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Entada phaseoloides - (L.) Merr.

Common Name St. Thomas Bean
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The plant is poisonous[ 266 ]. The seeds and bark have been used in many countries as a fish poison[ 520 ].
Habitats Found in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from freshwater swamp and inland from the mangrove up to montane forest, at elevations up to 900 metres, occasionally to 1,700 metres[ 310 ].
Range E. Asia - southern China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines to the Pacific Islands.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Entada phaseoloides St. Thomas Bean

Entada phaseoloides St. Thomas Bean


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Entada phaseoloides or commonly known as St. Thomas Bean is an evergreen, woody plant that climbs and has a flattened and spiral stem. It can be 100 m long and 18 cm in diameter. It can be found in tropical and subtropical areas in East Asia. The flowers are yellowish white and form on a long spike in the leaf axils. The leaves have long leaf stalks. Medicinally, the plant is used against rheumatic joint and muscle pains, respiratory ailments, hernia, fish poisoning, gonorrhoea, various skin ailments, ulcers, headache, colic, etc. The plant can be poisonous thus consumption must be cautious. Seeds are soaked and roasted prior to eating. Roasted seeds are used as a coffee substitute. The seeds also yield edible oil that can also be used as a fuel and for illuminant oil in lamps. Young leaves can be eaten as a vegetable. The plant is rich in saponins and is used for washing the hair and as detergent. It can be grown from seed but the seed has a hard seed coat that needs to be cut prior to sowing.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of climber
Entada phaseoloides is an evergreen Climber growing to 30 m (98ft) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
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. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Acacia scandens Willd. Entada rumphii Scheff. Entada scandens (L.) Benth. Entada tonkinensis Gagnep.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Sap  Seed
Edible Uses: Coffee  Drink  Oil

All the following reports need to be treated with care since there is also a report that the plant is poisonous[ 266 ]. The soaked and roasted seeds are eaten[ 46 , 317 ]. Although poisonous raw, the seeds can be rendered edible by prolonged soaking and roasting[ 520 ]. The seeds are edible cooked. They are eaten after roasting, baking, grinding, and immersing in running water for 10-12 hours. They contain two saponins. The leaves are eaten both raw and cooked. The dark brown seeds are 4 - 6cm in diameter[ 266 ]. The roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute[ 520 ]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[ 317 ]. Young leaves are eaten as vegetable[ 46 , 317 ]. A sap exuding from the cut branches is used as a drink[ 317 ].

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.
Antirheumatic  Contraceptive  Pectoral  Poultice  Skin

The juice of the stem is drunk to relieve rheumatic joint and muscle pains, and to treat respiratory ailments[ 310 ]. A decoction of the stem is drunk for the treatment of hernia, fish poisoning and gonorrhoea[ 310 ]. The saponin content of the stems make them useful as a wash to treat a range of skin disorders[ 310 ]. The juice of the roots is given for ulcers, abdominal muscle spasms and headaches[ 310 ]. The fruits are regarded as a contraceptive[ 713 ]. The kernels of the seeds are mashed and used for poultices for children having colic[ 345 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Beads  Containers  Fibre  Fuel  Hair  Musical  Oil  Soap  String  Tannin

Other Uses: A fatty oil is obtained from the seed. It is used as a fuel and for an illuminant oil in lamps[ 317 ]. The large seeds are used as beads in necklaces etc[ 520 ]. Cut in half, the empty seed-coats can be used to make leg-rattles for dancers[ 520 ]. The seeds are also used in games, as baby teethers, and as match boxes[ 520 ]. The hollowed out seeds have also been used to make snuff boxes[ 372 ]. Fibres from the bark are manufactured into ropes, sails and nets[ 46 , 317 ]. The whole plant is rich in saponins and is used for washing the hair, as a detergent etc[ 46 , 317 ]. The vine is cut into lengths of about 50 - 100cm and then pounded into thin, flat strips, the width of which depends on the diameter of the piece treated. These strips are then dried. When soaked in water and rubbed, the strips produce a lather which cleanses the scalp very effectively[ 345 ]. The bark is a source of tannins[ 480 ]

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Protein-oil

A plant of tropical and subtropical areas[ 266 ]. So long as it is not cut too close to the ground, the plant can resprout even from quite old wood. It is usually cut back every three years when being grown for the saponins in its stems[ 345 ]. 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 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • 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-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing to speed up germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing. Layering.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Babari, Chian, Chituatua, Cocopa, Elephant creeper, Garambi, Garbe, Garbee bean, Geredi, Gila-lewa, Gila, Gilatige, Gilla, Gogo, Hallekayi balli, Kakkavalli, Mackay bean, Malamanchadi, Nicker bean, Peddamadupu, Pngra, Saba, Wa Lai, Wataqiri, elva-climber, entada, entada seed, entadae semen, gla-gor-zho-sha, gogovine, ketengzi, matchbox-bean, nicker bean, prami, prome, queensland bean, rukh pangra, st. thomas bean, st. thomas-bean, st.thomas bean.

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Found In

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

Africa, Andamans, Asia, Australia, Burma, Central Africa, Central America, China, Congo, East Africa, East Timor, Fiji, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marianas, Mozambique, Myanmar, Northeastern India, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, PNG, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, Sikkim, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Vietnam, West Africa,

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.

Conservation Status

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

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


(L.) Merr.

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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