Leguminosae

The Fabaceae or Leguminosae, legumes, are well-known as the largest clade of plants to possess nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots. The Fabaceae are traditionally divided into three groups recognised as either families (Caesalpiniaceae, Mimosaceae and Papilionaceae/Fabaceae) or subfamilies (Caesalpinioideae, Mimosoideae and Papilionoideae/Faboideae), though recent phylogenetic analyses have indicated that the caesalpinioids are paraphyletic. ‘Caesalpinioids’ are historically distinguished from other legumes by having the sepals generally free at the base. Among economically significant species in the group is Tamarindus indicus, tamarind, whose fruit is used in cooking. The courbaril or West Indian locust Hymenaea courbaril of the Neotropics produces a resin used in incense and varnish, as well as pulpy seed pods whose pulp is widely eaten despite their distinct odour that may be considered unpleasant. Resins are also produced by trees and shrubs of the genus Copaifera, copaiba. Cercis, the redbuds, include deciduous trees or shrubs that produce pinkish-red flowers on the bare stems in the early spring before the leaves emerge; the flowers of some species are used in salads or pickles. The tualang Koompassia excelsa of southeast Asia is one of the tallest-growing trees of tropical rainforest, reaching close to 90 metres in height. Duparquetia orchidacea, a liana found in humid tropical forests of western Africa, is placed by phylogenetic analyses as one of the most basal members of the Fabaceae.

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