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What is Ormosia?
Ormosia is a genus of legumes. The more than 110 living species, mostly trees or large shrubs, are distributed throughout the tropical regions of the world, some extending into temperate zones, especially in East Asia. A few species are threatened by habitat destruction, while the Hainan Ormosia is probably extinct already. Plants in this genus are commonly known as horse-eye beans or simply ormosias, and in Spanish by the somewhat ambiguous term “chocho”. The scientific name Ormosia is a nomen conservandum, overruling Toulichiba which is formally rejected in the 2006 International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. The seeds of these plants are poisonous if eaten, but often look pretty, with bright colors and decorative patterns reminiscent of an eye; the common name “horse-eye beans” refers to these seeds. They resemble the seeds of Abrus, snoutbeans and Adenanthera, but are much larger than the former two. In particular, those of Ormosia coccinea are often used for jewelry and other decorative purposes, or as good luck charms. The seeds float and are occasionally found as “sea beans”. Otherwise, Ormosia wood is used as timber or firewood. Some species, for example O. nobilis, are also used in folk medicine.
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