Macrotyloma uniflorum

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Pods and seeds.

Foliage and pods.

Ripened pods.

Young plants of cv. Leichhardt (inset shows different ecotype).


The two rows from left are cultivated types - the row on the right is a wild type.

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Scientific name

Macrotyloma uniflorum (Lam.) Verdc.

Subordinate taxa:
Macrotyloma uniflorum (Lam.) Verdc. var. benadirianum (Chiov.) Verdc.
Macrotyloma uniflorum (Lam.) Verdc. var. stenocarpum (Brenan) Verdc.
Macrotyloma uniflorum (Lam.) Verdc. var. uniflorum
Macrotyloma uniflorum
(Lam.) Verdc. var. verrucosum Verdc.


Dolichos benadirianus Chiov.
Dolichos uniflorus Lam. var. stenocarpus Brenan
Dolichos biflorus auct.
Dolichos uniflorus Lam.


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Phaseoleae subtribe: Phaseolinae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

Common names

biflorus (Australia);  horse gram, horse grain, kulthi bean, madras bean, madras gram, poor man’s pulse (English);  dolic biflore, grain de cheval (French);  kerdekorn, pferdebohne, pferdekorn (German);  gahat, hurali, kalai, kallu, kollu, kulat, kulatha, kurtikalai, kekara, kulthi, muthera, muthira, muthiva, ulavalu, wulawula (India);  dolico cavallino (Italian);  faveira (Portuguese);  frijol verde (Spanish);  pé-bi-zât.

Morphological description

Twining, sub-erect annual with cylindrical, slightly hairy to tomentose stems, 30–60 cm tall in pure stands, or 60–90 cm with support framework.  Leaves trifoliolate;  stipules 7–10 mm long;  leaflets ovate, rounded at the base, acute or slightly acuminate, terminal leaflet symmetrical, laterals asymmetrical, (2.5–) 3.5–5 (–7.5) cm long, 2–4 cm broad, softly tomentose on both surfaces, fimbriolate, paler beneath.  Flowers yellow or greenish yellow, single or in short, sessile or subsessile, 2- to 4-flowered axillary racemes, calyx tomentose, standard oblong, 9–10.5 mm long, 7–8 mm broad, with two linear appendages about 5 mm long, wings about as long as the keel, 8–9.5 mm long.  Pod shortly stipitate, slightly curved, smooth or tomentose, linear-oblong, 2.5–6 cm long, about 6 mm broad, with a point about 6 mm long.  Seed ovoid, 5–8 per pod, 4–6 (–8) mm long, 3–5 mm broad, pale fawn, light red, brown, or black sometimes with faint mottles or with small, scattered black spots, (or both), hilum central.  33,000–75,000 seeds/kg.


Native to:
Africa:  Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa (Transvaal), Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe.
Asia:  Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia (Java), Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan.
Australasia:  Australia.


Usually grown as a pulse for livestock and human consumption, mostly as an intercrop with annual grains (e.g. sorghum) or in orchards.  Has value as a pioneer legume or sometimes a regenerating annual in permanent pasture .  Can be used for deferred grazing or as a fodder crop for dry season feed.


Soil requirements

Adapted to a wide range of well-drained soils from sands and gravels to clay loams and heavy clays.  Prefers near neutral soils, but will grow down to pH 5 or 5.5, and up to about 8.  Tolerant of low to moderate salinity (4–10 dS/m).  Var. benadirianum is a distinct, hairy, dune ecotype.


African collections originate from areas with annual rainfall from 450–750 mm, and Indian collections, 600–2,200 mm, and the overall majority from 550–1,000 mm, usually with a high summer dominance.  Cultivated in areas with rainfall as low as 300 mm/yr.  Leaf disease can be a problem in higher rainfall areas.  Very drought tolerant, but does not tolerate flooding or waterlogging .


Native to or cultivated from the equator to 28º latitude, and from near sea level to 1,800 m asl, in areas with annual average temperature from about 18–27ºC.  Best growth is produced during hot moist weather, with temperatures between about 35 and 25ºC, the growth rate declining markedly below 20ºC.  It is completely intolerant of frost, but usually seeds before the frosts and regenerates in the summer from seed.


Low shade tolerance.

Reproductive development

Short day and day neutral in flowering response.  May take as little as 40 days, but usually 120–180 days to reach maturity.


If sown as a fast-developing pioneer, it provides useful early feed in a forage system.  Green fodder can be cut as soon as 6 weeks after sowing.  However, unless allowed to seed, there is no chance of regeneration in the following year.  Grows vigorously in summer, seeds early and then drops its leaves in autumn to early winter.  It is best managed as a dry season feed reserve, with the high quality seed-in-pod remaining on the bush, and fallen leaf licked from the ground.


Easily killed by fire.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Hard seed levels are usually of the order of 5–10% so scarification is not necessary.  Similarly, inoculation is usually not essential, since, like M. axillare , M. uniflorum is fairly promiscuous in its rhizobial requirement, mostly nodulating satisfactorily with existing strains of bacteria in the soil.  However, most effective strains of Bradyrhizobium are Group J type, (CB 1024, commercial in Australia) and the Group M type (CB 756, recommended for use on Macroptilium and many other tropical legumes in Australia).  The latter produces black nodules, which are still effective.  Normally drilled or broadcast into a well-prepared seedbed, but can establish with little ground disturbance.  Sometimes sown with maize (Zea mays ), so they mature together, the legume improving the quality of the maize residue.  Seed is sown in spring to early summer, 1–1.5 cm deep and lightly covered.  Suggested sowing rates range from 1–3 kg/ha in mixed pasture , to 5–10, and up to 45 kg/ha in pure stands.


Although growing fairly well at low fertility, even on old cultivation land, it responds to applications of 10–20 kg/ha P on these poorer soils.

Compatibility (with other species)

The twining habit enables M. uniflorum to climb taller grasses and crop plants, and to smother weeds.

Companion species

Grasses:  Heteropogon contortus , Panicum maximum .
Legumes:  Macroptilium atropurpureum , Stylosanthes scabra .

Pests and diseases

Relatively free of disease and pests.  In more humid environments, powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea) and a leaf spot (Cercospora dolichi) may cause damage as plants approach maturity.  In high rainfall conditions, another leaf spot (Ascochyta sp.) and web blight (Thanatephorus cucumeris = Rhizoctonia solani) can cause severe damage.  Other diseases include anthracnose (Glomerella lindermuthianum), rust (Uromyces appendiculatum), root rot (Pellicularia filamentosa) and dry root rot (Macrophomina phaseolina).  Seed yields can be reduced by pod rot during late season rains, pod borers, and rodents.  Bean fly (Ophiomyia (Agromyza, Melanagromyza) phaseoli: Diptera, Agromyzidae) sometimes attacks young seedlings
Subject to attack by a wide range of viruses:  bean mild mosaic carmovirus, bean yellow mosaic potyvirus, blackgram mottle carmovirus, chickpea bushy dwarf potyvirus, cowpea mottle carmovirus, desmodium yellow mottle tymovirus, glycine mosaic comovirus, glycine mottle carmovirus, guar symptomless potyvirus, horsegram yellow mosaic bigeminivirus, kennedya yellow mosaic tymovirus, mung bean yellow mosaic bigeminivirus, passionfruit woodiness potyvirus, soybean mild mosaic virus, soybean mosaic potyvirus, subterranean clover stunt nanavirus, sunflower ringspot ilarvirus, tobacco streak ilarvirus, watermelon mosaic 2 potyvirus.  Yellow mosaic virus is one of the major constraints for its cultivation in peninsular India.

Ability to spread

Low levels of hard seed reduce the amount of seed passing undigested through the grazing animal, and hence the potential for spread in this way.  Need at least 15% hard seed for this to be an effective spread mechanism.

Weed potential

Not sufficiently vigorous to pose a weed threat.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Crude protein levels of the mature whole plant are about 11–18%, and of the seed, 22–25%.


Often not relished by cattle on first introduction, but then well eaten following a period of adjustment.


Possibility of a toxic factor in untreated seed, broken down by heat.  Does not seem to adversely affect ruminants.

Production potential

Dry matter

Under good growing conditions can produce >6 t/ha DM, but under semi-arid conditions, <1 t/ha.

Animal production

Steers can gain 0.25–0.64 kg/head/day with dry season grazing, largely as a result of improved crude protein intake.


Diploid, 2n = 20, 22, (24).  Flowers are self-fertile and cleistogamous, although evidence of some cross-pollination by insects.

Seed production

Seed yields vary markedly with growing conditions.  Under ideal conditions, seed yields of >2 t/ha have been achieved, while under semi-arid conditions, yields may be as low as 0.2–0.4 t/ha, the average being about 1 t/ha.  In the southern hemisphere dry tropics, ‘Leichhardt’, if planted in January, makes vigorous early growth, commences flowering in mid March, and matures by late May.  The pods are indehiscent and retain the seed.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Selected references

Blumenthal, M.J., O’Rourke, P.K., Hilder, T.B. and Williams, R.J. (1989) Classification of the Australian collection of the legume Macrotyloma. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 40, 591–604.
Blumenthal, M.J. and Staples, I.B. (1993) Origin, evaluation and use of Macrotyloma as forage —a review. Tropical Grasslands, 27, 16–29.
Purseglove, J.W. (1974) Dolichos uniflorus. Tropical Crops: Dicotyledons. pp. 263–264. (Longman: London and New York).
Smartt, J. (1990) Horse gram. Grain Legumes. pp. 298–299. (Cambridge University Press).
van Rensburg, H.J. (1967). Pasture Legumes and Grasses in Zambia. (Govt. Printer: Lusaka).
Verdcourt,B. (1970) Studies in the Leguminosae - Papilionoideae for the "Flora of Tropical East Africa" : III. Kew Bulletin, 24, 379–447.
Verdcourt, B. (1980) The classification of Dolichos L. emend. Verdc., Lablab Adans., Phaseolus L., Vigna Savi and their allies. In: Summerfield, R.J. and Bunting, A.H. (eds) Advances in Legume Science. pp. 45–48. (Kew Royal Botanic Gardens).
Verdcourt, B. (1982) A revision of Macrotyloma (Leguminosae). Hooker's icones plantarum, 38, 37.

Internet links



Country/date released


(CPI 26260)
Queensland, Australia (1966) Origin unknown.  Initially considered a potential dry season supplement for low quality native pasture .  Superseded by the advent of various Stylosanthes spp., particularly S. scabra .  Seed is no longer commercially available.

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



None reported.