Abrus precatorius

Abrus precatorius.

The Rosemary or Crab’s eyes vine is in Family Fabaceae s.s.
There are 2 very similar subspecies –
    A. precatorius subsp. africanus, native to Africa, is naturalised in S. E. Queensland and
    A. precatorius subsp. precatorius is native to Queensland.
The African subspecies, previously used in gardens, is now an invasive weed in areas of Brisbane.

They are twining climbers that can grow to 10 m long.
The young green stems have short hairs and the older ones are brown and woody.
They have deep roots and they sucker.

The alternately arranged, pinnate leaves can be around 12 cm long.
They have up to 18 or so pairs of opposite leaflets.

The leaves are on petioles that have a pulvinus (basal swelling).
There are 4 mm long, hairy stipules at the petiole base.
Leaves have a few simple hairs on both surfaces and the midrib.
Leaflets, on short petiolules, have parallel sides and rounded ends.
A few are wider towards the tip and there is a mucro.

Axillary inflorescences are on hairy stalks up to 8 cm long.
Flowers, in small clusters, are about 1 cm long and on stalks about 1 mm long.
There are bracteoles at the base of the stalks.

The flowers are a typical pea shape with parts in 5’s.
The slightly hairy calyx is about 3 mm long.
The sepal bases are fused and the short, pointed lobes are of two different lengths.

The petals are a mix of pale to darker pink, purple and mauve.
The upper (standard, flag or banner) petal is around 10 mm long.
The wing and keel petals are around 6 or 7 mm long.
The keel petals are fused along the lower edges and folded up.
They lie within the lateral wings.
The petals have narrow, clawed bases.

The filaments of the 9 stamens are fused into a tube open along one side.
The ovary is superior.
The fruit are pods that open along one or both sutures and the sides curl back.
They are flattish, 3.5 to 4 cm long by 1.5 cm wide and have a curved beak at the tip.
They have some hairs and ripen from green to brown.

The pods often have 3 or 4 seeds but up to 7.
The oval seeds, about 6 mm long, are a glossy bright red with a black base.
The open pods, with the seeds, can stay on the plant for months.
The very hard seeds are poisonous.

Abrus precatorius subsp. africanus has 2 – 3.5 cm long pods with a rough surface.
Abrus precatorius subsp. precatorius has 3 – 5 cm long pods with a smoother surface.