Perennial erect herb to 1-2 m tall, with odor of garlic or onion when crushed. Stem angled or ribbed, puberulent in lines between ribs. Leaves elliptical, obovate or ovate, to 16(-20) x 7 cm, acute to acuminate (sometimes obtuse to subretuse, de Granville 2532) at apex, with minute bristle-tipped enations on margin, densely but very minutely pellucid-punctate, lower surface glabrous or sparingly puberulent on veins; petiole to 2 cm long, glabrate; stipules linear. Inflorescence a laxly flowered spike-like raceme to 45 cm long; rachis puberulent; flowers sessile or subsessile; bracts lanceolate to deltate, 1-3 mm long, puberulent, green; bracteoles persistent, 1 mm long. Tepals linear or oblong, 2.6-5 x 0.8-1 mm, acute or acuminate at apex, often pubescent at base and on lower part of veins, prominently 3- to 5-veined, spreading and white or pink in flower, erect and greenish in fruit; stamens free, unequal, to 3 mm long, filaments subulate, pink, anthers seemingly medifixed, linear, ca. 1.4 mm, deeply sagittately cleft at base and apex; ovary densely pubescent. Fruit linear or narrowly oblongoid, 8-10 mm long, cuneate, striate, puberulent, appressed to inflorescence-axis, with 4 (-6, de Granville 2532) apical hooked, 2.5-4 mm long awns.
Central and South America present, Guianas present, Southern America, Southern United States present
Southern United States, West Indies, Central and South America; 32 collections studied, all from the Guianas (GU: 5; SU: 4; FG: 23).
Boni (French Guiana): ndongu-ndongu; Creole (French Guiana): douvadouva, douvan-douvan, maipouri; English (French Guiana): dongo dongu, kananumna; English (Guyana): gully-root, mucuraka
In Suriname, the plant is placed in chicken coops to help rid the fowl of lice, or an infusion of the plant is smeared on the birds for the same purpose (Ostendorf, 1962). In Guyana, as noted by Lachman-White et al. (1987), the entire plant is boiled, normally with minnie-root (
Ruellia tuberosa), coconut ( Cocos nucifera) root and pigeon-pea ( Cajanus cajan) leaves, and the liquid used as a purgative by women suffering from "bladder troubles" (leucorrhoea). The plant is boiled with minnie-root, st. john's-bush ( Justicia secunda) and inflammation-bush ( Vernonia cinerea) and small quantities of the decoction are drunk for the relief of menstrual pains; larger doses are said to procure abortion. A decoction of the plant is also used as a tonic "for female rejuvenation" and as a diuretic. In French Guiana, the roots are used as an antispasmodic and febrifuge, and the leaves are decocted as a sudorific (Grenand et al., 1987). In French Guiana, the plant is locally used in sorcery to expel evil spirits (note on Burgot 4), and to bring good luck (Gely 53); a decoction is used to wash the walls of a house to protect it from evil spirits (Oldeman B-3892). Also in French Guiana the plant is used as an ingredient in a bath to treat fever (Grenand 2875).