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Armed or unarmed perennial herbs, shrubs or small trees, often climbing or scandent, most species armed with prickles on the internodes. Leaves bipinnate, sensitive to the touch, rachis and pinnae without extrafloral nectaries, often with prickles on the rachis; Stipules not spinescent, caducous. Inflorescences consisting of pedunculate, axillary glomerules (in the introduced species), or spikes. Flowers tetramerous (in th s introduced species), uniform, bisexual. Stamens 4-8, free; Seeds flattened, elliptic, with a hard testa, with areole, wingless, aril absent, endosperm absent;


Asia present, Asia-Tropical: India present; Pakistan (Pakistan present), Madagascar present, Tropical Africa present, tropical America present
About 400 species in all; mainly in tropical America, but a few found in tropical Africa and Madagascar; in Asia 2 species, both indigenous to India and Pakistan; in Malesia 3 introduced and naturalized species.


The introduced herbaceous species have all been used as cover-crops in other tropical areas.


Lewis & Elias 1981 – In: Polhill & Raven, Adv. Leg. Syst. 1: 166
Hutch. 1964 – In: Gen. Fl. Pl.: 282
Taubert 1891 – In: E. & P., Nat. Pflanzenfam. 3: 115
Benth. & Hook. f. 1865 – In: Gen. Pl.: 463
Linn. 1754: Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 233
Barneby 1991: pp. 1-835. – In: Mem. N.Y. Bot. Gard.
Benth. 1875 – In: Trans. Linn. Soc.: 388