Abrus precatorius – Rosary Pea
Scientific Name: Abrus precatorius
Synonyms: Abrus abrus, Glycine abrus
Common Names: Rosary Pea, Rosarypea, Precatory Bean, Jequirity Pea, Bead Vine, Black-eyed Susan, Crab's Eye, Coral-beadplant
Duration: Perennial, Deciduous
Growth Habit: Vine
Hawaii Native Status: Introduced. This naturalized weed and seed jewelry plant is native to Africa, Asia, Australia, and parts of the Pacific like Fiji, French Polynesia, and Micronesia.
Flower Color: Pale pink, Lavender, White
Height: Up to 30 feet (9 m) long
Description: The small, 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) long, pea-like flowers are densely clustered in racemes that emerge from the leaf axils. The flowers are followed by flat, elongated, hairy, gray-brown, up to 2 inch (5 cm) long, curve-beaked bean pods that split open to reveal the hard, shiny, red, black-capped, rounded, clinging seeds inside. The seeds are usually scarlet and black, but they may sometimes be yellowish or solid black. The delicate, feathery leaves are alternate and variably pinnate to bipinnate with 10 to 20 pairs of green, oblong, round-tipped leaflets on each pinna. The stems are slender, twining, and woody.
Here in Hawaii, Rosary Pea grows in dry to well-drained mesic (moderately wet) disturbed areas at lower elevations. Since they usually grow in a tangle of other vegetation, the plants are difficult to spot unless they have ripe, red seeds.
Poisonous – The colorful seeds are highly poisonous and contain abrin, a toxin similar to ricin but even more poisonous. Ingesting even a single seed can be fatal if the seed is cracked open or the protective seed coat is not intact. The beadlike seeds are attractive and can be drilled and made into jewelry and rosaries, but these items are dangerous to keep around young children and pets because of the risk of poisoning. Because it often grows in pastures, this plant is also a threat to livestock. Rosary Pea, along with Castor Bean (Ricinus communis), are two of the most poisonous plants in the World.
Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family: Fabaceae – Pea family
Genus: Abrus Adans. – abrus
Species: Abrus precatorius L. – rosarypea
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