Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Rosary Pea, Crab's Eye, Precatory Bean, Jequeriti, olho-de-cabra,
Abrus precatorius

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Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Abrus (AY-brus) (Info)
Species: precatorius (prek-uh-TOR-ee-us) (Info)

Synonym:Abrus abrus

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

12 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Tropicals and Tender Perennials
Vines and Climbers

Height:
12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)
20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

Spacing:
Unknown - Tell us

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:
Seed is poisonous if ingested
Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Magenta (Pink-Purple)
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall

Foliage:
Deciduous

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
Scarify seed before sowing

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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to view:

By Floridian
Thumbnail #1 of Abrus precatorius by Floridian

By Floridian
Thumbnail #2 of Abrus precatorius by Floridian

By onalee
Thumbnail #3 of Abrus precatorius by onalee

By Floridian
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By Floridian
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By Floridian
Thumbnail #6 of Abrus precatorius by Floridian

By Floridian
Thumbnail #7 of Abrus precatorius by Floridian

There are a total of 10 photos.
Click here to view them all!

Profile:

1 positive
6 neutrals
9 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Negative Heeve On Nov 10, 2013, Heeve from Sebring, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Not only one of the most invasive vining plants in my yard but as others have stated, by far the deadliest. If a child were to somehow get a hold of the seeds and CHEW them and then swallow, they are in BIG trouble with little hope of treatment. The toxin derived from them is FAR more deadly then Ricin and among the top 3 deadliest Bio-Toxins known to man anywhere on the planet with no known cure. Symptom onset (Including respiratory failure, sinus tachycardia, severe abdominal pain among others.) has been known to take up to several days and by then can be nearly impossible to determine what the cause could have been so treating even the symptoms can be a total crap-shoot and even when administered has been shown in the past to be wholly ineffective. While there have been survivors who have ingested a single chewed up bean, it's still not a pretty sight. Nice way to spend a week in the ICU or even die eh? Abrus is no joke and not to be taken lightly.

Whoever wrote about homeopathic uses should be careful about what they write. While I haven't researched the leaves or flowers, perhaps there may be something to them, I'm not sure, but I would never condone owning this plant if there are kids and / or pets that are prone to chewing on things as the bright red and VERY numerous seeds can be very inviting.

Having said all of that above, the seeds (Also known as Crab Eye seeds) have been used in Native American culture in rattles and as beads since they are so "tough". So if very careful and diligent, the seeds have some Ethnobotanical use I suppose.

Personally, I snip every root I can find and try to introduce another plant in it's place in hopes of out-crowding this horrible plant. It climbs, it creeps, it spreads and even when flowering those short-lived, delicate little lavender colored flowers, have no cosmetic appeal whatsoever. Don't do it!

Neutral wtliftr On Oct 27, 2011, wtliftr from Wilson's Mills, NC wrote:

I have a question...
I was in Florida in June, and in a park in Miami, I saw a large number of similar seeds on the ground. The difference was that the seeds were solid red, without the black spot on them. Same bright red color, same shape. A similar looking plant to the photos here was evidently producing the seeds. Maybe the plant was a close cousin to A. precatorious? I can't find any pics that I may have taken of the plant to post here.
Any help would be appreciated!

Positive dushyantdhari On Sep 9, 2011, dushyantdhari from Jammu
India wrote:

This is used in Homeopathy for various ailments such as Epithelioma, lupus, ulcers, granular lids. Purulent conjunctivitis; Granular ophthalmia. Keratitis.

Neutral wizodd On Feb 12, 2011, wizodd from Menomonie, WI wrote:

Yes they're poisonous. About 100 times more toxic than ricin.

But they are also VERY tough seeds--no mammal is known that can swallow one whole and digest it--thus the warnings about crushing/drilling/grinding etc.

These are a type of seed which is designed to pass through bird crops intact but scarified in order to sprout. I can't be certain, but I doubt that your average adult could chew a seed w/o soaking it or breaking teeth...but I know of no tests. The plant is found around the world in the tropics.

The poison (abrin) is a pair of proteins, abrin-a which acts as a catalyst (doesn't get broken down in use,) which destroys the ability of the cell to create proteins. This protein (or very similar protein) is found in many other species. Without a way into the cell, it's harmless.

Abrin-b protein is the key that lets the a protein into the cells--where it is estimated a single a protein can destroy 1,500 molecules per minute. Since the a protein is still intact when it leaves the cell, a single molecule can destroy hundreds of thousands of cells, which is why the lethal dose is so low.

There have been cases of children killed with a single seed (usually sucking on a necklace or the like--drilled seeds.)

The poison is destroyed by bleach 5% solution. It is otherwise VERY stable, if you were to find seeds in an attic in the north where the conditions varied from -50F to 130F and humidity from 0-100% for many decades, the toxin would still be effective.

"The toxic portion is heat stable to 140F (60 C) for 30 minutes; at 176 F (80 C) most of the toxicity is lost in 30 minutes. EXTREMELY TOXIC - Lethal dose after oral consumption by humans is approximately 0.005-0.007 mg/kg."

Lethal dose inhaled or injected or absorbed is much lower--the stomach destroys quite a bit of the ingested material. A dose of 350mcg (.35mg--~1/1000th of an aspirin tablet) would be lethal to the majority of 100-150 pound persons.)


Oh, and it's NOT a fast poison! Nor is it painless, it works by preventing cells from functioning and reproducing, so it tends to produce a very painful death over many hours or days depending upon method of introduction.

There is no antidote, although the military has a partially effective vaccine against ricin (which is 100x less potent!)

They are very pretty! I suggest using them in patterns glued and rather than drilling for jewelry I'd mount them like stones. (Drilling the beads releases toxic dust, since it takes so little to be lethal, drilling a number of them would potentially be quite dangerous. If you drill them, I recommend working over a disposable paper or cloth soaked in 10% bleach, and a dust mask. It couldn't hurt to run the drilled beads in a bleach soak for a few minutes (runs some tests to see how long it can soak w/o deforming the bead.) At the least this will reduce the toxin available.

Medically, ricin-a (from castor beans,) which is similar to abrin-a has been tested against tumors, and ricin-b and abrin-b are being studied as potential carriers for medicines into cells--which would permit lower dosages, and perhaps even target particular organs.

MEDICAL RESPONSE TO EXPOSURE
http://www.setonresourcecenter.com/msdshazcom/htdocs//Agent/...

Realistically, reasonable care to keep them intact and you'd be better rewarded by paying attention to how close you are to the car in front of you (3 seconds back!

Negative losmilagros On May 12, 2009, losmilagros from Loxahatchee, FL wrote:

This plant,like many members said,is dangerous.But,not only a regular poison plant.It is one of the more powerful poison plant with not any cure if ingested ,or crack and smell the powder or if you have wounded hands and penetrate your skin.
I can believe one seller ,FROM FLORIDA,offer this plant for sale.Some people don`t care about the health of another people,when can make some income in their side or just ignore the information about it.
THIS PLANT IS WEED(spread like a bush fire in a pine forest),DANGER,HIGH POISON AND ILLEGAL TO SELL,TRADE,CARRY OR EXPORT TO ANY STATE.
The poison is LETHAL.
In others country's the mortal rate ,where this plant grow ,is very,very high.But doctors have not idea how to distinguish between the poison of this plant and the effects in the patients.And many time the death are cataloged like other cause.
The same happen in USA.
To gave an idea,we can call this plant "green ANTHRAX",to gave you an idea how bad is.

Neutral giftgas On May 5, 2009, giftgas from Everson, WA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I don't have any experience growing this plant yet, but I will as soon as the sun stays out for more than 1 day a week.

Pictures don't do the seeds justice...the color is unreal - if I hadn't seen the seeds with my own eyes, I would swear up and down that they didn't come from a living plant.

Negative Parent On Mar 25, 2008, Parent from Fort Lauderdale, FL wrote:

As a parent who's 6 year old brought back these deadly seeds from a neighbors front yard, I would insist that anyone thinking of planting this would think of the harm it could do. My daughter placed one of these bright and colorful seeds in her mouth. If she would have chewed it , she would be dead now. How can anyone consider planting them? Thank God she is okay, but we had a sleepless night worrying.

Neutral ineedacupoftea On Oct 26, 2005, ineedacupoftea from Denver, CO wrote:

My biology professor said that it is THE MOST poisonous seed in the plant kingdom, #2 is Ricinus communis. I have to admit that there exists a morbid novelty in growing these things ornamentally.

Negative MotherNature4 On Jul 23, 2005, MotherNature4 from Bartow, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This is a very common and dangerous trash weed in Florida. IT SHOULD BE DISCOURAGED every way possible. I have found it growing on school grounds and near public buildings if there is a nearby field.
MN4

Negative NativePlantFan9 On Nov 7, 2004, NativePlantFan9 from Boca Raton, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

Rosary Pea or Crab's Eye is extremely invasive in Florida in the U.S. from zone 8b in the central part of the state southward! It can climb as a vine over shrubs, smothering them and preventing germination and smothering young native plants such as tree seedlings and shrubs! Also, the bright-red berries are extremely poisonous to people and can result in death if eaten - if not, cause serious sickness! This noxious invasive vine is also found in Hawaii where it is also a serious pest! It is now on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's Pest Plant List Category One and is regarded as a noxious, very invasive and poisonous/harmful weed in Hawaii!

MORE FACTS - Very invasive in natural habitats in Florida, such as pine flatwoods, fields as well as disturbed areas such as along fences and human habitation. Very fast-growing. Has bright-red, small berries that are dangerous and VERY POISONOUS if ingested.

Negative TamiMcNally On Jun 15, 2004, TamiMcNally from Lake Placid, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Invasive, unattractive, thorny, and poisonous.

It is difficult to remove this plant. Seeds fall all over the ground and sprout easily. Seeds end up in nearby areas due to rain and wind.

Negative Clare_CA On Dec 26, 2003, Clare_CA from (Zone 10b) wrote:

Someone sent me seeds of this plant, and I did some research before preparing to plant them. I decided not to sow these seeds after reading how poisonous the seeds are and how hazardous the plant is to animals and to people. Just one swallowed seed can be deadly. This is not a desirable plant for this reason.

Negative xyris On Oct 24, 2003, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This is an invasive weed of natural areas in central Florida, as well as a weed in my garden. It will climb to to the treetops in a single year (note, height can be over 40 feet), and it is perfectly hardy in zone 9. I find seedlings in my garden beds, and pull them out, as well as cutting or pulling all the more mature plants I find. And, I don't find it particularly attractive.

Post-hurricane update (Dec. 2005) - After hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 brought down mature trees, opening up the ground to more light, this weed has become even more common. The seedlings send down deep taproots very quickly, and I have been pulling hundreds of them from my small native sandhill woodland area before they get a chance to climb the trees again.

Neutral ford3728 On Oct 23, 2003, ford3728 from Homer, LA wrote:

This is a beautiful plant but it is very invasive and almost impossible to get rid of once established. The roots spread under ground and come up everywhere and for long distances. It also has sharp stickers all up and down the stems. It grows wild in Homer, Louisiana.

Negative mesoto On Jul 15, 2003, mesoto from Crestview, FL wrote:

Rosary peas are so poisonous that the sharpened seeds are used as murder weapons in India.

Neutral mystic On Oct 25, 2002, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Has narrow, oblong feather looking leaves.With pinkish -purple flowers. The seeds are round, and shiny red with a black eye. Seeds chewed or when cracked are extremely poisonous.The seeds are used for beads, sometimes made into necklaces and rosaries.The seeds need to be nicked and soaked in HOT water to get to germinate.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

,
Avon Park, Florida
Bartow, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Crestview, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Loxahatchee, Florida
Sebring, Florida (2 reports)
Rincon, Georgia



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