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Rosary pea (Abrus precatorius) is a slender, perennial climber that twines around trees, shrubs, and hedges. It is a legume with alternate compound leaves, 2 to 5 inches long, with 5 to 15 pairs of oblong leaflets. A key characteristic in identifying rosary pea is the lack of a terminal leaflet on the compound leaves. The flowers are small, pale, and violet to pink, clustered in leaf axils. (Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, 2011) The plant is best known for its seeds, which are used as beads in native jewelry, as well as in percussion instruments. The red variety with black eye is the most common coloring for the seeds, but there are black, white and green varieties as well. These seeds are toxic due to the presence of abrin. The outer shell of the seed protects the contents from the stomachs of most mammals. A tea is made from the leaves and used to treat fevers, coughs, and colds. Rosary pea is native to the Old World tropics, but now grows widely throughout tropical and subtropical areas of the world where it has been introduced. (Wikipedia, 2011)


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