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Medicinal, culinary and unusual botanicals from Australia and around the world

Abrus precatorius ssp. precatorius – Gidgee Gidgee (seed)

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Abrus precatorius, known commonly as Jequirity, Crab’s Eye, Rosary Pea, John Crow Bead, Precatory bean, Indian Licorice, Akar Saga, Giddee Giddee or Jumbie Bead is a slender, perennial climber that twines around trees, shrubs, and hedges. It is a legume with long, pinnate-leafleted leaves. It is also known as Gunja in Sanskrit and some Indian languages and Ratti in Hindi. The plant is best known for its seeds, which are used as beads or in percussion instruments, and which are toxic due to the presence of abrin (Wikipedia). The seeds are also used as a traditional unit of weight (ratti), (approx. 0.91 carat) in India.

Heating the seeds above 65ºC evidently inactivates the poison and they have many medicinal uses in Ayurvedic medicine. The leaves and roots do not contain abrin but instead contain sweet substances called Abrusosides A-D, four novel sweet-tasting triterpene glycosides. I quite often nibble on leaves when I find this plant in the wild, just for a sweet hit.

Abrus precatorius subsp. africanus differs from the native Abrus precatorius subsp. precatorius by having larger seed pods with a rough texture. The native subspecies has seed pods 30-50mm long that are relatively smooth. It is also generally more widespread in the northern parts of Australia. The seeds of the native subspecies also appear to be slightly larger and more irregular in shape.

Care and Cultivation of Abrus precatorius ssp. precatorius

Abrus precatorius seed coat needs to be nicked to promote germination (be careful). Soak seed overnight or plant directly into a good seed raising mix. Plant 0.5 – 1cm under the surface in full sun. Keep moist until germination.

Prefers a loam/gravel soil. Well drained soil, fast growing and hardy. Likes a full sun position and is tolerant of dry conditions once established.

2 seeds per packet

Keep out of reach of children and animals


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