Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Canavalia cathartica Thouars

Slender Vine

Thouars, A.A. du Petit (1813) Journal de Botanique, Appliquee l'Agriculture, a la Pharmacie, a la Medecine et aux Arts 1(2): 81. Type: (not cited).

Common name



A slender vine not exceeding a stem diameter of 2 cm.


Stipules stiff and stocky, almost glandular. Leaflet blades about 6-11 x 4-7 cm. Lateral leaflet stalks about 6 mm long. 'Stalk' of the middle leaflet 'pulvinate' and longer than those of the lateral leaflets. Upper and lower leaflet blade surfaces sparsely clothed in translucent, prostrate hairs.


Inflorescence a raceme of fascicles. Calyx tube about 10 mm long, lobes dimorphic, 2 large and 3 small. Petals clawed, i.e. stalked. Standard about 20 mm long. Stamens 10, filaments about 20-25 mm long, all fused to form a sheath around the ovary and style. One filament free towards the base. Filaments alternately longer and shorter. Pollen yellow. Ovules 10 per ovary.


Pods turgid, about 19 x 3-3.5 cm. Seeds about 2 x 1.2-1.3 cm. Hilum about 1.1-1.2 cm long.


Cotyledons thick and fleshy, about 20 x 8-10 mm. Cotyledon venation not apparent. First pair of true leaves orbicular, about 9-10 x 9-10 cm. Apex obtuse, base cordate. About 5-7 veins radiate from the base of the leaf blade. Midrib and main lateral veins clothed in hairs on the upper surface of the leaf blade. Stipules obovate, about 10 x 3 mm. Petioles densely clothed in white hairs and reduced in diameter at its junction with the leaf blade. Seed germination time 12 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in NT, CYP, possibly NEQ, and CEQ. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 150 m. Grows in disturbed areas in rain forest and monsoon forest. Also occurs in Malesia and the Pacific islands.

Natural History & Notes

This species may have medicinal properties.

This species is of no agricultural significance. Hacker (1990).

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