Crotalaria retusa (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Crotalaria retusa L.

Family: Leguminosae - Papilionoideae

Vernacular names

  • Devil bean, large yellow rattlebox, wedge-leaved crotalaria (En)
  • Indonesia: orok-orok cina (Java), duku todore (Halmahera)
  • Malaysia: giring badak
  • Philippines: buli-laua, potokan (Tagalog), palpaltog (Ilokano)
  • Cambodia: chhë: krông sva: (Kampot), tra:ch kuël'.


Probably of Asian origin, now pantropical, also cultivated.


Green manure and fibre crop, but it also occurs as a weed. Roots are used against coughing up blood, leaves mixed with those of C. quinquefolia L. act internally as well as externally against fever, scabies, lung diseases and impetigo. Flowers and leaves are sweet, edible as a vegetable, their alkaloid content being very low. The roasted dehulled seeds are eaten in Vietnam. It is also reported to yield toxins, such as the alkaloid monocrotaline and to have poisoned poultry and livestock in Nigeria. It is occasionally grown as an ornamental, and is used as a dye plant in East Africa.


Annual herb or subshrub up to 1.2 m tall. Branches glabrous to appressed hairy. Leaves simple; blade oblanceolate to oblong, 3-10 cm × 1-4 cm, apex rounded or emarginate, glabrous above, silky pubescent below. Inflorescence an erect, terminal raceme, 15-30 cm long; pedicel 4-8 mm long; calyx about 10-14 mm long, subglabrous, upper teeth ovate, acute, 3 lower teeth narrower; corolla 2.5 cm long, yellow, tinged purple. Pod subcylindrical, 2.5-5 cm × 1-2 cm, glabrous, stipitate, 15-20-seeded. Seed heart-shaped, 5 mm × 3 mm, yellow-brown to blackish. C. retusa occurs in coastal grassland, along rivers, waste places and fields, up to 250 m altitude. It fixes nitrogen and is self-pollinating. The seed-coat is hard, and germination irregular. It is full-grown in two months. Damage caused by pests is common, but it is resistant to root-knot nematodes.

Selected sources

8, 52, 53, 62, 113, 126, 170, 174.


M.S.M. Sosef & L.J.G. van der Maesen