Edited by Ho Dinh Hai Long An - Vietnam Updated: 08/08/2015
1- Introduction to the Family Fabaceae - Bean family or Legume
1.1- Overview TheFabaceaeorLeguminosae,commonly known as thelegume,pea, orbean family, are a large and economically importantfamilyoff lowering plants. It includestrees,shrubs, and perennialorannualherbaceous plants, which are easily recognized by theirfruit(legume) and their compound,stipulatedleaves. Fabaceae, which is the third largest family among the angiosperms after Orchidaceae (orchidfamily) and Asteraceae(aster family), consists of about 730 genera and about 20,000 species of trees, shrubs, vines, and herbs and is worldwide in distribution. The group of legume speciesis widely distributed and is the third-largestland plantfamily in terms of number of species, behind only the OrchidaceaeandAsteraceae, with 630 genera and over 18,860 species.The five largest of the 630 legume genera areAstragalus(over 2,000 species),Acacia(over 1000 species),Indigofera(around 700 species),Crotalaria(around 700 species), andMimosa(around 500 species), which constitute about a quarter of all legume species. About 18,000legume speciesare known, amounting to about 7% of flowering plant species.Fabaceae is the most common family found in tropical rainforests and in dry forests in theAmericasandAfrica. Recent molecular and morphological evidence supports the fact that the Fabaceae is a single monophyleticfamily.This point of view has been supported not only by the degree of interrelation shown by different groups within the family compared with that found among the Leguminosae and their closest relations, but also by all the recentphylogenetic studiesbased onDNA sequences.These studies confirm that the Leguminosae are a monophyletic group that is closely related with thePolygalaceae,Surianaceae andQuillajaceaefamilies and that they belong to the orderFabales. Along with thecereals, somefruitsand tropical roots a number of Leguminosae have been a staple human food for millennia and their use is closely related tohuman evolution. A number are important agricultural and food plants, including Glycine max (soybean), Phaseolus (beans), Pisum sativum (pea), Cicer arietinum (chickpeas), Medicago sativa (alfalfa), Arachis hypogaea (peanut), Lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea), Ceratonia siliqua (carob), and Glycyrrhiza glabra (liquorice). A number of species are also weedy pests in different parts of the world, including: Cytisus scoparius (broom), Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust),Ulex europaeus(gorse), Pueraria lobata (kudzu), and a number of Lupinus species.