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Canavalia ensiformis

Canavalia ensiformis (*)

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Fabales

Familia: Fabaceae
Subfamilia: Faboideae
Tribus: Phaseoleae
Subtribus: Diocleinae
Genus: Canavalia
Species: Canavalia ensiformis

Canavalia ensiformis (L.) DC., 1825

Canavalia ensiformis var. truncata Ricker
Canavalia ensiformis var. albida DC.
Canavalia ensiformis var. truncata Ricker, Castanea 11: 56 (1946)
Canavalia stocksii Dalzell & A.Gibson, Bomb. Fl. 69 (1861)
Clitoria brasiliana Vell., Fl. Flum. 312
Dolichos acinaciformis Jacq., Coll. 1: 114 (1786)
Dolichos cienkowskii Schweinf. & Asch., Schweinf. Beitr. Fl. Aethiop. 256 (1867)
Dolichos cultratus Wight ex Steud., Nom. ed. II. 1: 523 (1840)
Dolichos ensiformis L., Sp. Pl. 2: 725-726 (1753)
Dolichos mutabilis Salisb., Prod. 334 (1796)
Dolichos pugioniformis Raeusch., Nomencl. Bot. (Raeusch.) 209 (1797)
Malocchia ensiformis (L.) Savi, Nuov. Giorn. Pisa 8: 113 (1824)
Phaseolus virosus Bojer
Psophocarpus cienkowskii Schweinf. & Asch. ex Baker fil., Legum. Trop. Afr. 384 (1929)

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Northern America
Regional: Southern USA
Alabama, Arizona, District of Columbia, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma
Continental: Southern America
Regional: Brasil
Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil North, Brazil Southeast, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Leeward Is., Mexico Gulf, Mexico Northeast, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad-Tobago, Uruguay, Windward Is.
Introduced into:
Andaman Is., Angola, Assam, Bangladesh, Benin, Borneo, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Central African Repu, Chad, China Southeast, Congo, East Himalaya, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Florida, French Guiana, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Guyana, Hainan, Illinois, India, Ivory Coast, Jawa, Kenya, Korea, KwaZulu-Natal, Laos, Lesser Sunda Is., Liberia, Malaya, Maldives, Mali, Maluku, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Philippines, Queensland, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Society Is., Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Suriname, Taiwan, Tanzania, Texas, Togo, Tonga, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe
Doubtfully present in:
Guyana, Texas

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

De Candolle, A.P. 1825. Prodromus systematis naturalis regni vegetabilis, sive enumeratio contracta ordinum, generum, specierumque plantarum huc usque cognitarum, juxta methodi naturalis normas digesta. Pars 2: Sistens Calyciflorarum ordines X. 644 pp. Treuttel et Würtz, Parisiis [Paris]. BHL Reference page. : 2:404.

Additional references

Villaseñor, J.L. 2016. Checklist of the native vascular plants of Mexico. Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 87: 559–902. DOI: 10.1016/j.rmb.2016.06.017 Online PDF Reference page.
Moteetee, A.N. (2016). Canavalia (Phaseoleae, Fabaceae) species in South Africa: naturalised and indigenous South African Journal of Botany 103: 6-16.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Canavalia ensiformis in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2021 May 14. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Canavalia ensiformis. Published online. Accessed: May 14 2021. 2021. Canavalia ensiformis. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 14 May 2021.
Hassler, M. 2021. Canavalia ensiformis. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2021. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published online. Accessed: 2021 May 14. Reference page.
Hassler, M. 2021. World Plants. Synonymic Checklist and Distribution of the World Flora. . Canavalia ensiformis. Accessed: 14 May 2021.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Canavalia ensiformis in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
Afrikaans: Jackboon
Deutsch: Jackbohne, Schwertbohne, Madagaskarbohne

Ελληνικά: Φασόλια της Μαδαγασκάρης

English: wonderbean, Sword bean, Jack bean, Horse bean
español: Judia sable, Canavalia, Judia de puerco, Judia de caballo
français: Haricot de Madagascar, Haricot sabre
日本語: タチナタマメ
한국어: 작두콩
português: Feijão-de-porco, Feijao sabre, Feijao de porco, Feijao bravo
русский: Канавалия мечевидная
中文: 關刀豆, 尖萼刀豆

Canavalia ensiformis (jack bean) is a legume which is used for animal fodder and human nutrition, especially in Brazil where it is called feijão-de-porco ("pig bean"). It is also the source of concanavalin A.


C. ensiformis is a twining plant up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) in height. It has deep roots, which makes it drought resistant. The plant can spread via long runners. The flowers are pink-purple in colour. The pods are up to 36 centimetres (14 in) long with large white seeds.

The plant is not in large-scale commercial cultivation. The beans are mildly toxic, and copious consumption should be avoided. Boiling will, however, remove toxicity if done properly. Young foliage is also edible. The whole plant is used for fodder, although it cannot be used in fodder mixtures containing urea, since it contains large quantities of the enzyme urease, which liberates harmful ammonia from urea. For this reason C. ensiformis has been investigated as a potential source of the urease enzyme. It is also the source of concanavalin A, a lectin used in biotechnology applications, such as lectin affinity chromatography.

As a garden plant, it can grow to over 2 meters, provided it gets enough nutrients, rich soil, sun and warmth. It grows therefore in rich soil, or use extra nutrients, in a sunny warm place.

C. ensiformis has numerous names in English. They include many that are misleading or ambiguous, being derived from comparing the common jack bean to plants with similar seeds or fruit: they thrive in warm, sunny, places with much water or rain.

Brazilian broad bean
"Coffee bean"
Chickasaw lima bean
Ensiform bean
"Horse bean" (usually applied to Vicia faba)
"Jack bean" (also applied to other species in the genus Canavalia)
Mole bean
Overlook bean [2]
Pearson bean
"Sword bean" (usually applied to Canavalia gladiata)
Wonder bean


"Canavalia ensiformis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 26 March 2009.
Hedrick, U.P., ed. (1919). "Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants. Report of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station for the Year 1919 II". Archived from the original on 2008-12-10. Retrieved 18 March 2009.

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