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Paramachaerium - Prosopis

(Pea or Bean family)


Paramachaerium schomburgkii Ducke
[syn. Machaerium schomburgkii Benth.]

The wood of Machaerium schomburgkii is listed as capable of producing dermatitis (Hanslian and Kadlec 1966) probably from Großmann (1910).

According to Woods and Calnan (1976) the wood implicated may actually have been one of the woods named snakewood, possibly Piratinera guianensis.

[syn. Piptadenia]

Two species are native to tropical America. P. rigida yields a gum.


40 species are found in tropical regions. The seeds of Parkia africana are eaten. Parkia bicolor provides a useful wood. The fruit pods of Parkia speciosa, when eaten, cause the body to smell of garlic (Allium sativum L., fam. Alliaceae) (Corner 1952, Irvine 1961).

Parkinsonia aculeata L.
[syn. Parkinsonia thornberi M.E.Jones]
Horse Bean, Jerusalem Thorn, Retaima

This spiny plant, which is used for hedging, is capable of producing mechanical injury (Oakes and Butcher 1962, Irvine 1961).

Peltogyne Vogel
Amarante, Pao Roxo, Purpleheart, Roxinho

Several species, including Peltogyne angustiflora Ducke, Peltogyne confertiflora Benth., Peltogyne lecointei Duckei, Peltogyne paniculata Benth., and Peltogyne subsessilis W.A.Rodrigues provide timber known as roxinho.

Hanslian and Kadlec (1966b) noted that the wood of pao roxo can cause dermatitis and is a mucous membrane irritant. Hausen (1974) was able to sensitise guinea pigs to an ethanol/chloroform extract of the wood.

Peltogyne venosa Benth. subsp. densiflora M.F.Silva
[syns Peltogyne densiflora Spruce ex Benth., Peltogyne paraensis Huber, Peltogyne venosa Benth. var. densiflora Amshoff]
Pao Roxo, Bois de Violette, Purpleheart, Purpurholz

Dalbergiones have been isolated from the wood of Peltogyne densiflora (Rego de Sousa et al. 1967). Such chemicals from Dalbergia are allergenic.

The smell of the wood when worked is unpleasant and causes nausea and anorexia (Großmann 1920). Cough and urticaria can occur in workers who polish the wood (Freise 1932).

Peltophorum violacea
[syn. Brasilettia]

A report of dermatitis from the wood was received by Orsler (1973).

[syn. Afrormosia]

Five species native to tropical Africa yield afrormosia wood. One species native to Ceylon yields a cabinet wood known as nedun. One species is found on the Palau and Carolina Islands.

Pericopsis elata (Harms) Meeuwen
[syn. Afrormosia elata Harms]
African Teak, Afrormosia

The wood can produce dermatitis and respiratory symptoms (Orsler 1969, Hausen 1970, Hublet et al. 1972, Oleffe et al. 1975a).

Gronemeyer and Fuchs (1967) mention asthma from the wood.

Splinters of afrormosia are said to be troublesome and often become septic. In a furniture factory where afrormosia was being used an outbreak of dermatitis occurred. Twenty men were tested to the wood with only one doubtful positive reaction (Woods and Calnan 1976). In one case, teak (Tectona grandis L.f., fam. Labiatae) seemed to be the main sensitiser although a patch test to afrormosia produced a possibly false positive reaction.

Phaseolus L.

About 60 species are found in tropical and sub-tropical regions chiefly in America. However, several species and their cultivars are widely grown for their edible seeds (Mabberley 2008):

Phaseolus acutifolius A.Gray var. latifolius G.Freeman — provides the tepary bean
Phaseolus coccineus L. — provides the scarlet runner bean
Phaseolus lunatus L. — provides the butter or Lima bean
Phaseolus vulgaris L. — provides the kidney or French bean 

Dermatitis in bean-pickers (Sneid 1955, Schwartz et al. 1957) and in housewives is of rare occurrence (Behl et al. 1966). In the Italian province of Reggio, acarine mites infesting beans caused much discomfort to those who harvested them for cattle feed (Prosser White 1934). Shellers of beans and of peas (Pisum) can develop paronychia and atrophy of the nails (Prosser White 1934).

Ingestion of beans and of ersatz [= substitute] flour in war-time conditions of poor nutrition was said to be the cause of Riehl's melanosis (Arzt 1948, Kerl 1921, Riehl 1917, Reiches 1953). The food was thought to form a skin photosensitiser. A preponderance in women is difficult to explain on the basis of endogenous causes. The effects of sunlight were generally agreed.

In the Balkan countries, it was the practice to catch bed-bugs on Phaseolus leaves, the insect's legs being impaled on the hooked epidermal hairs (Richardson 1943).

Phaseolus vulgaris L.
[syns Phaseolus aborigineus Burkart, Phaseolus communis Pritz., Phaseolus esculentus Salisb.]
French Bean, Garden Bean, Green Bean, Haricot Bean, Kidney Bean, Navy Bean, Red Peas, Salad Bean, Snap Bean, String Bean, Wax Bean

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Physostigma venenosum Balf.
Ordeal Bean, Calabar Bean, Chopnut, Esere Nut

According to Wren (1975), an extract of the ripe seeds has been used in traditional medicine as a local miotic in eye diseases, producing contraction of the pupil. The active principle is physostigmine, otherwise known as eserine (Trease & Evans 1966). This alkaloid is an inhibitor of cholinesterase. In allopathic medicine, it is most commonly used in the form of its salicylate or sulfate salt with other miotics for the treatment of glaucoma (Reynolds 1996).

Physostigmine can produce keratitis and also contact allergic dermatitis and depigmentation of the eyelids (Duke-Elder 1965, Jacklin 1965).

Piptadenia africana

Nasopharyngeal irritation from the wood-dust is noted under Piptadeniastrum.

Piptadenia peregrina

Injection of an extract of the seeds into humans produced a syndrome resembling carcinoid (Turner and Merlis 1959).

Piptadeniastrum africanum
[syn. Piptadenia africana]
Dabema, Dahoma, Agboin

The wood dust is irritant to the eyes, nose and throat (MacKenna and Horner 1954, Irvine 1961, Thiébault 1965, Hausen 1970). The freshly sawn wood has an ammoniacal smell which disappears when the wood is seasoned.


Ten species are native to Florida, Mexico and the West Indies.

Piscidia erythrina
West Indian Dogwood

The wood is said to be irritant (Schwartz et al. 1957) and to be toxic to humans (Lewin 1962). It is used as a fish poison.


Six species are native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia.

Pisum sativum
Garden Pea

Men employed in unloading sacks of peas suffered insect bites (Hudelo and Dumet 1924). Absorption of water by ingested dried peas can lead to intestinal obstruction (Cleland 1931).

Asthma from green peas is noted under Spinacia (fam. Chenopodiaceae).

Pithecellobium Mart.
[syn. Pithecolobium]

200 species are found in tropical regions. Several species have been reported to cause mechanical injury by their thorns.

Pithecellobium arboreum
Bahama Sabicu, Black Tamarind

According to Woods and Calnan (1976) the identification of the angelim (partridge wood) which produced irritation as Pithecolobium (Freise 1932) is improbable. Lysiloma is also known as sabicu.

The wood dust can cause dermatitis (Garrett 1922).

Pithecellobium dulce Benth.
[syns Acacia obliquifolia M.Martens & Galeotti, Feuilleea dulcis Kuntze, Inga dulcis Willd., Mimosa dulcis Roxb., Zygia dulcis Lyons]
Madras Thorn, Manila Tamarind

The bark is irritant to the eye and the sap can irritate the skin (Morton 1962a). The pulp around the seeds is said to be edible (Corner 1952); the root-shoots and seedlings are as thorny as barbed wire (Morton 1962a). Mabberley (2008) notes that this tropical American species has been introduced into Asia as a shade-tree and thorny hedge.

Pithecellobium ellipticum
Saga Gajah, Jiring Tupai, Kenoah

The tree, in Malaysia, usually harbours the nests of red ants (Corner 1952).

Pithecellobium filicifolium

The wood is said to produce dermatitis (Schwartz et al. 1957).

Pithecellobium jiringa

Menninger (1967) notes that this species smells of garlic in its tissues (see Allium sativum L., fam. Alliaceae).

Pithecellobium scutiferum Benth.
[syn. Mimosa scutifera Blanco]

According to an herbarium note found by von Reis Altschul (1973) on a plant collected in the Philippine Islands, the leaves are applied to skin eruption.


Three species native to Brazil and Argentina provide good timber.

Plathymenia reticulata

Vinhatico was reported to cause dermatitis in woodworkers (De Carvalho 1956).

Respiratory irritation from this wood may have been incorrectly attributed to Echirospermum.

Prosopis L.

40 species are found in warm America, one in tropical Africa and two from the Caucasus to India. Some are xerophytic, without leaves; many are thorny, including Prosopis glandulosa and Prosopis pubescens.

The pollen can cause hayfever (Wodehouse 1971).

Prosopis africana Taub.
[syn. Coulteria africana Guill. & Perr.]

An irritant alkaloid is present in the leaves (Hausen 1970).

Prosopis cineraria Druce
[syns Mimosa cineraria L., Prosopis spicata Burman f., Prosopis spicigera L.]

A kino gum from the tree is irritant (Behl et al. 1966).

Prosopis juliflora DC.
[syns Acacia juliflora Willd., Mimosa juliflora Sw.]


Prosopis juliflora var. glandulosa

The wood used in the fireplace produced dermatitis in a farmer (Fox 1941) and a man who worked with the seasoned wood developed dermatitis (Stewart 1940). Patch tests produced positive reactions but controls were not recorded. Shelmire (1940) also observed dermatitis from the wood.

Mesquite gum (sonora gum) has irritant properties (Behl et al. 1966).

Aplin (1976) includes P. juliflora in a list of spiny plants capable of causing mechanical injury. The wax on the thorn, if it penetrates the eye, is responsible for severe damage (Brunner and Bieberdorf 1950).

Richard J. Schmidt

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