PIGEONBERRY (Rivina humilis Linnaeus)

Rivina humilis Linnaeus

The pigeonberry, coralito, or rouge plant (Rivina humilis Linnaeus) is a small, upright or straggling perennial in the Petiveriaceae, the guinea hen weed family. Other taxonomic references place it in the Phytolaccaceae, the pokeweed family. It is native to the southern US, Mexico, the Caribbean islands, and Central and South America. The plant is now pantropical and often considered a pest plant outside the Americas.

The rouge plant is variable; the leaves may be glabrous (smooth) to pubescent (fuzzy). It is reported to grow to one meter in height, but in Florida it is generally no larger than 0.5 meter. The plant does best in shady locations and blooms most of the year. The tiny pale pink/white flowers give rise to brilliant orange or red berries.

From Costa Rica to the northeast coast of Mexico, the rouge plant plays host to the caterpillar of Goodson’s greenstreak (Cyanophrys goodsoni). Although the berries are considered toxic to humans, birds find them irresistible. The plant is recommended to attract birds to the garden.

Southwestern Native Americans used the berries for a red dye. In Mexico, the leaves were employed to treat wounds. The native leaf treatment had some validity. A study of leaf extracts of the rouge plant found it was weakly bacteriostatic (stopped growth and reproduction) against Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, and other infective bacteria.



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