For centuries, indigenous peoples have used plants in the Fabaceae family of legumes to poison fish so that they can be caught easily. These and other plants contain rotenone, a nonselective insecticide and pisciside. Organic farmers use rotenone as a pesticide because it occurs naturally, but it biodegrades rapidly in warm weather. It is being phased out for all uses except for fish management.
In 1895, E. Geoffroy isolated a material from Robinia nicou (now Lonchocarpus nicou) and named it nicouline. Several years later, Nagayoshi Nagai isolated a crystalline compound from Derris elliptica and called it rotenone after the Japanese name of the plant. By 1930, they were shown to be the same compound. In 1965, M. Mayano reported its total synthesis.
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