Tephrosia purpurea (L.) Pers.

Last updated: 1 Sep 2015

Scientific Name

Tephrosia purpurea (L.) Pers.


Cracca purpurea L., Cracca wallichii (Fawc. & Rendle) Rydb., Galega colonila Buch.-Ham., Galega diffusa Roxb., Galega lanceaefolia Roxb. [Spelling variant], Galega lanceifolia Roxb., Galega purpurea (L.) L., Glycyrrhiza mairei H.Lev., Tephrosia colonila (Ham.) Benth., Tephrosia diffusa (Roxb.) Wight & Arn., Tephrosia hamiltonii Gamble, Tephrosia ionophlebia Hayata, Tephrosia lanceifolia Link, Tephrosia piscatoria (Aiton) Pers., Tephrosia wallichii Fawc. & Rendle [1]

Vernacular Name

English Purple tephrosia, wild indi­go [2]
India Ban-nil gachh, dhamasia, sar-pokha, sarapunkhah, sarphamka, sarpunk, sharpunka, yempali [3]
Indonesia Pohon nila hutan (Java) [2]
Thailand Khram-pa (Northern) [2]
Laos S'a:z kh'a:m moyz (Louang Prabang) [2]
Philippines Bal­atong-pula, balba-Iatong, tina-tinaan (Tagalog) [2]
Cambodia Trôm' khmaôch [2]
Vietnam C[aa]y c[oos]t kh[is] t[is]a, ve c[as]i, do[ax]n ki[ees]m d[or] [2]
France Indigo sauvage [2]
United States of America Fish poison [2].

Geographical Distributions

Tephrosia purpurea is native to tropical Asia, and is found from India and Sri Lanka to Southern China, and through Southeast Asia to tropical Australia and the Polynesian Islands. It is now naturalised and cultivated pantropically. [2]

T. purpurea occurs naturally in grassy fields, waste places and thickets, on ridges, and along roadsides, in Java up to 400 m altitude. It generally grows at low altitudes, but may be found to 1300 m altitude. In Hawaii, it grows near the seashore. It prefers dry, gravelly or rocky and sandy soils, but in Madras (India), it grows well on loamy soils. It is tolerant of saline-sodic soil conditions. [2]

Botanical Description

T. purpurea is comes from the family Leguminosae. It is an erect or spreading, annual or short-lived perennial herb that is sometimes bushy. It can grow 40-80 cm tall and rarely up to 1.5 m. The indumentum is silky. The stem is slender, erect or de­cumbent at the base. [2]

The leaves are imparipinnate. The stipules are narrowly triangular and measure 1.5-9 mm x 0.1-1.5 mm. The rachis is up to 14.5 cm long while the petiole is up to 1 cm. The petiolule is 1-3 mm long. There are 5-25 leaflets which are obovate to narrowly elliptical. The terminal leaflet measures 7-28 mm x 2-11 mm while the lateral leaflet measures 5-30 mm x 2-11 mm. It is acute at the base and rounded to emar­ginate at the apex. The veins arrangement is usually distinct on both surfaces. [2]

The inflorescence is an axillary or leaf-opposed pseudo­raceme, measures (1.5-)10-15(-25) cm long and sometimes with basal leaf-like bracts. The flowers are in fascicles of 4-6. The bracteoles are usually absent and the pedicel is 2-6 mm long. The flower is 4-8.5 mm long and purplish to white. The sepal is bell-shaped, persistent, with the cup size of 1.4-2.3 mm x 1.5-3.2 mm, un­equally 4-toothed and with pubescent teeth inside. The upper part of petal is broadly ovate, measures 3.5-7.3 mm x 5-10 mm and clawed. The wings measure 2.5-6 mm x 1.5-3.8 mm, auricled on vexillary side and clawed. The keel measures 2.2-4.5 mm x 2-3 mm, auricled on vexillary side and clawed. There are 10 stamens, and with staminal tube 4-6 mm long. The filaments are alternately longer and shorter where the free part is up to 3.5 mm long while the vexillary filament is 5-8 mm long, free at the base and connate halfway. The style is up to 4.5 mm long where the upper half is hairless and with penicillate stigma at the base. [2]

The pod is flat, linear, measuring 2-4.5 cm x 3-5 mm, somewhat upcurved towards the end, convex around the seeds, flattened between, with thickened margins and dehiscent with twisted valves. It contains 2-8(-10) seeds. [2]

The seed measures 2.5-5 mm x 1.8-3 mm which is rectangular to transversely ellipsoid, light to dark brown to black and sometimes mottled. [2]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

No documentation.

Plant Part Used

No documentation.

Traditional Use

No documentation.

Preclinical Data

No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing



Figure 1: The line drawing of T. purpurea [2]


  1. The Plant List.  Ver1.1. Tephrosia purpurea (L.) Pers. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Apr 18; cited 2015 Aug 19]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/ild-5018
  2. Aguilar NO. Tephrosia purpurea (L.) Pers. In: Faridah Hanum I, Van der Maesen LJG, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 11: Auxiliary plants. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1997; p. 246-248.
  3. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume V R-Z. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2012. p. 524.