Legumes As Weeds
Some species of legumes that are cultivated in agriculture or horticulture have become naturalized in semi-natural and natural habitats, and some of these are locally considered to be invasive weeds. Examples of these species include Scotch broom, gorse, garden lupines, vetches, and some other species. These are rarely considered important enough as weeds to be the specific targets of control programs.
One exception, however, is the kudzu vine (Pueraria lobata), native to Japan and introduced to the southeastern United States as a forage plant and for use in controlling erosion. This species is considered to be a serious, invasive weed in some places. Control methods for the kudzu include the use of herbicides and the excavation of its large, underground, roots.
A few species of legumes have foliage or seeds that can be extremely toxic to humans and domestic animals, and these may be actively controlled to reduce the risks of poisoning. The best North American examples of toxic legumes that are sometimes considered to be pests because they can poison livestock on rangelands are the locoweeds (Oxytropis spp., and to a lesser degree, Astragalus spp.). The precatory pea or rosary bean (Abrus precatorius) grows wild in subtropical and tropical climates and was introduced as an ornamental plant to south Florida where it is now naturalized. This species has small (less than 0.4 in [1 cm] long), very attractive, crimson-red seeds, with one jet-black spot at one end, but these are so toxic that a single one can kill a person if chewed. Precatory peas are sometimes used to make beautiful seed-necklaces, but these can be deadly in the hands of children.
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Judd, Walter S., Christopher Campbell, Elizabeth A. Kellogg, Michael J. Donoghue, and Peter Stevens. Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach. 2nd ed. with CD-ROM. Suderland, MD: Sinauer, 2002.
Klein, R.M. The Green World: An Introduction to Plants and People. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.
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