by Merilyn Cranford, Somervell County Master Gardener
Have you ever seen a plant called Cowitch? Actually, I haven’t either, but due to some quick research I’ve come up with the following that might be helpful in identifying this very prolific and hardy southern plant.
Cowitch or Mucuna Pruriens is a member of the legume family. It likes to climb or vine and grows up to 30 feet in length. Its flowers are typically dull purple, lavender or even white in color, and the plant forms compound leaves that grow 4-10 inches long. Additionally, it produces pods which contain 3-6 large black seeds. These pods have barbed hairs that cause an intense stinging irritation to the skin.
Research reveals that the Cowitch plant has many traditional and medicinal usages including the easing of abdominal pain, diabetes, in-fertility, and treatment for snake and scorpion bites. Due to the large amount of levo-dopa in the seed, it is used for treating Parkinson’s disease.
Unless you want to grow this plant for its medicinal properties, it is probably something you do not want in your garden. Once planted, it is extremely difficult to get rid of. Trying to dig it up is similar to trying to get rid of nut grass, but much worse. BEWARE !!!