Sword bean

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Sword bean
Sword bean (Canavalia gladiata)

Sword bean ( Canavalia gladiata )

Order : Fabales (Fabales)
Family : Legumes (Fabaceae)
Subfamily : Butterflies (Faboideae)
Tribe : Phaseoleae
Genre : Canavalia
Type : Sword bean
Scientific name
Canavalia gladiata
( Jacq. ) DC.

The sword bean ( Canavalia gladiata ) even Fetish bean or Madagascar bean called, is a plant species in the subfamily Pea (Faboideae) within the family of legumes (Fabaceae). It is only known from culture and is grown as a useful plant in the tropics. It is closely related to a number of other crops called " beans " , especially the jack bean .


Illustration from Blanco.
Stalked, three-part leaves and legume.
Zygomorphic white flower.

Appearance and leaf

The sword bean is a twining, climbing, climbing and perennial herbaceous plant . For grain production, it is usually cultivated like an annual plant . The shoot axes reach lengths of up to 10 meters and lignify somewhat when they are older than a year. The root system extends relatively deep into the ground. The germination takes place epigeal. In the case of the seedlings, the first two opposite leaves are simply with two intergrown stipules.

The alternate arranged on the stem leaves are divided into petiole and leaf blade. The petiole is 5 to 17 inches long. The leaf blade is threefold. The leaflets are petiolate 4 to 7 millimeters long. The herbaceous, usually entire-margined leaflets are 8 to 20 centimeters long and 5 to 14 centimeters wide and are ovate to rhombic, with a rounded to pointed or slightly heart-shaped base and a mostly pointed upper end. Both sides of the leaflets are sparsely haired, short and whitish or brown downy. The stipules of the leaves fall off early.

Inflorescence and flower

The flowering time in China is between July and September. In the leaf axils there is a 4 to 25 centimeter long inflorescence stem. In a 7 to 12 centimeter long racemose inflorescence there are two or three flowers together at the nodes of the inflorescence axis; a total of 10 to 20 flowers in one inflorescence. The tiny bracts and bracts fall off early.

The hermaphrodite flowers are zygomorphic and five-fold with a double flower envelope ; they are often resupinated . The five slightly fluffy hairy sepals are fused to form a bell-shaped, two-lipped calyx up to 1.5 centimeters long. The large upper lip of the calyx is two-part and rounded, and the much smaller lower lip ends in three pointed calyx teeth. The corolla, which is 3 to 3.5 centimeters long, is relatively large and has the typical structure of a butterfly flower . The five conspicuous white to purple-colored petals are nailed briefly and eyeled. The upright flag is 3 to 3.5 centimeters long and about 2.5 centimeters wide, elliptical and edged. The wings and the shuttle are elongated, curved inward and smaller than the flag. The ten fertile stamens are all fused. The only, short and thinly stalked, upper carpel contains many ovules . The inwardly curved stylus ends in a small scar .


Fruit and seeds

The legumes ripen in China in October. The somewhat flattened, sometimes somewhat curved and long, tipped legumes are 20 to 40 or sometimes up to 50 centimeters long and 2 to 6 centimeters wide. Each thick leathery fruit flap has a raised rib on the belly seam and an extra rib parallel to it. The legumes contain 8 to 20 seeds. The fruit flaps twist when opening.

The relatively large seeds are egg-shaped to ellipsoidal, bean-like and somewhat flattened with a length of 2 to 3.5 centimeters and a diameter of 1.5 to 2 centimeters. The smooth seed coat is usually cream-colored to dark brown or reddish-brown, rarely black, pink or white. The 15 to 25 millimeters long, elongated and brownish hilum takes up almost the entire length of the seed. The thousand grain mass is relatively high at 1800 and 2100 grams.

Chromosome set

The basic chromosome number is x = 11; there are diploid 2n = 22 or tetraploid 2n = 44 forms.


It was first published in 1788 under the name ( Basionym ) Dolichos gladiatus by Nikolaus Joseph Freiherr von Jacquin in Icones Plantarum Rariorum , Volume 3, 1, Plate 560. The new combination to Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC. was founded in 1825 by DC. published in Prodromus Systematis Naturalis Regni Vegetabilis , Volume 2, p. 404. Other synonyms for Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC. are: Canavalia ensiformis var. gladiata (Jacq.) Kuntze , Canavalia gladiolata J.D.Sauer , Canavalia gladiata var. machaeroides DC. , Canavalia incurva (Thunb.) DC. , Canavalia incurva Thouars , Canavalia loureiroi G.Don , Canavalia machaeroides (DC.) Steud. , Canavalia maxima Thouars , Dolichos incurvus Thunb. , Malocchia gladiata (Jacq.) Savi .

Distribution and growing conditions

Canavalia gladiata is only known from cultivated plants. It is especially grown in the tropics . In many tropical areas it has grown wild and is now a neophyte (e.g. Madagascar).

The vegetable use of the sword bean is widespread in Asia than in other continents, its cultivation is particularly important in India , Burma , Ceylon and Malaysia . In Africa, cultivation in West Africa , the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola deserves special mention, while it is less important in Ethiopia. Use as a ground cover and as green manure is also very important. For this purpose it has also found its way into Australia and America.

The sword bean belongs to the rain-humid to alternately humid tropics, ideally with annual rainfall between 900 and 1500 mm, higher rainfall is tolerated and dry periods are survived by the deep root system. The temperatures required for a cultivation are 14 to 30 ° C and in the tropics cultivation is possible at altitudes of 1500 or 1800 meters. The sword bean thrives on many tropical soils and tolerates nutrient-poor, acidic soils as well as alkaline soils in a pH range of 4.3 to 7.1. It is sensitive to water build-up in the ground.

Average composition
green pods dry
green beans
Calorific value in kJ ( kcal ) per 100 g 1,340 (320) 1,530 (375)
Water in% fresh mass 89.2 14.4
Crude protein in% dry matter 2.8 23.7 27.1
Raw fat in% dry matter 0.2 1.8 0.6
Carbohydrates in% dry matter 7.3 56.1 53.8
Crude fiber in% dry matter 1.5 13.2 11.6
Ash in% dry matter 0.5 5.2 3.6


The seeds contain toxins ( Concanavalin A and B), which must be neutralized by suitable soaking and cooking before consumption. Canatoxin is also included.

The raw protein content of the beans is relatively high and the fat content is very low.

Every 100 g of fresh legumes contain 33 mg Ca, 66 mg P, 1.2 mg Fe, 40 IU vitamin A, 0.2 mg thiamine, 0.1 mg riboflavin, 2 mg niacin and 32 mg ascorbic acid. Every 100 g of dry seeds contain 158 mg Ca, 298 mg P, 7.0 mg Fe, 0.8 mg thiamine, 1.8 mg riboflavin and 1 mg ascorbic acid.


The legumes and seeds are eaten. Canavalia gladiata is used for green manure, as a ground cover and as fodder.

The yields of green matter and forage are between 40 and 50 tons per hectare and the bean yields are stated at 7 to 9 quintals per hectare.

The green, 10 to 15 cm long legumes are harvested 3 to 4 months after sowing, before they are thick and hard due to the development of the grains. The grain ripens 5 to 10 months after sowing.

The young legumes are cooked like green beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris ) , especially in tropical Asia . The fully formed, still fresh green seeds are eaten cooked like Vicia faba . The legumes are not as popular as Phaseolus vulgaris because of their strong taste and thick, firm skin . Fully ripened dry seeds should be eaten with caution as they are slightly poisonous; this is minimized by soaking, changing the cooking water, washing up or fermenting . White seeds are said to have a better taste than colored ones. Flowers and young leaves are brewed and used for flavoring.

In Cuba the seeds are used as a coffee substitute.

Pink seeds are sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Japan and Korea Canavalia gladiata is used for various diseases. In Korea a soap is made with sword bean extracts to treat acne , for example .

The urease extract from sword beans is used in analytical laboratories.

Plant diseases

The sword bean is quite resistant to plant diseases. The most dangerous fungal disease is caused by Colletotrichum lindemuthianum . The sword bean is a host for the Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV). The Canavalia species are known to reduce nematode populations. It is susceptible to the soybean cyst nematode ( Heterodera glycines ), but this pest has not yet been detected in Africa. The main pests are Spodoptera frugiperda and beetle grubs, which drill into the shoot axes. Sword bean seeds are quite resilient to stored food pests and diseases.


It is reported that the sword bean leaves can have fungicidal effects. Accordingly, it has been observed that when leaf cutter ants bring leaves into their burrow, their “mushroom garden” is damaged and the brood is destroyed for several months. For example, there is a recommendation to control ants and termites to spread fresh sword bean leaves on their burrows.


In some African countries, Canavalia gladiata is sometimes a fetish plant.

Common names

Trivial names in other languages ​​are:

  • English: Scimitar-bean, Sword-bean, Scimitar bean, Jamaican horse bean Sword bean, Japanese jackbean, jack bean, sword jackbean, sword-bean, horse bean
  • French: Dolic en saber, Pois saber, Pois saber rouge, Haricot saber, Pois sabre de la Jamaïque, Pois de l'Inde, Dolique saber fève Jacques
  • Portuguese: feijão-de-porco (Brazil), Feijão espada, Fava-contra
  • Spanish: Haba de burro, Carabanz, frijol café (Cuba), frijol de machete (Cuba), bejuco de bibijaguas (Cuba), frijol de bibijagua (Cuba), poroto sable (Latin America), haba blanca (Mexico), haba de caballo (Mexico)
  • Swedish: svärdböna
  • Danish: Sabelbønne, Svaerdbønne
  • Dutch: Zwaardboon
  • Arabic: Fûl hindî
  • Chinese: 刀豆 Dao dou (also the name in traditional Chinese medicine)
  • Japanese: Nata mame, Nata mame, な た ま め Nata mame, 鉈 豆 Nata mame
  • Malaysian: Kacang parang (Kachang parang), Kacang polong, Kacang parasman (Indonesia), Kara pedang, Koas bakol, kasa pedang
  • Lao: Khùa, 'khao' khièo
  • Tagalog: Habas
  • Thai: Thua phraa (Thua phra)
  • Visayan: Magtambokau
  • Khmer: Tioeuhs
  • Swahili: mbwanda, Mwingasiafu
  • Hindi: बडाबीन bara sem, लालकादसुमबल lal kadsumbal
  • Ethiopian: dir-daguer
  • Thai: thua-phra
  • Philippines: habas (Tagalog), magtambokau (Bisaya)
  • Madagascar: Morataitra

See also


Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Trivial names at MH Porcher et al .: Multilingual Multiscripted Plant Name Database = MMPND.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Walter H. Schuster, Joachim Alkämper, Richard Marquard & Adolf Stählin: Legumes for grain use: Grain legumes of the world , Justus Liebig University Gießen, 1998 .: Walter H. Schuster: Information on sword bean ( Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC. ).
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa from data sheet at PROTA4u = Plant Resources of Tropical Africa . ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.prota4u.info
  4. a b c d e f g h i Delin Wu & Mats Thulin: Canavalia : Canavalia gladiata , p. 198 - online with the same text as the printed work , In: Wu Zheng-yi, Peter H. Raven & Deyuan Hong (eds.): Flora of China , Volume 10 - Fabaceae , Science Press and Missouri Botanical Garden Press, Beijing and St. Louis, 2010. ISBN 978-1-930723-91-7
  5. Jacquin scanned in 1788 at biodiversitylibrary.org .
  6. DC. Scanned in 1825 at biodiversitylibrary.org .
  7. a b Canavalia gladiata at Tropicos.org. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, accessed January 24, 2014.
  8. a b c d e f Canavalia gladiata in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved January 24, 2014.

Web links

Commons : Sword Bean ( Canavalia gladiata )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files