Families of Vascular Plants - EEB337H

Fabales - Fabaceae ("Leguminosae")

657 genera/16,400 spp., cosmopolitan (Caesalpinioideae and Mimosoideae mostly tropical).

K 5 or ((3-)5(6)); C (0-)5, irregular. A usually twice perianth, to many. G 1, each with (1) 2-many ovules.

Fruit usually dry, dehiscent into two valves (a legume), occasionally breaking up into 1-seeded segments (lomentum), or indehiscent (samaroid or drupe). Click on TOL logo to see the TOL Fabaceae fruits page (use your browser's BACK button to return). Tree of Life link

Often with root nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobium). Click on TOL logo to see the TOL Fabaceae root nodule page (use your browser's BACK button to return). Tree of Life link

Leaves variously compound or simple, sometimes phyllodic, or reduced to a tendril, the petiole and leaflets with basal pulvini often controlling orientation and 'sleep movements.' Stipules present, sometimes large, or represented by spines as in Robinia; in Acacia, these are ant-inhabited.

Judd et al. 1999, pp. 283-288.

Fabaceae - Subfamilial classification (when subfamilies below not treated as families):

Mimosoideae bipinnately cpd. actinomorphic valvate trees, shrubs
Caesalpinioideae pinnately or bipinnately cpd. zygomorphic imbricate (1) trees, shrubs, lianes
Faboideae pinnate, trifoliolate, occ. unifoliolate zygomorphic imbricate (2) trees, shrubs, lianes, herbs

Ontario native genera of Fabaceae (as "Leguminosae" in Morton and Venn 1990; exotic genera mentioned, in parentheses, genera seen in the lab 13-Nov-97 in boldface):

Mimosoideae - (Acacia, Calliandra, Entada, Mimosa, Pithecellobium, Prosopis)

Caesalpinioideae - Cassia, Cercis, Gleditsia, Gymnocladus; (Caesalpinia, Bauhinia, Caesalpinia, Ceratonia, Delonix, Haematoxylum)

Faboideae - Amorpha, Amphicarpaea, Apios, Astragalus, Dalea, Desmodium, Glycyrrhiza, Hedysarum, Lathyrus, Lespedeza, Lupinus, Medicago, Oxytropis, Phaseolus, Robinia, Strophostyles, Tephrosia, Vicia

Note the many commercially important plants in this family, e.g. Arachis (peanut), Cicer (chickpea), Glycine (soybean), Phaseolus (bean), Pisum (pea) and many others; also important as green manure (e.g. Medicago) and fodder (e.g. Trifolium).

Note that in the floral diagrams below the shaded ring represents the small, inconspicuous hypanthium that nevertheless is present in these flowers (see illustrations in Corner 1964); the same convention is used to represent hypanthia in other families as well (Porter 1967).


(2) at right, keel (k) and lateral petals enclosed by banner (b) Faboid floral diagram (6893 bytes) Faboid flowers (14029 bytes)
Caesalpinoid floral diagram (7002 bytes) (1) at left and below, keel (k) and lateral petals enclose banner (b)
Caesalpinoid flower (17475 bytes)

Fabaceae on Tree of Life website (click on logo)

Tree of Life logo


The Flora North America treatment of the Fabaceae (Vol. 10-11) is not yet available:

Flora North America - Asteraceae


Mimosoideae, Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae

The Families of Flowering Plants
DELTA database in natural language

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

Mimosaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, Fabaceae

Images from Botany at the University of Hawaii

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| What are plant families? | How do we distinguish them? | How and why do we study them? | Selected vascular plant families of Ontario | Reading List | Course outline |

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Please send your comments to tim.dickinson@utoronto.ca; last updated 25-Oct-2008