Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
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A genus of tropical shrubs belonging to the legume family [Leguminosae (Fabaceae)]. Plants of the genus Derris (see illustration), with their long branches climbing over other vegetation, occur as members of the jungle undergrowth in Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia and the Philippines. Extracts of the roots of Derris elliptica have been used for centuries as an arrow poison to stupefy fish, thereby enabling the local inhabitants to catch the fish more easily. Derris root is an excellent insecticide, being harmful to both chewing and sucking insects, but not poisonous to human beings. The insecticidal ingredient of derris root is a white, crystalline substance, which is called rotenone (tubatoxin). See also: Fabales; Insecticide
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