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Canavalia gladiata - (Jacq.) DC.

Common Name Sword Bean
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The mature seeds contain toxic alkaloids. These can be destroyed by thoroughly boiling the seeds twice in salt water[300 ].
Habitats Not known in the wild.
Range Tropical Asia and Africa.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Canavalia gladiata Sword Bean

Canavalia gladiata Sword Bean


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Canavalia gladiata is a ANNUAL/PERENNIAL growing to 10 m (32ft) by 0.3 m (1ft in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Canavalia incurva Thouars Canavalia machaeroides (DC.) Steud. Canavalia maxima Thouars Dolichos gladiatus Jacq. Dolichos incurvus Thunb. Malocchia gladiate (Jacq.) Savi

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses:

Young seedpods - raw or more commonly cooked and used as a vegetable[300 , 418 ]. The pod is 20 - 30cm long and 2cm wide[300 ]. Seeds - cooked[300 ]. Thorough boiling is necessary in order to destroy a toxic alkaloid[300 ]. The seedcoats are often removed, then the seeds are cooked in two or three changes of water[299 , 418 ]. Large pods, 30-45cm long, are produced towards the end of summer and the seed gradually swell for several weeks (they fatten much more slowly than peas). It requires practice to identify when they’re fully matured, otherwise you don’t get much food from a pod. A haricot bean alternative!

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiasthmatic  Antihaemorrhoidal  Antiinflammatory  Antitussive  Cancer  Dysentery  Epilepsy  Skin  

Urease is extracted from the seed; it is used in clinical laboratories for the in-vitro determination of urea in human blood[299 ]. In Korea it is used in the treatment of vomiting, abdominal dropsy, kidney-related lumbago, asthma, obesity, stomach-ache, dysentery, coughs, headache, intercostal neuralgia, epilepsy, schizophrenia, inflammatory diseases and swellings[299 ]. A soap is marketed there which is based on extracts of sword bean; it is used for the treatment of athlete’s foot and acne[299 ]. In Japan it is effective in treating ozena, haemorrhoids, pyorrhoea, otitis media, boils and cancers, all kinds of inflammatory diseases and atopic dermatitis[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Green manure  Soap making

The plant is sometimes grown as a green manure crop or as a temporary ground cover[418 ]. Other Uses: As an ornamental climber on fences and houses (but short lived). It is believed to repel snakes. The seed is used as feed for cattle and chicken, but if eaten in considerable quantity dry seeds may cause poisoning (Bosch, 2004).

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Ground Cover  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein

Grows well in lowland tropical areas, succeeding at elevations up to 1,500 metres[300 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range15 - 30c, but can tolerate 12 - 36c[418 ]. The foliage can not tolerate frost, but any mature beans remain unaffected[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 800 - 1,800mm, but tolerates 600 - 2,600mm[418 ]. An easily grown plant, it is not fussy about soil type or fertility, though it prefers a soil rich in organic matter[300 ]. Tolerates some salinity in the soil[299 ]. Plants are shade tolerant[300 ]. A deep rooted plant, it is drought resistant when established and can also tolerate some waterlogging[299 , 300 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 6, tolerating 4.3 - 7.5[418 ]. Young pods can be harvested about 3 - 5 months after sowing, the mature seeds in 6 - 10 months[300 ]. Average yields of dry seed are about 0.7 - 1.5 tonnes/ha, while the optimum is 4.6 tonnes/ha[300 , 418 ]. 40- 5 0 tonnes/ha of green manure/green vegetation can be obtained[418 ]. A short day plant, often developing a bushy habit, but more commonly a climbing plant[300 ]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200 ]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Protein  (16+ percent protein, 0-15 percent oil). Annuals include beans, chickpeas, lentils, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Perennials include perennial beans, nuts, leaf protein concentrates, and edible milks.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ, placing the seeds 2 - 3cm deep in the soil[300 ]. The seed germinates in about 72 hours[300 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Abai, Abbo, Alad, Baikang, Bara sem, Carabanz, Chemma kaaya, Dau-rua, Habas, Jangli Sem, Kacang parasman, Kacang polong, Kachang hantu, Kachang nyonya, Kachang parang, Kaos parasman, Kara pedang, Kara wedung, Koas bakol, Lal kadsumbal, Magtambokau, Makhan shim, Naga sem, Nam-nawbaw, Namtaipee, Pe-dalet, Pe-dama, Pe-damouk, Pe-det, Pe-gale, Pe-naung-ni, Rar bu-shot kwen-e, Sanndaek triehs, Segapu thambattai, Sem, Shembi avare, Tarvardi, Thampattai, Thua phraa, Tioeuhs, Tua pra, Tumbekai, Yerra tamma.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Argentina, Asia, Australia, Benin, Brazil, Burundi, Cambodia, Central Africa, Central America, China, Congo DR, Cuba, East Africa, Fiji, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guianas, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Panama, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Paraguay, Philippines, SE Asia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, USA, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Grow 4-7m high in one season, but they are considered not invasive as they’re not a reliably perennial. They can be cut back hard in autumn, Plants often die in winter.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Jacq.) DC.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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