Zornia latifolia

Herbs gallery - Zornia

Common names

  • Barba De Burro
  • Maconha Brava
  • Zornia

Zornia (Zornia latifolia) is a flowering plant belonging to the legume family called Fabaceae. This species has its origin in South America. Over the years, zornia has spread to various other places outside its native region, including Central America and North America. This species has also naturalized in the tropical regions of western Africa. Aside from zornia, this plant is also commonly referred to as maconha brava.

Zornia is a perennially growing herb. The stem of this herb is moderately branched and assuming a horizontal form on the ground. The stems of this herb grow up to a length of 50 cm. The leaves of Zornia latifolia are bifoliate, meaning that each leaf comprises two leaflets. Each leaflet grows up to a length of 4 cm and has a broadly lance-shape. A stipule appears at the base and it measures about 1 cm in length. The herbage of zornia may be hairless or somewhat hairy.

The inflorescence of zornia is actually a spike comprising about 35 yellow blooms. Each flower of this species measures about 1 cm in length. The yellow petals of Zornia latifolia measure about 1 cm in length. Each flower has anything between two and eight fused, having short beaks, somewhat spiny and pubescent pods. These pods are rounded and measure between 2 cm and 3 cm in length and width. While the superior margin of the pods is almost straight and the joints curved, the inferior margin is extremely crenate. The flowers of maconha brava open for a very brief period - just five hours to ten hours. Compared to the flowers, the bracelets are longer and, therefore, they may often cover the flowers also. The fruit of this species is a hairy, spiny legume pod - a common feature of all plants belonging to the family Fabaceae.

While western Africa is not the native of Zornia latifolia, this herb has been naturalized in the region. In fact, people in the region have cultivated this herb so extensively for so many years that the population of zornia can sustain itself sufficiently. This means that now this herb grows in western Africa almost as a wild weed.

Zornia latifolia, commonly also called maconha brava, bears fruits similar to that of peas. These peas are often included in salads as well as various cold foods as they should never be heated or cooked. Heating the maconha brava peas will only result in the draining out of their beneficial properties.

The flowers of Zornia latifolia or maconha brava can be used to extract oil or even prepare a tea provided they are collected at the appropriate time. It is likely that products made from the flowers of this species would be quite expensive, since they are acquired so rarely and in such fewer numbers. Aside from the oils and teas, sometimes these blooms are also dried up and used to prepare spices. When added to various cooking recipes, spices made from maconha brava flowers impart a unique flavour to the foods.

Parts used

Peas, flowers, leaves.


Various parts of Zornia latifolia are used for different purposes, but the peas of this plant are perhaps the most widely used today. The reason is that maconha brava peas are most succulent and also contain the compounds that are most beneficial for our health. Prior to including the herb in human diet, it was tested on animals and the results show significant improvement in animals that consumed the plant. Subsequently, it was apparent that the plant's peas would also be beneficial for the human beings too. Later, this concept proved to be true.

You can use maconha brava peas in your everyday cooking. However, before cooking the peas, they should always be treated with boiling water, as they are covered with hard shells and would be just about inedible. You can also include small quantities of these peas in cold salads. These peas offer the maximum benefits when they are processed as minimum possible. Heating the peas virtually drains out their nutritional properties. However, this is a common characteristic for most herbs with therapeutic properties. Nearly all medicinal herbs lose their health benefiting properties when they are in contact with heat.

The stem of maconha brava is never used as it is extremely thin and also because it is not of much nutritional value. Nevertheless, you can use the flowers of this plant to extract oil and also prepare an herbal tea, subject to picking them at an appropriate time. It is likely that most products prepared from the Zornia latifolia flowers will be quite expensive, because they are not very common and seldom acquired. Aside from the oils and teas, occasionally people also dry out the flowers and use them as spices. Adding these spices to your recipes will certainly help the dishes to acquire a special flavour.

Primarily and very often, Zornia latifolia is utilized for alleviating pain as well as for relaxation purposes. Often people, especially patients, consume a little tea prepared from the plant with a view to alleviate the pain in their joints. Moreover, this herbal tea can also be consumed for lowering blood pressure and providing relief from stomach problems. Here is a word of caution. You should never use the maconha brava plant on a regular basis, as it is mostly used in the form of an analgesic and taking too much of any pain reliever may have various adverse side effects.

In general, there are no reports regarding any benefits of using Zornia latifolia for the skin. Nevertheless, the oil obtained from the peas of this plant can be employed for treating headaches, particularly when this oil is directly applied to the forehead. This herb offers several relaxing properties, provided it is used in an appropriate manner and recommended doses. This plant is generally used for soothing various problems in different parts of the body.

Habitat and cultivation

Zornia (Zornia latifolia) thrives best in soils that are acidic in nature and not very fertile. However, this plant can also endure drought situations well and it is often found growing in the form of a weed in the lawns as well as on road sides. Aside from humans, this plant is also palatable as well as nutritious for livestock. Moreover, zornia is a wonderful companion for a diverse range of grass strains.

This species is propagated from its seeds. Ideally, you should sow Zornia latifolia or zornia during the spring or summer. To ensure reliable germination of the seeds you may stratify them by treating them with hot water. This is of course better than no treatment of the seeds at all. This process involves soaking the seeds in hot water during the duration of the night before sowing them. On the following day, sow the seeds just underneath a soil raising mix surface. The seeds of zornia generally germinate between a few days and few weeks from the day of planting.

While this species can endure a variety of growing conditions, it is necessary to ensure that they are grown in full sunlight. Growing the plants in full sun will help them to thrive best. Zornia plants have a preference for warmer conditions and are very likely to wither away when grown in colder climatic conditions, barring in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. Therefore, it is advisable that you should treat them as an annual plant when grown in colder regions, provided you are unable to provide them with enough warmth during the colder months.


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