The genus Canavalia in the large legume family (Fabaceae), comprises approximately 70-75 species of tropical origin. These vines have usually bright pea-flowers which are pollinated by insects such as solitary bees and carpenter bees (e.g. ''Xylocopa confusa).
They are commonly known as jack-beans. The endemic Canavalia species in the Hawaiian Islands have been named ʻāwikiwiki by the Native Hawaiians. That name means essentially "the very quick one and comes from the Hawaiian word for "fast" that has also been appropriated into the name "Wikipedia".
Some animals have adaptation to the defensive chemicals of jack-beans. Caterpillars for example of the Two-barred Flasher (Astraptes fulgerator) are sometimes found on Canavalia. The plant pathogenic ascomycete fungus Mycosphaerella canavaliae was described from a jack-bean. Introduced herbivores have wreaked havoc on Canavalia on the Hawaiian Islands and made some nearly extinct; it may be that these lost their chemical defenses as no herbivorous mammals existed in their range until introduced by humans.