Cracca holosericea (Nutt.) Britten & Baker f.
Cracca latidens Small
Cracca leucosericea Rydb.
Cracca virginiana L.
Galega virginiana (L.) L.
Galega virginica (L.) J.F.Gmel.
Tephrosia holosericea Nutt.
Tephrosia latidens (Small) Standl.
Tephrosia leucosericea (Rydb.) Cory
Tephrosia virginica Bigelow
Common Name: Catgut
Tephrosia virginiana is an erect, perennial plant growing from a branched, woody crown with long, slender, woody roots. It produces one to several, weakly-branched stems 30 - 70cm tall from each branch of the crown[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials. The plant contains compounds with pesticidal properties and was at one time considered for cultivation[
Contact with the plant can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[
]. The seeds are toxic[
The plant contains rotenonoids and has been used traditionally as a fish poison - rotenoids kill or stun the fish making them easy to catch, but the fish remain perfectly edible for mammals. Rotenonoids are classified by the World Health Organization as moderately hazardous. They are mildly toxic to humans and other mammals, but extremely toxic to many insects (hence their use as an insecticide) and aquatic life, including fish. This higher toxicity in fish and insects is because the lipophilic rotenonoid is easily taken up through the gills or trachea, but not as easily through the skin or the gastrointestinal tract. The lowest lethal dose for a child is 143 mg/kg, but human deaths from rotenone poisoning are rare because its irritating action causes vomiting. Deliberate ingestion of rotenone, however, can be fatal.
The compound decomposes when exposed to sunlight and usually has an activity of six days in the environment.
Eastern N. America - Minnesota and Ontario, east to New Hampshire, south to Texas and Florida
Dry sandy woods and openings[
]. Well-drained, open, circumneutral to acid, non-calcareous soils in oak or pine woods, on ridges and prairies[
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Tephrosia virginiana is hardy to about -25° when given a suitable position[
A deep rooted plant, requiring a dry to moist light or medium very well-drained soil in a sunny position[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
The root is anthelmintic, diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral and tonic[
]. A tea made from the roots is said to make children muscular and strong[
]. A cold tea is used to improve male potency and also to treat TB, bladder problems, coughs, irregular menstruation and other women's complaints[
]. Experimentally, the root has shown both anticancer and cancer-causing activity[
The leaves have been placed in the shoes in order to treat fevers and rheumatism[
The root is a source of the insecticide 'rotenone'[
]. This is especially effective against flying insects but appears to be relatively harmless to animals[
]. Rotenone is an isoflavone that has strong insecticidal, pesticidal and piscicidal activities, but is of relatively low toxicity to humans.
A decoction of the roots has been used as a hair shampoo by women in order to prevent hair loss[
Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in a greenhouse in spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in the greenhouse for their first winter, planting out in the following spring or early summer.