Fine Art

Lablab purpureus

Lablab purpureus, Photo: Michael Lahanas

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: Phaseolinae
Genus: Lablab
Species: Lablab purpureus
Subspecies: L. p. subsp. bengalensis – L. p. subsp. purpureus – L. p. subsp. uncinatus

Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet (1826)

Dolichos purpureus L., Sp. Pl., ed. 2, 2: 1021–1022. 1763.

Native distribution areas:

Continental: Tropical & S. Africa, Madagascar, India
Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Central African Repu, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Free State, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe
Introduced into:
Andaman Is., Ascension, Assam, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Bolivia, Borneo, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Cambodia, Canary Is., Cayman Is., Chad, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Christmas I., Colombia, Cook Is., Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Easter Is., Ecuador, Fiji, Galápagos, Guatemala, Gulf of Guinea Is., Hainan, Haiti, Iraq, Jamaica, Jawa, Korea, Laccadive Is., Laos, Lebanon-Syria, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico Southwest, Myanmar, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Guinea, New South Wales, New York, Nicobar Is., Niger, Niue, Norfolk Is., North Caucasus, Northern Territory, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Réunion, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sumatera, Thailand, Tonga, Transcaucasus, Trinidad-Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Western Australia, Windward Is., Yemen

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

Primary references

Sweet, R. 1826. Sweet’s Hortus Britannicus: or a catalogue of plants cultivated in the gardens of Great Britain, arranged in natural orders. 492 pp. in 2 parts, London: J. Ridgway. Part I (pp. 1–240) Part II (pp. 241–492) Reference page. : 1: 481.

Additional references

von Raab-Straube, E. & Raus, T. (eds.) (2019). Euro+Med-Checklist Notulae, 9 Willdenowia 48: 195-220.
Balkrishna, A. (2018). Flora of Morni Hills (Research & Possibilities): 1-581. Divya Yoga Mandir Trust.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2021. Lablab purpureus in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 May 18. Reference page.
International Plant Names Index. 2021. Lablab purpureus. Published online. Accessed: May 18 2021. 2021. Lablab purpureus. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published on the internet. Accessed: 2021 May 18.
Hassler, M. 2021. Lablab purpureus. 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 on the internet. Accessed: 2021 May 18. Reference page.
Hassler, M. 2021. World Plants. Synonymic Checklist and Distribution of the World Flora. . Lablab purpureus. Accessed: 18 May 2021.
USDA, ARS, Germplasm Resources Information Network. Lablab purpureus in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Accessed: 07-Oct-06.

Vernacular names
dansk: Hjelmbønne
Deutsch: Faselbohne
English: Hyacinth bean
suomi: Hyasinttipapu
Nederlands: hyacintboon
svenska: hjälmböna
தமிழ்: அவரை
Tagalog: bataw\\Lablab purpureus is a species of bean in the family Fabaceae. It is native to Africa and it is cultivated throughout the tropics for food.[2] English language common names include hyacinth bean,[3] lablab-bean[4] bonavist bean/pea, dolichos bean, seim bean, lablab bean, Egyptian kidney bean, Indian bean, bataw and Australian pea.[5] It is the only species in the monotypic genus Lablab.[2][6]


The plant is variable due to extensive breeding in cultivation, but in general, they are annual or short-lived perennial vines. The wild species is perennial. The thick stems can reach six meters in length. The leaves are made up of three pointed leaflets each up to 15 centimeters long. They may be hairy on the undersides. The inflorescence is made up of racemes of many flowers. Some cultivars have white flowers, and others may have purplish or blue.[2] The fruit is a legume pod variable in shape, size, and color. It is usually several centimeters long and bright purple to pale green.[7] It contains up to four seeds. The seeds are white, brown, red, or black depending on the cultivar, sometimes with a white hilum. Wild plants have mottled seeds. The seed is about a centimeter long.[2]
Common names

Other common names include Tonga bean, papaya bean, poor man bean (Australia), Seim (Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname), shim (Bangladesh), njahe or njahi[8] (Kenya) and butter bean (Caribbean)[9]
Subspecific classification

According to the British biologist and taxonomist Bernard Verdcourt,[10]

there are two cultivated subspecies of Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet:

Lablab purpureus subsp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Verdc. (Syn.: Dolichos bengalensis Jacq., Dolichos lablab subsp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Rivals, Lablab niger subsp. bengalensis (Jacq.) Cuf.)
Lablab purpureus subsp. purpureus

in addition to one wild subspecies:

Lablab purpureus subsp. uncinatus

of which a special variant with lobed leaflets exists only in Namibia:

Lablab purpureus var. rhomboïdeus (Schinz).


The hyacinth bean is an old domesticated pulse and multi-purpose crop.[11][12][13] L. purpureus has been cultivated in India as early as 2500 BC.[14]

Due to seed availability of one forage cultivar (cv. Rongai), it is often grown as forage for livestock[15] and as an ornamental plant.[16] In addition, it is cited both as a medicinal plant and a poisonous plant.[17][18]

The fruit and beans are edible if boiled well with several changes of the water.[18][19] Otherwise, they are toxic due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides, glycosides that are converted to hydrogen cyanide when consumed. Signs of poisoning include weakness, vomiting, dyspnea, twitching, stupor, and convulsions.[18] It has been shown that there is a wide range of cyanogenic potential among the varieties.[20]

The leaves are eaten raw or cooked like spinach.[13] The flowers can be eaten raw or steamed. The root can be boiled or baked for food. The seeds are used to make tofu and tempeh.[7]
Food in South Asia

In India lablab is called ′Surti Papdi′ (in Gujarati).[21] In Bangladesh and West Bengal, the green pods along with the beans, known as Sheem (শিম), are cooked as vegetables or cooked with fish as a curry.

In Kerala, it is known as Amarakka, Avara or Amara Payar (Malayalam: അമര പയർ ).[22] The beans as well as the bean pods are used in cooking curries.[23] The bean pods are also used (along with spices) for preparing a stir-fried dish known as Thoran.[24]

In Tamil Nadu, it is called Avarai or Avaraikkaay (Tamil: அவரைக்காய் / அவரை).[25] The entire bean is used in cooking dry curries[26] and in sauces/gravies such as sambar.[27] The seed alone is used in many recipes and is referred to as mochai (Tamil: மொச்சை / மொச்சைக்கொட்டை).[28]

In Maharashtra, dry preparations with green masala are often made out of these green beans (Ghevda varieties; Shravan ghevda (French beans), Bajirao Ghevda, Ghevda, Walwar, Pavta sheng) mostly at the end of monsoon season during fasting festivals of Shravan month.

In Karnataka, the hyacinth bean is made into curry (avarekalu saaru)(Kannada: ಅವರೆಕಾಳು ಸಾರು), salad (avarekaalu usli), added to upma (avrekaalu uppittu), and as a flavoring to Akki rotti. Sometimes the outer peel of the seed is removed and the inner soft part is used for a variety of dishes. This form is called hitakubele avarekalu, which means "pressed (hitaku) hyacinth bean," and a curry known as Hitikida Avarekaalu Saaru is made out of the deskinned beans.

In Telangana and Andra Pradesh, the bean pods are cut into small pieces and cooked as spicy curry in Pongal festival season. Sometimes the outer peel of the seed when tender and soaked overnight is removed and the inner soft part is used for a variety of dishes. This form is called pitakapappu hanupa/anapa, which means "pressed (pitaku) hyacinth bean, and a curry known as Pitikida Anapaginjala Chaaru is made from the deskinned beans and eaten along with bajra bread; it has been a very special delicacy for centuries.
Food in Southeast and East Asia

In Huế, Vietnam, hyacinth beans are the main ingredient of the dish chè đậu ván (Hyacinth Bean Sweet Soup).[29]

In China, the seeds are known as Bai Bian Dou. They are usually dried and baked before being used in traditional Chinese herbal remedies to strengthen the spleen, reduce heat and dampness, and promote appetite.[30]
Food tradition in East Africa

In Kenya, the bean, known as njahe or njahi,[31] is popular among several communities, especially the Kikuyu. Seasons were actually based on it, i.e., the Season of Njahe (Kīmera kīa njahī). It is thought to encourage lactation and has historically been the main dish for breastfeeding mothers.[32] Beans are boiled and mashed with ripe and/or semi-ripe bananas, giving the dish a sweet taste. Today the production is in decline in eastern Africa.[32][33] This is partly attributed to the fact that under colonial rule in Kenya, farmers were forced to give up their local bean in order to produce common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) for export.[34]
Medicinal use

Taiwanese research found that a carbohydrate-binding protein from the edible Lablab beans effectively blocks the infections of influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2.[35]




Further reading

Devaraj, V. Rangaiah (2016). "Hyacinth bean: A gem among legumes. State of the art in Lablab purpureus research" (PDF). Legume Perspectives. 13 (2016–07): 1–42.
Fakhoury, A. M.; Woloshuk, C. P. (2001). "Inhibition of Growth of Aspergillus flavusand Fungal α-Amylases by a Lectin-Like Protein from Lablab purpureus". Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. 14 (8): 955–61. doi:10.1094/MPMI.2001.14.8.955. PMID 11497467.
Hendricksen, R.; Minson, D. J. (2009). "The feed intake and grazing behaviour of cattle grazing a crop of Lablab purpureus cv. Rongai". The Journal of Agricultural Science. 95 (3): 547–54. doi:10.1017/S0021859600087955.
Hendricksen, RE; Poppi, DP; Minson, DJ (1981). "The voluntary intake, digestibility and retention time by cattle and sheep of stem and leaf fractions of a tropical legume (Lablab purpureus)". Australian Journal of Agricultural Research. 32 (2): 389–98. doi:10.1071/AR9810389.
Humphry, E; Konduri, V; Lambrides, J; Magner, T; McIntyre, L; Aitken, B; Liu, J (2002). "Development of a mungbean (Vigna radiata) RFLP linkage map and its comparison with lablab (Lablab purpureus) reveals a high level of colinearity between the two genomes". Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 105 (1): 160–6. doi:10.1007/s00122-002-0909-1. PMID 12582573. S2CID 19420328.
Liu, C. J. (1996). "Genetic diversity and relationships among Lablab purpureus genotypes evaluated using RAPD as markers". Euphytica. 90 (1): 115–9. doi:10.1007/BF00025167. S2CID 31881073.
Maass, Brigitte L. (2006). "Changes in seed morphology, dormancy and germination from wild to cultivated germplasm of the hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet)". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 53 (6): 1127–35. doi:10.1007/s10722-005-2782-7. S2CID 27644011.
Maass, Brigitte L.; Jamnadass, Ramni H.; Hanson, Jean; Pengelly, Bruce C. (2005). "Determining sources of diversity in cultivated and wild Lablab purpureus related to provenance of germplasm using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP)". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 52 (5): 683–95. doi:10.1007/s10722-003-6019-3. S2CID 44040763.
Maass, Brigitte L.; Robotham, Oliver; Chapman, Marc A. (2017). "Evidence for two domestication events of hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet): a comparative analysis of population genetic data" (PDF). Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 64 (6): 1221–30. doi:10.1007/s10722-016-0431-y. S2CID 10921988.
Maass, Brigitte L.; Usongo, Macalister F. (2007). "Changes in seed characteristics during the domestication of the lablab bean (Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet: Papilionoideae)". Australian Journal of Agricultural Research. 58 (1): 9–19. doi:10.1071/ar05059.
Pengelly, Bruce C.; Maass, Brigitte L. (2001). "Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet – diversity, potential use and determination of a core collection of this multi-purpose tropical legume". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 48 (3): 261–72. doi:10.1023/A:1011286111384. S2CID 11125153.
Trinick, M. J. (1980). "Relationships Amongst the Fast-growing Rhizobia of Lablab purpureus, Leucaena leucocephala, Mimosa spp., Acacia farnesiana and Sesbania grandiflora and their Affinities with Other Rhizobial Groups". Journal of Applied Bacteriology. 49 (1): 39–53. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2672.1980.tb01042.x.
Vanlauwe, B.; Nwoke, O.C.; Diels, J.; Sanginga, N.; Carsky, R.J.; Deckers, J.; Merckx, R. (2000). "Utilization of rock phosphate by crops on a representative toposequence in the Northern Guinea savanna zone of Nigeria: Response by Mucuna pruriens, Lablab purpureus and maize". Soil Biology and Biochemistry. 32 (14): 2063–77. doi:10.1016/S0038-0717(00)00149-8.


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BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
Lablab purpureus L. (Sweet). University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India.
Lablab purpureus, general information. University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, India.
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Verdcourt, Bernard (1970). "LablabAdans. In: Studies in the Leguminosae-Papilionoideae for the 'Flora of Tropical East Africa': III". Kew Bulletin. 24 (3): 409–11. JSTOR 4102845.
Smartt, John (1985). "Evolution of grain legumes. II. Old and new world pulses of lesser economic importance". Experimental Agriculture. 21 (3): 1–18. doi:10.1017/S0014479700012205.
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"PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa)". Archived from the original on 2016-01-10.
Pearman, Georgina (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 144. ISBN 0415927463.
Lablab purpureus. Archived 2005-01-30 at the Wayback Machine Grassland Species Profiles. Food and Agriculture Organization.
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Lablab purpureus. Plants for a Future. Archived December 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
Dolichos lablab (Lablab purpureus). Archived 2007-04-10 at the Wayback Machine Poisonous Plants of North Carolina. North Carolina State University.
"Lablab bean/Indian Bean/Avarakkai". Local Seeds. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
*Guretzki, Sebastian; Papenbrock, Jutta (2014). "Characterization of Lablab purpureus Regarding drought tolerance, trypsin inhibitor activity and cyanogenic potential for selection in breeding programmes". Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science. 200 (1): 24–35. doi:10.1111/jac.12043.
Melvyn Reggie Thomas (Jan 12, 2017). "Olpad farmers revive farming of Surti papdi". The Times of India. Retrieved 2019-11-20.
Nair, Manu (2014-01-01). "papanasini: AMARA PAYAR ( അമര പയർ )". papanasini. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
"Amarapayar Curry (Snowpeas Curry)". Retrieved 2018-11-14.
"Amara Thoran". Nammude Ruchikal. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
"Vegetable names in Tamil and English". Learn Tamil Online. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
Amit, Dassana (2019-02-06). "avarakkai poriyal | avarakkai recipe". Dassana Amit Recipes. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
"Avarakkai Sambar | Broad Beans Sambar | Easy Sambar Recipe". Revi's Foodography. 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
"Mochai Kottai Kootu Recipe-Field Beans Kootu". Padhuskitchen. 2019-01-10. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
Vietnamese Food Team. "Hyacinth Bean Sweet Soup Recipe (Chè Đậu Ván)". Vietnamese Food. Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
"Hyacinth bean (bai bian dou)". Acupuncture Today. February 2019. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
"The Njahi Wars: Behind Kenya's Controversial Black Bean". Serious Eats. Retrieved 2021-05-15.
Maundu, Patrick M.; Ngugi, G. W.; Kabuye, Christine H. S. (1999). Traditional food plants of Kenya. National Museums of Kenya, English Press, Nairobi, Kenya.
Maass, Brigitte L.; Knox, Maggie R.; Venkatesha, S. C.; Angessa, Tefera Tolera; Ramme, Stefan; Pengelly, Bruce C. (2010). "Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet – a crop lost for Africa?". Tropical Plant Biology. 3 (3): 123–35. doi:10.1007/s12042-010-9046-1. PMC 2933844. PMID 20835399.
Robertson, Claire C. (1997). "Black, white, and red all over: Beans, women, and agricultural imperialism in twentieth-century Kenya". Agricultural History. 71 (3): 259–99.
"A carbohydrate-binding protein from the edible Lablab beans effectively blocks the infections of influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2". CellReports.

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