Giant Butterbeans

Canavalia gladiata: Sword Bean

Large vines may be used for ground cover and soil stabilization.

What’s this bean !  
…off the giant’s beanstalk?

No, it’s a Canavalia.

Canavalias are large, climbing, trifoliate vines producing blocky, but long (1 foot or longer) pods. Use of the plant is limited. One vine may cover 400 sq. ft. There is some mention of stock feed and some say the very young 3‐4" pods are good when used as snap beans. There are some reports of mild toxicity if eaten, in large quantity. If you must eat them, try boiling pods or seeds twice.

Most commonly seen species is the gladiata (Jacq.). Its seeds are dark red‐pinklight brown. The hilum of the seed is more than half the length of the seed. C. gladiate is known as the Sword bean.

A similar bean is C. ensiformis (L.) also known as Jack bean, Horse bean, Chickasaw lima, Wonder bean, stock bean, Mole bean, Pearson bean, Go‐Ta‐Ki, Watanka, etc. This bean has creamy white‐light tan seed. The hilum of C. ensiformis is smaller ‐ 1/3 as long as the seed. Fresh immature seeds are thought to be toxic.

Both these beans should probably be used only for ornamental or ground cover purposes.

Thomas J. Koske, Ph.D.

Professor (Horticulture, retired)

8/28/2009 1:47:21 AM
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