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Phaseolus lunatus - L.

Common Name Lima Bean, Sieva bean
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The raw mature seed is poisonous. The toxic principle is hydrocyanic acid and this is destroyed by thoroughly cooking the seed[200].
Habitats Along stream banks and in moist areas in deciduous tropical forests, usually in thickets and climbing over shrubs or small trees and often invading cut-over lands and along fences and paths; at elevations up to 1,600 metres[1555 ]
Range S. America. - Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela; C. America - Panama to Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Phaseolus lunatus Lima Bean, Sieva bean

Phaseolus lunatus Lima Bean, Sieva bean


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P. lunatus is a fast-growing herbaceous vine, attaining up to 6 m in length

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Phaseolus lunatus is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 6 m (19ft 8in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses:

Immature seed - cooked and used like peas in soups, stews etc[183]. The mature seed is dried and stored for future use. It must be thoroughly cooked before being eaten[200]. It is best soaked for about 12 hours prior to cooking and is eaten in soups, stews or fermented and made into tempeh[183]. The sprouted seeds are cooked and used in Chinese dishes[183]. The dried seed can be ground into a powder then used as a thickener in soups or can be mixed with cereal flours when making bread. Young seedpods - steamed and used as a side dish with rice, or added to soups, stews etc[183]. Leaves - cooked. They often have a bitter taste[183].

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.

In traditional Asian medicine, the seeds and leaves are valued for their astringent qualities and are used in the diet as a treatment against fever[240 , 299 ]. The seeds are powdered and rubbed into small cuts on tumours and abscesses to promote suppuration[299 ]. The leaf juice, mixed with coconut oil or castor oil, is given to children to improve their strength; as a treatment for fever and as an emetic[348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Agroforestry Uses: In the more humid tropics, Lima bean is mostly cultivated in home gardens or intercropped with cereals (maize, sorghum), root and tuber crops (yam, cassava) or other crops (e.g. banana, groundnut, sugar cane). Sole cropping is more common in drier areas (Madagascar, Peru). In intercropping, seeds are often placed in the same hill as the companion crop[299 ]. Lima bean has been grown as a cover crop and for green manure[299 ]. Animal feed, fodder, forage. Soil improvement

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop  Staple Crop: Protein

Phaseolus lunatus generally grow well in lowland tropical areas at elevations up to 1,500 metres[300 ]. Annual rainfall in the range of 900 - 1,500 is adequate[300 ], but once established the crop tolerates as little as 500 - 600 mm of rainfall[299 ]. Plants are generally tolerant of heavy rainfall during the growing period, though heavy rain, when they are flowering, can adversely affect fertilization[300 ]. A dry period is required for the seeds to mature[300 ]. Temperatures higher than 30°c adversely affect fertilization, especially in forms that have large seeds[300 ]. Requires a well-drained moderately fertile soil in a sunny position[200 ]. Prefers a sandy loam[300 ].. Plants are prone to drop their flowers when grown in nitrogen-rich soils[200 ]. Found in the wild on a range of well-drained soils from black clay to brown friable to rocky and sandy (even on sand dunes near beaches) and variously derived from basalt, volcanic ash, limestone. metamorphic schists or volcanic rock[1555 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7[300 ], however, some cultivars tolerate acid soils with a pH as low as 4.4[299 ]. Some climbing forms are more drought-resistant than bush forms due to their deep, well-developed root system[299 , 300 ]. Plants can commence producing their edible seedpods in 12 - 16 weeks from seed[200 ]. The pods can be harvested over a period of several months[300 ]. Yields of 400 - 1,500 kilos per hectare of dried seed can be obtained[300 ]. A very variable plant from which a wide range of cultivars have been developed[300 ]. There are both bush and climbing forms as well as annual and perennial forms[300 ]. The climbing plants are more productive but bush forms come into bearing more quickly and are probably more suitable for cooler gardens[200 ]. 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 ]. The plants are very frost tender and are even less tolerant of wet and cold than the runner bean, Phaseolus coccineus[200]. There are bush and climbing forms, the climbers are more productive but bush forms come into bearing more quickly and are probably more suitable for cooler gardens[200]. Plants mature in 12 - 16 weeks from seed in warm climates but the growing season in Britain is usually too short for the beans to mature fully and crop yields are seldom worthwhile[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.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.
  • 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

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Plant Propagation

Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and sow in mid spring in a greenhouse. Germination should take place within 10 days. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

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

P. lunatus is native to tropical and subtropical America, from northern Mexico to southern Argentina and Paraguay. It has been widely cultivated around the world and can now be found cultivated and naturalized in the West Indies, Asia, Africa, Europe, and on several islands in the Pacific Ocean.

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.

can become weedy in the wild. It can rapidly colonize degraded areas and secondary vegetation forming dense thickets which displace native vegetation. In addition, P. lunatus has deep rooting, drought tolerance, and wide environmental adaptation, which are traits that help it to colonize new habitats including degraded and infertile areas (Baudoin, 2006). It has been listed as invasive in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Fiji, Philippines, New Caledonia, and New Zealand (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; PIER, 2014).

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Phaseolus coccineusRunner Bean, Scarlet runnerAnnual/Perennial3.0 1-12 FLMHNM403
Phaseolus polystachiosThicket Bean. Wild beanClimber3.0 6-10 FLMHSNM203
Phaseolus vulgarisFrench Bean, Kidney beanAnnual2.0 2-11  LMHNM522

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.


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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.

Readers comment


informative page it is.But is this the same crop with climber bean ?

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