Kratom was first formally documented by the Dutch colonial botanist Pieter Korthals. It is botanically related to the Corynanthe, Cinchona and Uncaria genera and shares some similar biochemistry. It is in the same family as coffee and the psychoactive plant Psychotria viridis. Other species in the Mitragyna genus are used medicinally in Africa.
Kratom has been traditionally used for its psychoactive properties in Thailand and Malaysia, although it is now illegal in these countries. In Southeast Asia the fresh leaves are commonly chewed, often continuously, by workers or manual laborers seeking a numbing, stimulating effect. Plants grown in subtropics are weak in late winter and spring, but potent in late summer autumn and early winter.
This plant is hard to propagate. Cuttings are difficult to root, though the plants themselves, once established, are relatively hardy (not cold hardy, sensitive to freeze). Cuttings are either attacked by fungus or simply never put out roots. Seeds have very poor germination rate (10-20%) and have very short shelf life. Seeds should be planted on the surface of well-drained potting soil and lightly brushed with soil just to be covered. Keep moist but not soggy. Fresh seeds normally germinate in 1-2 weeks.