Butterfly flower is an evergreen shrub or a tree with a rounded crown; it can grow 3 - 15 metres tall. The bole can be 50cm in diameter.
The tree is widely grown as an ornamental in the tropics, valued especially for its often continuous flowering display
Prefers a sunny position in a fertile, well-drained soil.
Grows well on drier, poorer sites.
A commonly cultivated ornamental plant, it can escape from cultivation and become naturalized in open and waste places. It is spread by birds and other animals who ingest the seed and then expel it later. It can also be spread by flood waters.
A fast-growing plant.
The plant commences flowering when 3 - 4 years old from seed - it can flower and produce fruit all year round.
Although many species within the family Fabaceae have a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, this species is said to be devoid of such a relationship and therefore does not fix atmospheric nitrogen.
Young leaves - cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
Young seedpods - cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
The protein content of the seed was 33.09%, comparing fairly with soya beans (Glycine max) and groundnuts (Arachis hypogaea). The seeds also yield 21.45% soluble carbohydrates, comparing favorably with soybean 20.7% and peanut 24.6%. It also yields 3.25% fibre. The hydrogen cyanide content was 0.32 mg/100g; chronic exposure has been reported to cause neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular and thyroid debilities. The study concludes that the seeds are rich in nutrient and low in anti-nutritional compounds. If popularized, the plant may serve as a complimentary source of essential nutrients, provided toxicants are removed.
The pods are pounded and boiled in water to provide a laxative drink. They are used as an astringent for treating diarrhoea and dysentery, and are also used as a remedy for fevers.
A decoction of the root and bark is used in the treatment of leprosy and small pox.
An anti-inflammatory ointment is made from the bark.
The leaves have been used in the treatment of diabetes.
Leaf extracts are used in the treatment of eye ailments.
An acute and subacute toxicity study of a methanolic leaf extract showed relatively low toxicity on acute administration, but advised caution when used subacutely as remedy for diabetes.
A study of the methanol extract of the dried leaves showed significant blood glucose reduction. A water fraction had hypoglycemic activity comparable to glibenclamide.
Leaf extracts exhibited very potent antioxidant activity, compared with pure catechins used as positive controls.
The trees are sometimes used to make 'living fences' - they are pollarded and the long pliable branches are arranged into the framework of a fence.
I am not sure if this means that the stems are cut from the tree and made into a fence, or if the new growth after the tree is pollarded is woven whilst still on the tree.
The pods and seeds are sources of black and blue dyes.
The fibrous bark can be used for making cordage.
The heartwood is brown; the sapwood whitish. The wood is hard. It is only used for fuel.
Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and benefits from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination.
This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. Up to 100% germination of treated seed can be expected, with sprouting commencing after about 4 days