Mucuna Pruriens: Weed, Invasive or Multi-use Crop for The Bahamas?

John Hammerton


The genus Mucuna Adamson comprises some 100 or so wild and domesticated species, native or naturalized in the tropics and sub-tropics of both hemispheres. They are lianas or vines, and include a number of species found mainly in tropical rainforests.

Many Mucuna species were previously assigned to the genus Stizolobium P. Browne, and this name was proposed for annual species while retaining the name Mucuna for perennial species. Subsequent taxonomists have not maintained this separation (Mabberley, 1998). The Mucuna genus is a member of the Family Leguminosae and sub-family Papilionoideae.

The taxonomy is confused with numerous synonyms: mainly Mucuna species have synonyms assigning them to the Dolichos L. or the Stizolobium genera. M. pruriens alone has 12 synonyms (retrieved from No studies have been carried out using modern molecular techniques on the genus to eliminate this confusion (Lorenzetti et al., 1998). There is also considerable confusion with vernacular names. Only on Mucuna species occurs in The Bahamas, namely Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC., known locally as cow itch or monkey tamarind, and characterized by the irritant hairs on the pods (Correll & Correll, 1982). Many other species in this genus also have pods with irritant hairs.

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