Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Abrus precatorius Linnaeus

Kingdom:Plantae
Phylum/Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Eudicots
Order:Fabales
Family:Fabaceae
Genus:Abrus
Species:A. precatorius
Common Names:Rosary Pea, Precatory Bean, Indian Liquorice, Jequirity Bean, Crab's Eye, Akar Saga, Saga Manis
Status:Naturalised

Description

This is a woody climber of up to 6 m long. The pinnate compound leaves are alternatel arranged, with 16-34 oblong to ovate leaflets. The inflorescence is axillary or terminal, bearing white, yellow, pink to dark purple flowers in dense clusters. Fruits are oblong pods, flattened or inflated, splitting to expose up to 12 seeds. Seeds rounded, shiny, scarlet with a patch of black at the base.

Read more about the Fabales order.
Read more about the Fabaceae family.

Distribution

Africa, tropical and subtropical America (introduced), tropical Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands and throughout Southeast Asia.

Localities

Singapore Botanical Gardens

Locality Map

Human Uses

The seeds were once used in Chinese traditional medicine to treat fever, malaria, headache, worms and dropsy. The roots are used to treat diarrhoea and cough while the bark for dysentery. The seeds contain the alkaloids abraline, abrasine, abrin, abrine, precasine and precatorine. They have been used to expel intestinal worms. Mostly these attractive seeds are made into ornaments, especially as beads strung into rosaries, necklaces and bracelets. Whole, undamaged seeds are harmless if swallowed, but once they are pierced and swallowed, they can be fatally poisonous. In anciant India the seeds were used as standard weights for gold and silver.

References

Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett, 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 273 pp.

Wee, Y. C. 1992.  A guide to medicinal plants. Singapore Science Centre. 60 pp.

Wee, Y.C. 2005. Plants that heal, thrill and kill. SNP Reference, Singapore. 172pp.

Related Images

Spot any errors? Have any questions? Something to contribute? Email us at dbsthh@nus.edu.sg!
Presented by

NUS      RMBR
Sponsored by

Care-for-Nature