Fabaceae Family Plants, Characteristics and Economic Importance


Fabaceae Family has about 400 genera and 9000 species. The members of this family occur all over the world, particularly the warm and temperate regions. About 82 genera and 587 species of this family are present only in Pakistan.


Familiar Plants

  1. Lathyrus odoratus: Sweet pea
  2. Arachis hypogea: Peanut
  3. Cicer arietinum: Chickpea
  4. Dalbergia sissoo: Shisham

Vegetative Characters

  1. Habit: These are trees, shrubs or herbs.
  2. Stem: It may be herbaceous, woody or climber with tendrils. Tendrils are wiry, coiled and thread-like structure.
  3. Leaves: They have a compound (rarely simple), alternate and stipulate leaves. The stipules are mostly leafy. Sometimes, these leaves are partially or completely modified into tendrils.

Floral Characters

  1. Inflorescence: It may be Racemose or solitary axillary.
  2. Flowers: They have bisexual, zygomorphic, bracteate, pedicellate, perigynous, pentamerous and papilionaceous flowers.
  3. Calyx: They have 5 sepals. They are mostly united to form a tube. These are hairy.
  4. Corolla: They have papilionaceous corolla. In this case, there are 5 clawed petals. These petals are not similar.
  • Standard or Vexillum: It is the upper posterior petal. It is large and conspicuous.
  • Wings: These are two lateral free petals.
  • Keel or Carina: These are two anterior-most petals. They fuse to form a boat-shaped structure.
  1. Androecium: They have 10 mostly diadelphous stamens. Diadelphous stamens are united by their filaments in two groups. The 9 stamens fused to form a sheath around the pistil. The 10th posterior stamen is free.
  2. Gynoecium: It has a simple pistil. This pistil has a single carpel (monocarpellary) with a single locule. The ovary is superior. The style is long bent at its base. The placentation is marginal.
  3. Fruit: Fruit is usually a legume or pod. These legumes show a great variety of different species.

Economic Importance of Fabaceae

Fabaceae family has great importance. It is a source of high protein food, oil, and forage. Fabaceae are also used as ornamental plants.

  1. Food: Most of the important pulses belong to this family. These pulses are used as food and are rich in proteins. The common species which give pulses are Gram, Pea, and Kidney bean.
  2. Fodders: Medicago sativa (Alfafa) is one of the best forage crops. Vicia, Melilotus, and Trifolium are also cultivated as the main fodder crops.
  3. Timber: Many plants of the Fabaceae family provide timber of building, furniture, and fuel. The main timber plants are Butea, Dalbergia, etc.
  4. Vegetable oil: The seed of Arachis hypogea (peanut) is edible. They are also used for the extraction of peanut oil. This peanut oil is hydrogenated and used as vegetable oil.
  5. Dyes: Indigo dyes are obtained from Indigofera tinctoria. The flowers of Butea monosperma give yellow dye.
  6. Medicinal plants: Many plants of this family are used in medicines.
  • Glycyrrhiza glabra: It is used for cough and cold.
  • Clitoria ternatea: is used against snake bite.
  1. Used as weights: The jewelers use the red and white seeds of Abrus precarious as weights called “Ratti”.
  2. Ornamental plants: Some important ornamental plants are Lathyrus (pea), Lupinus, Clitoria, Butea, etc.

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