Also Known As
Centipede Root
Chax Chauxnuc
NOTE: “Many of the common names, e.g. Jimiri and Tlalcacauatl, allude to the presumption that these plants harbor chiggers [Austin/9].”
NOTE: Many more common names are listed in Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America.
Kallstroemia canescens 
Tribulus maximus 

Order:   Zygophyllales
Family:   Zygophyllaceae
Genus:    Kallstroemia
Species: maxima

Florida n c s

Edible Parts
Animal Interaction
Other Uses
What a lovely yellow flower our native Big Kaltrop boasts. A real masterpiece of nature. The leaf arrangement is unusual, in that, there are two leaves at the end of the pinnately compound leaf. Although it is an edible wild potherb in some countries, according to Jim Duke, it contains a possibly dangerous presteroid, and should most likely not be eaten. He mentions that livestock have been poisoned after consuming large amounts. This plant, native from Florida south through Venezuela, has been long-used medicinally in Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, Mexico, Venezuela, etc. I would suggest using it only as an external medicine. This species is known as Chax Chauxnuc to Mexican Mayans. The seeds "are an important dove and quail food." 

CAUTION: Although this plant has been eaten as a potherb as well as a famine food in times of need, it contains the potentially harmful "presteroid diosgenin" and saponins. [9] Also, it has harmed livestock, when eaten in quantity. DO NOT CONSUME. James Duke writes, "Grazing animals are sometimes poisoned by eating large quantities of the herb [Austin], still, Morton, 1977, 1981, says that Peruvians feed the plant to livestock, but this is more probably K. parvoflora. As of July, 2007, the FDA Poisonous Plant database listed one title alluding to toxicity of this species.” [9] 


EDIBLE GREENS: READ CAUTION ABOVE - DO NOT CONSUME. I am adding these notes on edibility as a point of interest only. "Young plants are sometimes gathered from the wild and used locally as a potherb." [4] It has "no known hazards" according to the Tropical Useful Plants website. [5] James Duke writes, “The Greater Caltrop could be a marginally edible poor man’s spinach, if not viagra.” [9]
MEDICINAL USES: READ CAUTION ABOVE - DO NOT INGEST AS MEDICINE. I am adding these notes on medicinal properties as a point of interest only.
MEDICINAL PROPERTIES: “Diuretic, Laxative, Poison, Purgative.” [9] 
INDICATIONS: “Abscesses. Boils, cancer, constipation, cramps, dermatosis, itch, paralysis, sores, strangury, tetanus, tumors.” [9] 
- “Salvadorans and Colombians cook young shoots as food in times of scarcity.” [Austin] [9] 
- “Colombians view the herb as diuretic and laxative.” [Austin] [9] 
- “Costa Ricans apply crushed leaves to boils and other sores, even tumors.” [Austin] [9] 
- “Cubans and Dominicans suggest decoction or tea for itch and other dermatoses.” [Austin] [9] 
- “Venezuelans poultice the plant on abscesses and tumors.” [Austin] [9] 
- “Venezuelans once took tea for cramps, paralysis, and tetanus.” [JFM/9] 
EXTRACTS: The “plant contains diosgenin and saponins.” [9] 

NATIVE TO: "Northern S. America - French Guiana, Venezuela, north to the Caribbean, Central America, Florida." [5] Within Florida, it is found in scattered counties across the state. It also grows wild in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
LEGAL STATUS: Not legally protected here in Florida, but Regional Conservation ranks it as "imperiled" in the south Florida region. [10]
HABITAT: Open disturbed sites. [3] In Guatemala: "Moist thickets or plains, often in sand or a weed in cultivated ground, mainly near sea level, but also extending to elevations of 1,500 metres." [3]
DESCRIPTION: "A much-branched annual plant with prostrate stems that can be up to 1 metre long, often forming dense mats of vegetation." [3] To 8" tall. [5] "Ascending stem tips." [14]
- LEAVES: Opposite, "once-pinnately compound, even-pinnate." [14] Backyard Nature blog writes "It's a little unusual for a pinnately compound leaf to bear an even number of leaflets, for usually there's a "terminal leaflet" arising at the tip of the leaf's rachis, making an odd leaflet number. Also, note the form of the two terminal leaflets, something like a cloven hoof. This is one of those rare times when a plant's leaves are more distinctive than the flowers." [8]
- FLOWERS: Showy, five petaled, under one inch, yellow with a light greenish center. The main photo here was taken May 14, 2011. The petals are yellow, or sometime "pale orange." [14]
- FRUITS: Spiny, in a hairless capsule.
RELATED SPECIES: One other Kallstroemia grows wild in Florida, and you are very unlikely to encounter it. It is the Caribbean Caltrop, Kallstroemia pubescens, and is reported only from Franklin County in the panhandle. [6]
LOOK-ALIKES: Kallstroemias are sometimes confused with Trubulus species.
James Duke writes, “Austin [2004] distinguishes the two genera in his area {Florida}.” 
Carpels 8-12, tuberculate in fruit……......Kallstroemia
Carpels 4-5, prockly in fruit………………Tribulus
WILDLIFE: "Seeds are important dove and quail food." [7]
Attracts: Birds
- PROPAGATION: By seed. [5] 

More Details

Flowering Calendar

Flower Color

Disturbed Roadsides, Disturbed Open Places

Plant Form
Herbaceous Deciduous Annual Groundcover
8 inches
6 feet

Hardiness Zone
8a to 11b
Part Sun Full Sun


[1] USDA Plant Database 
[2] IFAS - University of Florida 
[3] Flora of Guatemala 
[4] Dictionary of Economic Plants, 1959 
[5] Tropical Useful Plants 
[6] Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants 
[8] Backyard Nature blog 
[9] Duke's Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America, by James Duke 
[10] Regional Conservation 
[12] Plants of Saint Lucia [] 
[14] University of Richmond 
Last Updated: October 28, 2017