Tephrosia villosa

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Local names:

Tephrosia villosa is an annual or perennial bushy herb, 0.3-1.3 m tall. Stem white tomentose.

Leaves imparipinnately compound with 7-19 leaflets, up to 10 cm long; stipules 2-5 mm long; leaflets obovate to elliptical, up to 21 mm x 9 mm, hairy on both sides, each side with 4-8 pairs of distinct veins. Stipules tomentose, caducous and lanceolate.

Flowers in a terminal or upper axillary pseudoraceme 8-22 cm long; pedicel with densely matted hairs, 2-4 mm long; calyx densely matted-hairy, tube about 2 mm long, lobes long-acuminate, to 9 mm long; standard transversely elliptical to broadly ovate, up to 7 mm x 10 mm, dorsally with dense brown hairs. Style glabrous, up to 3-5 mm long, bent sharply upward at base, twisted, penicillate.

Pod strongly curved, up to 4 cm x 6 mm, densely silvery or brown-tomentose, hairs to 2 mm long, 4-10-seeded.

Seed 12-16, rectangular, black, smooth, with short hard excrescences, up to 4.5 mm x 2.5-2.75 mm.

The specific name ‘villosa’ means covered in white soft hair in Greek.


T. villosa occurs in open fields, floodplains, often on sandy soils. It is tolerant of a long dry season and of heavy rain.

Native range
India, Malaysia

Tree management



T. villosa occurs in open fields, floodplains, often on sandy soils. It is tolerant of a long dry season and of heavy rain.


Poison: Toxic to livestock and also used as a fish poison.

Erosion control: In Africa, it is appreciated for its dense foliage hence annual cover crop.

Medicine: Leaf juice is used to treat dropsy and diabetes in India.

Soil improver: Used as green manure and annual cover crop in Africa, tested in Indonesia.