Fact Sheets


Peganum harmala L.

Family :

Famille :


Synonym(s) :

Synonyme(s) :

Peganum dauricum L. (eFloras 2021; Tropicos 2022)

Common Name(s) :

Nom(s) commun(s) :


(English) (GC 2016; USDA-ARS 2021)
Rue de Syrie (French) (GC 2016)
Rue sauvage (French) (CABI 2022; USDA-ARS 2021)
Steppenraute (German) (CABI 2022; USDA-ARS 2021)

  • African-rue (Peganum harmala) seeds

  • African-rue (Peganum harmala) seeds

  • African-rue (Peganum harmala) seed

  • African-rue (Peganum harmala) seed, hilum view

  • African-rue (Peganum harmala) capsule

Explore More :

Explore plus :



Regulation :

Remarques Réglementation:

  • CFIA Weed Seeds Order - Class 1: Prohibited Noxious Weed Seeds
  • USA Federal Noxious Weed Seed List

Regulation Notes:

Prohibited Noxious, Class 1 in the Canadian Weed Seeds Order (2016) under the Seeds Act. All imported and domestic seed must be free of Prohibited Noxious weed seeds.

Distribution :

Répartition :

Native to desert regions of northern Africa, Asia, and southern and eastern Europe (Abbott et al. 2007; USDA-ARS 2021). Introduced to the United States, where it is found across the southwest and Pacific states. Populations are currently concentrated in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (Abbott et al. 2007). Absent from Canada (Brouillet et al. 2010+).

Habitat and Crop Association :

Habitat et Cultures Associées :

Occurs mainly in dry grasslands and saline waste areas, but also common along roadsides, field edges and in degraded pastures. Prefers repeatedly disturbed environments, and is able to grow under a range of temperature and rainfall conditions (Abbott et al. 2007).

Economic Use, cultivation area, and Weed Association :

Utilisation économique, zone de culture et association de mauvaises herbes :

Duration of Life Cycle :

Durée du cycle vital:


Dispersal Unit Type :

Type d’unité de dispersion :


General Information


Peganum harmala has long been used as a dye plant and was imported into New Mexico in 1928 for “Turkish Red” dye (Guclu and Ozbek 2007). In its native range, P. harmala seed and plant extract is used for a variety of medicines, dyes and for protective qualities (Fayvush et al. 2017)

Natural spread is mostly by seed, and occurs by water moving over soil or by animals that deposit the seeds in their droppings. Humans also plant this species for medicinal purposes and spread it unintentionally by moving pieces of rootstock with vehicles or machinery (Parsons and Cuthbertson 1992). P. harmala contains alkaloids that are toxic to grazers, including horses, sheep and cattle (Abbott et al. 2007).


Peganum harmala plant (Douglas Barbe, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Bugwood.org)



  • Capsule


    • Capsule diameter: 6.0 – 10.0 mm (Fayvush et al. 2017)


    • Capsule is globose, slightly flattened at one end, appearing trigonous from constrictions between the three chambers of the fruit

    Surface Texture

    • Smooth or roughened


    • Green when immature, straw-yellow when mature
  • Seed


    • Seed length*: 3.0 – 4.3 mm; width: 1.6 – 2.7 mm
    *Note: minimum and maximum of 20 seeds in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)


    • Seed is sectoroid shaped, occasionally with one flat side

    Surface Texture

    • Seed surface is covered in ridged reticulations with deep interspaces, giving a pitted or bubbled appearance
    • Edges of the seed are narrowly winged or ridged


    • Seed is translucent dark brown, brownish-red or red coloured

    Other Features

    Hilum and hilum area

    • Hilum is a small hole at one end of the seed
  • Embryo


    • Embryo partially fills the seed


    • Embryo is linear or slightly curved, axial position (Zomlefer 1994)


    • Endosperm is hard and oily (Zomlefer 1994)

    Other Features

    • Embryos have been observed with 3 or 4 cotyledons (Narantsetseg 2014)

Identification Tips


Seeds of Peganum species have a distinctive sectoroid shape, translucent reddish-brown colour and reticulate surface texture. This combination of seed features are recognizable to the genus level, but Peganum species are difficult to distinguish due to the similar seed features within the genus (Amartuvshin et al. 2006). Other factors including crop type and area of production may be needed to identify the seeds to the species level.

Additional Botany Information



  • Flowers are 15.0–20.0 mm long, 6.0–9.0 mm wide (Fayvush et al. 2017)
  • Flowers are pale yellow, with 5 separate petals, star-shaped (Fayvush et al. 2017)

Vegetative Features

  • Plants are branched from their bases, 30 – 70 cm in height with leaves attached alternately (eFloras 2021).

Similar Species


Similar species are based on a study of seed morphology of various species, and those with similar dispersal units are identified. The study is limited by physical specimen and literature availability at the time of examination, and possibly impacted by the subjectivity of the authors based on their knowledge and experience. Providing similar species information for seed identification is to make users aware of similarities that could possibly result in misidentification.
  • Most Peganum species are distributed in northern China and Mongolia (Amartuvshin et al 2006; eFloras 2021), except P. mexicanum that is native to desert regions of Texas and Mexico (Porter 1974). Seeds of the following similar species could be encountered in commodities originating from northern China and Mongolia.
  • Peganum nigellastrum Bunge seeds appear to be similar to P. harmala seeds, with a smooth reticulate surface texture, the interspaces smaller than P. harmala (Zhao et al. 2011). This species can spread by both human activities and wind (Amartuvshin et al. 2006). Seed features can be variable depending on the collection site (Amartuvshin et al. 2006).
  • Peganum multisectum (Maximowicz) Bobrov seeds are smaller (length: 2-3 mm (eFloras 2021), blackish-brown coloured with a rough ridged reticulate texture and larger interspaces than P. harmala seed (Zhao et al. 2011). The seeds are distributed via water, not human activities unlike P. harmala and P. nigellastrum (Amartuvshin et al. 2006).

Click to select species

Cliquez pour sélectionner les espèces

Comparison Window

Fenêtre de comparaison

Need ID Help?

Besoin d’aide pour l’identification?



Abbott, L. B., Lepak , D. and Daniel, D. L. 2007. Vegetative and reproductive phenology of African rue (Peganum harmala) in the northern Chihuahuan desert. The Southwestern Naturalist, 52:209-218.

Amartuvshin, N. , Dariimaa, S. and Tserenbaljid, G. 2006. Taxonomy of the Genus Peganum L. (Peganaceae Van Tieghem) in Mongolia. Mongolian Journal of Biological Sciences 4: 9-13.

Brouillet, L., Coursol, F., Meades, S. J., Favreau, M., Anions, M., Bélisle, P. and Desmet, P. 2010+. VASCAN, the database of vascular plants of Canada. http://data.canadensys.net/vascan/ Accessed April 29, 2021.

Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI). 2022. Invasive Species Compendium, CAB International, Wallingford, UK. https://www.cabidigitallibrary.org/journal/cabicompendium Accessed April 08, 2022.

eFloras. 2021. Electronic Floras. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA., http://www.efloras.org Accessed November 17, 2021.

Fayvush, G., Aleksanyan, A., Mehdiyeva, N. P., Alizade, V. M., Paniagua Zambrana, N. Y. and Bussmann, R. W. 2017. Peganum harmala L. NITRARIACEAE In: R.W. Bussmann (ed.), Ethnobotany of the Caucasus. Springer International Publishing. pp 463-467.

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Secretariat. 2022. https://doi.org/10.15468/39omei Accessed via https://www.gbif.org/species/3189912 Accessed December 29, 2022.

Government of Canada (GC). 2016. Canadian Weed Seeds Order. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-93/page-2.html (English) https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/fra/reglements/DORS-2016-93/page-2.html

Guclu, C. and Ozbeck, H. 2007. Biology and damage of Thamnurgus pegani Eggers (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) feeding on Peganum harmala L. in eastern Turkey. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 109:350-358.

International Seed Morphology Association (ISMA). 2020. Method for Seed Size Measurement. Version 1.0. ISMA Publication Guide. https://www.idseed.org/authors/details/method_for_seed_size_measurement.html

Narantsetseg, A. 2014. Seed germination and abnormality of cotyledon of Peganum harmala populations in Mongolia. African Journal of Plant Science 8: 254-259.

Parsons, W. T., and Cuthbertson, E. G. 1992. Noxious Weeds of Australia. Inkata Press, Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. 692 pp.

Porter, D.M. 1974. Disjunct distributions in the new world Zygophyllaceae. Taxon 23: 339-346.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS). 2021. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx Accessed April 29, 2021.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). 2022. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC USA. http://plants.usda.gov Accessed December 29, 2022.

Zhao, T. , Wang, Z-T., Branford-White C.J. , Xu, H. & Wang, C-H. 2011. Classification and differentiation of the genus Peganum indigenous to China based on chloroplast trnL-F and psbA-trnH sequences and seed coat morphology. Plant Biology 13: 940–947.

Zomlefer, W. B. 1994. Guide to Flowering Plant Families. North Carolina Press.



Jennifer Neudorf, Angela Salzl, Ruojing Wang, Karen Castro, Katrina Entwistle
Canadian Food Inspection Agency