genus canavalia


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".

Uses and ecology

Several species are valued legume crops, including Common Jack-bean (C. ensiformis), Sword Bean (C. gladiata) and Canavalia cathartica. At least the first makes a beneficial weed- and pathogen-suppressing living mulch. The Common Jack-bean is also known as the plant from which Concanavalin A was described. This lectin is of major commercial importance as a reagent in glycoprotein biochemistry and immunology.

Bay Bean (Canavalia rosea) supposedly can act as a mild psychoactive when smoked; it is used in tobacco substitutes.

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.


See also



  • (2001): The Use of Allelopathic Legume Cover and Mulch Species for Weed Control in Cropping Systems. Agronomy Journal 93(1): 27-36. PDF fulltext
  • (2005): Genus Canavalia Version 10.01, November 2005. Retrieved 2007-DEC-17.
  • (1992): New Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary with a Concise Grammars and Given Names in Hawaiian. University of Hawaii PRess, Honolulu. ISBN 0-8248-1392-8

External links

Search another word or see genus canavaliaon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature