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Ophrestia madagascariensis

A member of the pea and bean family, Ophrestia madagascariensis is a perennial vine that is only found in northwestern Madagascar.
Ophrestia madagascariensis specimen detail

Detail of a herbarium specimen of Ophrestia madagascariensis showing flowers and immature fruit.

Species information

Scientific name: 

Ophrestia madagascariensis (F.J.Herm.) Verdc.

Common name: 

vagotry, vahivolo (Malagasy)

Conservation status: 

Near Threatened (NT) according to IUCN Red List criteria.


Dry deciduous woodland, woodland margins, grassland, degraded or secondary forest.

Key Uses: 

None known.

Known hazards: 

None known.


Leguminosae/Fabaceae - Papilionoideae
Genus: Ophrestia

About this species

A perennial vine from northwestern Madagascar, Ophrestia madagascariensis is a member of the pea and bean family (Leguminosae/Fabaceae). The genus Ophrestia was described in 1948 by Helena Forbes. The name Ophrestia is an anagram of Tephrosia and was presumably used because the foliage of Ophrestia resembles that of some Tephrosia species. The genus Ophrestia contains about 16 species, most of which are found in mainland Africa, with four in Madagascar and three in Indochina.


Paraglycine madagascariensis F.J.Herm.


Discover more

Geography and distribution

Ophrestia madagascariensis is native to northwestern Madagascar. It grows in dry deciduous woodland, woodland margins, grassland, and degraded or secondary forest, on sand, clay and limestone, and sometimes in damp areas.

Ophrestia madagascariensis specimen
Herbarium specimen of Ophrestia madagascariensis


Overview: Perennial vine up to 2 m tall, sometimes forming tangled clumps over supporting vegetation.

Leaves: Divided into 5 or 7 leaflets with soft hairs on the upper side.

Flowers: Produced between January and March, 4–7 mm long, pale lilac with a white standard (the largest of the five petals).

Fruits and seeds: Narrowly oblong pods (fruits) up to 5.5 cm long, each containing 6 to 8 seeds. Seeds are brownish-green and approximately 4.6×2.2 mm.

Threats and conservation

Ophrestia madagascariensis is listed as Near Threatened (NT) according to IUCN Red List criteria.

The major threat is to its habitat, namely the dry deciduous forest, which is subject to destruction and fragmentation due to intentional burning to clear land for grazing and agricultural use and wildfires sparked by burning adjacent secondary grasslands. It has been estimated that the western dry forest in Madagascar has been reduced by approximately 40% since the 1970s.

Conservation assessments carried out by Kew

Ophrestia madagascariensis is being monitored as part of the IUCN 'Sampled Red List Index for Plants' project, which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world’s plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Three collections of Ophrestia madagascariensis seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

Further information on Ophrestia madagascariensis seeds can be found in Kew's Seed Information Database.

This species at Kew

Ophrestia madagascariensis is grown in Kew’s behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery.

References and credits

Contu, S. (2010). Ophrestia madagascariensis. Sampled Red List Index (SRLI) Project. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 

Du Puy, D. J., Labat, J.-N., Rabevohitra, R., Villiers, J.-F., Bosser, J. & Moat, J. (2002). The Leguminosae of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, M. (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Moat, J. & Smith, P. (2007). Atlas of the Vegetation of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Verdcourt, B. (1970). Studies in the Leguminosae-Papilionoideae for the 'Flora of Tropical East Africa': II. Kew Bulletin 24: 235–307.

Kew Science Editor: Malin Rivers and Sara Contu
Kew contributors: Gwilym Lewis, Ruth Clark
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell

Although every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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