Thursday, 20 June 2013

Taxon of the Day: Catha edulis

Catha edulis
Today Taxon of the Day demonstrates how one country’s natural high is another country’s controlled substance. Catha edulis (Vahl) Forssk. ex Endl. often referred to as Khat, is the single species in the genus Catha in the plant family Celastraceae.  It is a flowering evergreen shrub to small tree grown as a cash-crop in east Africa (most notably Ethiopia and Kenya) and exported to other parts of the world, thus providing an important source of income for rural communities. It is used by its consumers for its psychoactive properties, where leaves, twigs and shoots (often sold in bundles) are chewed like tobacco and then retained in the cheek for hours releasing a stimulant-like effect. 

Sold in bundles 

Its legal status varies from country to country, banned in North America and in an increasing number of European countries including recently the Netherlands, it is still licit in the UK. An active debate has been going on for years as to its health and social impacts on those communities where usage is high, but the UK government’s official drugs advisory body published a review just this February stating there was still insufficient evidence to support that it was harmful to health.  

It has been suggested that the Etymology of Catha derives from the Arabic common name ‘Khat’ and edulis from Latin Edule- meaning edible. 

CoL Annual Checklist Page: Catha edulis
CoL Contributor: ITIS Regional
Image copyright: Wikicommons public domain

1 comment:

  1. The UK government decided to ban Khat anyway for further details see