Abrus precatorius subsp. africanus (FABACEAE) Gidee Gidee, Crab’s Eye Creeper

Woody twiner flowers in summer, extremly poisonous seeds are bright red with a black spot, hence the name Crab Eye. The subspecies found here is africanus, and has been widely confused with the native subspecies precatorius, which is found further north (native to northern Australian but not native to South-East Queensland). Specimens without pods cannot be reliably assigned to subspecies.

Two subspecies

Two subspecies are found in Australia. Abrus precatorius subsp. precatorius: surface of pods smooth; pod length [longer] 31-43 mm – widespread in Malesia and northern Australia, south to about Rockhampton. Abrus precatorius subsp. africanus: surface of pods tuberculate (visible with naked eye); pod length (shorter) 20-35 mm – confined to southern Queensland (Miriam Vale to Brisbane) and perhaps NSW (introduced). It is native to tropical Africa and Madagascar, naturalised in Australia, New Caledonia, South America and the Caribbean. It is regarded as a serious invasive weed in some parts of the USA.

Warning

One damaged seed can, if eaten, cause severe eye irritation, vomiting, diarrhoea, trembling and cold sweat, weakness and collapse. Sound (undamaged) seed passes apparently harmlessly through when ingested, but this is not to be attempted. Many seeds chewed would easily kill adults.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Foliage

 It has many common names, indicating its long history of human use, including Kaincha , Kawa , Runja, Tento muido, Crab’s Eye, Jequerity, Cain Ghe, Graines Reglisse, Hint Meyankoku, Hung Tou, Jequerit, Liane Reglisse, Ma Liao Tou, Paratella, Paternoster, Peonia De St Tomas, Peonia, Pois Rouge, Reglisse, To-Azuki, Weesboontje, Rakat, Carat Seed, Crab’s Eye Vine, Gidee Gidee, Gunchi, Indian Liquorice, Jequirity Bean, Lucky Bean Creeper, Prayer Beads, Precatory Bean, Red Bead, Rosary Pea, Weather Plant.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Fruit

This photograph was taken near Fursman Crossing Yoorala Street where the infestation was quite thick and clearly weedy. It shows the rough pods.

Reference

Key to Abrus (Fabaceae) in Australia by Tony Bean (2005)  based on A Key to Abrus in Africa by Verdcourt (1970). Verdcourt, B. 1970. Studies in the Leguminosae-Papilionoideae for Flora of Tropical East Africa, II. Kew Bulletin 24: 235-307.

Photo: Robert Whyte