example, ILDIS (2014) reports the species as native to the Northern Marianas Islands; however, PIER (2014) reports it as an introduced invasive species. In Papua New Guinea, the species is listed as native by ILDIS (2014) and USDA-ARS (2014), while PIER (2014) distinguishes it as native only to the Bismarck Arpichelago and introduced elsewhere. In Indonesia, ILDIS (2014) and USDA-ARS (2014) report the species as native, whereas PIER (2014) reports it as an invasive introduction. For Thailand, PIER (2014) cites Waterhouse and Mitchell (1998) as reporting the species as an introduced invasive, but it is native according to Lock and Heald (1994), ILDIS (2014), and USDA-ARS (2014). On Christmas Island, the species is reported as native by ILDIS (2014) but PIER (2014) cites conflicting references giving it as either introduced (Waterhouse and Mitchell, 1998) or native (Orchard, 1993).

In Puerto Rico, the species has been reported as native (ILDIS, 2014) but there is no definitive agreement on its status; Acevedo-Rodriguez had previously reported it as native to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (2005) but was later convinced that it is likely introduced and naturalized there (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2015 pers. comm.).

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

BangladeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
BhutanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
CambodiaPresentNativeLock and Heald, 1994; ILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
ChinaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
-GuangdongPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-GuangxiPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-GuizhouPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-HainanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-SichuanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-YunnanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentNativeILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
IndiaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Andhra PradeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Arunachal PradeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-AssamPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-BiharPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Dadra and Nagar HaveliPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-DelhiPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-GoaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-GujaratPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-HaryanaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Himachal PradeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Indian PunjabPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Jammu and KashmirPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-KarnatakaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-KeralaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Madhya PradeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-MaharashtraPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-ManipurPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-MeghalayaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-NagalandPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-OdishaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-RajasthanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-SikkimPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Tamil NaduPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-TripuraPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
-West BengalPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
IndonesiaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
-JavaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
JapanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MalaysiaPresentNativeLock and Heald, 1994; USDA-ARS, 2014
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
MyanmarPresentNativeLock and Heald, 1994; Kress et al., 2003; ILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Bago, Chin, Kayin, Mandalay, Sagaing, Shan, Yangon
NepalPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
PakistanPresentNativeFlora of Pakistan, 2014; ILDIS, 2014Jammu
PhilippinesPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
Sri LankaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
TaiwanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
ThailandPresentNativeLock and Heald, 1994; ILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
VietnamPresentNativeLock and Heald, 1994; ILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014

Africa

AngolaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
BurundiPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
CameroonPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
Central African RepublicPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
ChadPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
ComorosPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
Equatorial GuineaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
EthiopiaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
GhanaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
GuineaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
Guinea-BissauPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
KenyaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; ILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Common weed
LiberiaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
MadagascarWidespread Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Madagascar Catalogue, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
MalawiPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
MauritiusPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MozambiqueWidespread Invasive Holm et al., 1979; ILDIS, 2014
NigeriaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Sao Tome and PrincipePresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
SenegalPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
SeychellesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Sierra LeonePresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
SomaliaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
South AfricaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014KwaZulu-Natal, Transvaal
SudanPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
TanzaniaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; ILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Common weed
TogoPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
UgandaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
ZambiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
ZimbabwePresentNativeILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014

North America

MexicoWidespread Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014Serious weed
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-FloridaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014For var. pruriens only
BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012For var. pruriens only
BelizePresentILDIS, 2014
Cayman IslandsPresentNativeILDIS, 2014
Costa RicaPresentILDIS, 2014
CubaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014For var. pruriens only
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014For var. pruriens only
GrenadaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012For var. pruriens only
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014For var. pruriens only
GuatemalaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; ILDIS, 2014Common weed
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014For var. pruriens only
JamaicaPresent Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; ILDIS, 2014
MartiniquePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014For var. pruriens only
MontserratPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012For var. pruriens only
PanamaPresentILDIS, 2014; Panama Checklist, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez, 2005; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012For var. pruriens only
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012St. Croix

South America

BoliviaPresentIntroducedBolivia Checklist, 2014Santa Cruz, La Paz, Pando
BrazilPresentILDIS, 2014
ColombiaPresentNativeBernal et al., 2011; Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014
EcuadorPresentPIER, 2014; Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014
French GuianaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFunk et al., 2007
SurinamePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFunk et al., 2007; ILDIS, 2014
VenezuelaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFunk et al., 2007; ILDIS, 2014Amazonas, Bolivar

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014Vanua Levu I
French PolynesiaPresentILDIS, 2014Society Is
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Micronesia, Federated states ofWidespreadHolm et al., 1979Common weed
NauruPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentNativeSpace and Imada, 2004; ILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014
Papua New GuineaPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
Solomon IslandsPresentNativeILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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M. pruriens is probably native to tropical southern or southeastern Asia (Wulijarni-Soetjipto and Maligalig (1997),  although the precise native range is uncertain and it is given as native in a broad range of countries by ILDIS (2014) and USDA-ARS (2014), including much of Africa. It is naturalized in tropical and subtropical areas around the world including the West Indies, Mexico and South America (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012). It was introduced to Florida around 1876 (Duke, 1981). Hammerton (2003) suggests that the species was probably introduced into Mesoamerica in the 1920s by the United Fruit Company as a forage crop for the company’s mules on banana plantations. The species was present in the West Indies by 1920, when Britton and Millspaugh (1920) reported the species to be present in the Bahamas as well as in Cuba, St. Thomas, Tobago, and Jamaica. The species was observed growing in Puerto Rico by 1924 (as Stizolobium pruritum (Wight) Piper) (Britton and Wilson, 1924). Acevedo-Rodriguez (2005) had previously listed the species as ‘probably native’ in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but later became convinced that the species is likely “exotic and naturalized” in Puerto Rico as well as the Virgin Islands, Lesser Antilles, the US, Mexico, and South America (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012). 

Risk of Introduction

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M. pruriens poses a high risk of introduction. It has the ability to form woody thickets and smother underlying vegetation (Smith, 2002), and has a widespread distribution outside its native range due to its popular use as an effective cover and green manure crop (Duke, 1981). In Australia, the species is a naturalized environmental and agricultural weed, and a known cultivation escape (Randall, 2007). Considering its invasiveness in the Northern Marianas Islands, the species was included on a high priority list of exclusion to Kirbati recommending to “take special measures to keep out the species… to monitor for their occurrence and to eradicate them immediately if found. These are all well-documented problem species that have had a major impact on ecosystems and agriculture elsewhere. The potential impact of many of these species, if they are introduced and become established, can be severe” (Space and Imada, 2004). The species received a PIER risk assessment score of 7, indicating its high risk of introduction (PIER, 2014).

Habitat

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M. pruriens is tropical or subtropical. In the West Indies, the species can be found in a variety of habitats including disturbed areas such as pastures, forest edges, and roadsides, as well as thickets, woodlands, riverbanks, and scrublands at lower and middle elevations (Britton and Millspaugh, 1920; Britton and Wilson, 1924; Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005). In Africa the species also grows in forest, bushland, thickets, wooded grassland, and anthropic landscapes (USDA-ARS, 2014). On Saipan Island (Northern Marianas Islands), the species can be found along forest edges (PIER, 2014), while in the Philippines, it has reportedly been found in dry thickets and secondary forests at low altitudes (Merrill, 1923). In Antioquia, Colombia, M. pruriens is found in humid premontane forests at altitudes of 1000-1500 m (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014), while in Bolivia it occurs in lowland rainforests at altitudes of 0-1500 m (Bolivia Checklist, 2014). In Ecuador the species is found in coastal areas, only up to altitudes of 500 m (Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014), and in Panama it is found at altitudes up to 1000 m (Panama Checklist, 2014). In Madagascar, M. pruriens has been found growing in dry, subhumid anthropic and woodland areas, at altitudes of 0-1000 m (Madagascar Catalogue, 2014).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural 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
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks 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

The chromosome count for this species is 2n = 22 with some reports of gametophytic count n=11 or 12 (Duke, 1981; IPCN Chromosome Reports, 2014).

Physiology and Phenology

M. pruriens has been collected in flower from August to April and in fruit from October to January (Acevedo-Rodriguez,, 2005).

Environmental Requirements

M. pruriens is tropical or subtropical, but can adapt to well-drained, sandy soils such as those of the eastern and southern coastal US plains, as well as clay soils. The species is not drought resistant due to its shallow root system. It also cannot tolerate waterlogging, but is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3.8-31.5 dm with annual mean temperatures of 18.7-27.1 C. The species requires a long growing season and is sensitive to frost, requiring at least 180 frost-free days. Since the species does not succeed on cold, wet soils, when grown as a crop it should not be planted before the ground is thoroughly warm. Since it cannot tolerate temperatures below 5 C for more than 36 hours, temperatures of 20-30 C are recommended during the growing season. Ideal soil pH is 5-6.5 on light, sandy loams, with a range of 4.5-7.7 (Duke, 1981; Wulijarni and Maligalig, 1997). 

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
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
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)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 5
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 19 27

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall3803150mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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M. pruriens seeds are dispersed by water and in soil. The species has been introduced outside of its native range both intentionally in agricultural settings, and unintentionally. It has become invasive in many of its introduced places including the Mariana Islands, Fiji and New Guinea (PIER, 2014).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal productionCultivated as a cover crop and fodder/forage crop Yes Yes Duke, 1981
Crop productionCultivated as a cover crop and fodder/forage crop Yes Yes Duke, 1981
Digestion and excretionCultivated as a cover crop and fodder/forage crop; ingested by cattle Yes Yes Duke, 1981
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Yes Duke, 1981
ForageCultivated as a cover crop and fodder/forage crop Yes Yes Duke, 1981
Medicinal use Yes Duke, 1981; Flora of Pakistan, 2014; Fox, 1952

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehiclesCultivated seed can be transported by agricultural vehicles and machinery Yes Yes Duke, 1981
Machinery and equipmentCultivated seed can be transported by agricultural vehicles and machinery Yes Yes Duke, 1981

Impact Summary

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

Economic Impact

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M. pruriens is known to be toxic to mammals (Wiersema and Leon, 1999). Despite being useful as a forage crop, the seeds have been shown to cause severe vomiting and diarrhea to pigs upon ingestion (Duke, 1981). Cattle poisoning may negatively impact the economy and livelihoods, while the use of this species to control weeds in agricultural settings would have a positive impact. Similarly, the fruits’ stinging hairs cause severe irritation to humans, but aerial parts of the plant have use in medicine.

Environmental Impact

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Although M. pruriens is used to control weeds in agricultural settings, it is an invasive species itself and negatively impacts the environment outside of cultivation. The species is fast-growing, smothers competing species and forms woody thickets, damaging local ecosystems and posing a threat to native biodiversity (PIER, 2014). 

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
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Poisoning
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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M. pruriens is a climbing vine with stiff, stinging hairs on its fruits which penetrate the skin causing an intensive burning sensation that may last for hours, although the stinging hairs are not poisonous or permanently harmful unless they enter the eye (Merrill, 1943). The plant has been used in various cultures in folkloric medicine. The indigenous Aeta of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines have reportedly used the plant to treat headache pains and as a coagulant for wounds and nosebleeds (Fox, 1952), and in Pakistan and India the bristles of the species have been used as a vermifuge, generally taken in syrup (Pardo de Tavera, 1901; Flora of Pakistan, 2014). The species is known to contain both toxic-inducing principles and dopamine, nicotine, and serotonin (Duke, 1981) and recent research has detected multiple anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and antibacterial activity of dried aerial parts (Bala et al., 2011).

The most frequent use of M. pruriens is as a cover crop and green manure. It has been widely used for reclaiming land infested by other weeds. It was formerly an important cover crop in citrus and banana plantations (Wulijarni-Soetjipto and Maligalig, 1997). It has also been used as a forage and a component in pastures. In Mesoamerica, M. pruriens is frequently intercropped with maize, and left to grow after maize is harvested to maintain and increase soil fertility before the next years’ crop (Hammerton, 2003).

 

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage

Environmental

  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Soil improvement

General

  • Ornamental

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Honey/honey flora
  • Pulse
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

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.

Acevedo-Rodríguez P; Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

Bala V; Debnath A; Shill AK; Bose U, 2011. Anti-inflammatory, diuretic and antibacterial activities of aerial parts of Mucuna pruriens Linn. International Journal of Pharmacology, 7(4):498-503. http://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=ijp.2011.498.503&org=11

Bernal HY; García MH; Quevedo SF, 2011. Pautas para el conocimiento, conservación y uso sostenible de las plantas medicinales nativas en Colombia: Estrategia nacional para la conservación de plantas ([English title not available]). Bogota, Colombia: Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, 230 pp.

Bolivia Checklist, 2014. Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Bolivia, Tropicos website. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://tropicos.org/NameSearch.aspx?projectid=13

Britton NL; Millspaugh CF, 1920. The Bahama Flora. New York, USA: NL Britton & CF Millspaugh.

Britton NL; Wilson P, 1924. Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin islands, Volume V, Botany of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands. New York Academy of Sciences, New York.

Duke JA, 1981. Handbook of legumes of world economic importance. New York, USA: Plenum Press, 345 pp.

Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014. Flora of China. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2

Flora of Pakistan, 2014. Flora of Pakistan/Pakistan Plant Database (PPD). Tropicos website St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.tropicos.org/Project/Pakistan

Fox RB, 1952. The Pinatubo Negritos. Philippine Journal of Science, 81:173-413.

Funk V; Hollowell T; Berry P; Kelloff C; Alexander SN, 2007. Checklist of the plants of the Guiana Shield (Venezuela: Amazonas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro; Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana). Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 584 pp.

Hammerton J, 2003. Mucuna pruriens: weed, invasive, or multi-use crop for the Bahamas? College of the Bahamas Research Journal, 12:4-15.

Holm LG; Pancho JV; Herbenger JP; Plucknett DL, 1979. A Geographical Atlas of World Weeds. New York, USA: John Wiley & Sons.

Holou RAY; Achigan-Daki EG; Sinsin B, 2013. Ecology and management of invasive plants in Africa. In: Invasive Plant Ecology [ed. by Jose, S. \Singh, H. P. \Batish, D. R. \Kohli, R. K.]. CRC Press, 161-174.

ILDIS, 2014. International Legume Database and Information Service. Reading, UK: School of Plant Sciences, University of Reading. http://www.ildis.org/

IPCN Chromosome Reports, 2014. Index to Plant Chromosome Numbers (IPCN), Tropicos website. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://tropicos.org/Project/IPCN

Kress WJ; Defilipps RA; Farr E; Kyi DYY, 2003. A checklist of the trees, shrubs, herbs, and climbers of Myanmar. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 45:1-590.

Lock JM; Heald J, 1994. Legumes of Indo-China: a check-list. London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens.

Madagascar Catalogue, 2014. Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Madagascar. St. Louis, Missouri, USA and Antananarivo, Madagascar: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.tropicos.org/project/mada

Merrill ED, 1923. An enumeration of Philippine flowering plants [reprint]. Manila, Philippines: Bureau of Printing. http://www.forgottenbooks.org/books/Botanical_Publications_of_E_D_Merrill_1000888541

Orchard AE, 1993. Flora of Australia. Vol. 50, Oceanic islands 2. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Panama Checklist, 2014. Flora of Panama Checklist, Tropicos website. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://tropicos.org/Project/PAC

Pardo Tavera THde, 1901. The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Philadelphia, USA: Blakiston's Son & Co.

PIER, 2014. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html

Quattrocchi U, 2012. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology [ed. by Quattrocchi, U.]. London, UK: CRC Press Inc., 3960 pp.

Randall RP, 2007. The introduced flora of Australia and its weed status [ed. by Randall RP]. Glen Osmond, Australia: CRC for Australian Weed Management, iv + 524 pp.

Randall RP, 2012. A Global Compendium of Weeds. Perth, Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp. http://www.cabi.org/isc/FullTextPDF/2013/20133109119.pdf

Smith AW, 1971. A Gardener's Dictionary of Plant Names: A Handbook on the Origin and Meaning of Some Plant Names, revised and enlarged by William T. Stearn. London, UK: Cassell and Co., 391 pp.

Smith NM, 2002. Weeds of the wet/dry tropics of Australia - a field guide., Australia: Environment Centre NT, Inc, 112 pp.

Space JC; Imada CT, 2004. Report to the Republic of Kiribati on invasive plant species on the islands of Tarawa, Abemama, Butaritari and Maiana. Cont. no. 2003-006 to the Pac. Biol. Surv. USDA Forest Service and Bishop Museum, Honolulu.

USDA-ARS, 2014. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx

Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014. Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of the Department of Antioquia (Colombia), Tropicos website. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://tropicos.org/Project/CV

Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014. Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador, Tropicos website. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://tropicos.org/Project/CE

Waterhouse BM; Mitchell AA, 1998. Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy: weeds target list. Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service, 110 pp. [Miscellaneous Publication No. 6/98.]

Wiersema JH; León B, 1999. World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference. Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press, 749 pp.

Wulijarni-Soetjipto N; Maligalig RF, 1997. Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC. group Utilis. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA) No 11: Auxiliary plants [ed. by Faridah Hanum, I. \Maesen, L. J. G. van der]. Leiden, The Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 199-203.

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 Micronesia websitehttp://botany.si.edu/pacificislandbiodiversity/micronesia/index.htm
Flora of the Hawaiian Islandshttp://botany.si.edu/pacificislandbiodiversity/hawaiianflora/index.htm
Flora of the Marquesas Islandshttp://botany.si.edu/pacificislandbiodiversity/marquesasflora/query.cfm
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
PIERhttp://www.hear.org/pier/index.html

Contributors

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24/8/2014 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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