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Vicia faba, commonly known as faba bean or broad bean, is widely cultivated for its nutritious seeds and pods which are consumed by millions of people throughout the world. It belongs to the legume family, Leguminosae (also known as Fabaceae) and like many legumes it is high in protein due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the air through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria housed in root nodules.

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Vicia faba, commonly known as faba bean or broad bean, is widely cultivated for its nutritious seeds and pods which are consumed by millions of people throughout the world. It belongs to the legume family, Leguminosae (also known as Fabaceae) and like many legumes it is high in protein due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the air through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria housed in root nodules.

Faba bean exhibits wide morphological diversity and the different cultivar names reflect this variation. For example, broad bean is a larger-seeded cultivar that is grown for human consumption whereas horse bean and field bean produce smaller, harder seeds used in animal feed.  

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Faba bean is an ancient crop which is thought to have originated in Western Asia as early as 7,000 - 4,000 BC. From there it was spread by humans to Europe, Africa and central Asia.

Today, faba bean is only known in cultivation and is grown in temperate and subtropical regions of the world and at higher altitudes in the tropics.

Description

Overview: Vicia faba is an erect, robust annual herb growing up to 2 metres tall. It has a stout, square stem, which is hollow and has additional basal branches. The plant has a well-developed  taproot with strong lateral roots.

Leaves: The leaves are arranged alternately along the stem; each leaf is paripinnate (terminating in a leaflet pair), composed of 2-6 leaflets. Faba bean has conspicuous stipules (appendages at the base of the leaf) which are toothed at the margins and vary widely in shape. The leaflets are ovate to elliptical and are up to 10 x 4 cm in size. 

Flowers: The stalked flowers are arranged on an unbranched axis (a raceme). The racemes are short, 1-6 flowered and axillary (arising from the point between the main stem and a leaf). The flowers are fragrant, the petals white, the outermost petal (the standard) marked with a central, basal, dark brown or black blotch, and are papilionaceous resembling, for example, the pea ( Pisum sativum ) flower. Each flower has 10 stamens, nine of which are fused into a partial tube, with the tenth stamen free. The ovary is positioned above the sepals, petals and stamens. The style is approximately 3mm long and is abruptly upturned, with a tuft of hairs near the stigma.

Fruit : The fruit is a narrowly oblong, cylindrical to a laterally flattened pod up to 30 cm long containing up to 6 seeds. The seeds are 1-3 cm in diameter and are ovoid to oblong in shape and compressed. The colours of the seeds range from brown to reddish or green.

Uses

Faba bean is widely grown for its nutritious seeds and pods which are consumed by millions of people throughout the world. 

The dry, mature seeds are popular in dishes throughout the Middle East, Mediterranean countries, China and Ethiopia and in many other countries the green immature seeds and pods are eaten as a vegetable.

In countries such as Ethiopia and Eritrea the hulled seeds are ground and made into a sauce (a dish called 'shiro wot') or spiced and minced with butter to make 'ful'. The fresh green seeds, either raw or roasted make a delicious snack, popular in many African countries. 'Ful medames' is a breakfast dish, common in the Arab world, which is made from faba bean seeds which are minced and cooked with onion, garlic and herbs. Some people make a paste from the seeds and use it as a sandwich filling. In India the roasted seeds are eaten like peanuts.

As well as being an important food source for humans, the high protein content of faba bean means that it is used in animal feed for pigs, horses, poultry and pigeons.

In some places faba straw is used to make bricks and in Ethiopia and Sudan used as fuel for cooking.

Faba bean can be grown as a cold season cover crop to prevent erosion and to fortify the soil with nitrogen, and in China the stems and leaves are used as green manure.

Faba bean has a number of medicinal uses, especially in traditional Chinese medicine and it is said to be used as a diuretic, expectorant and tonic. In Europe, the green pods of faba bean can be rubbed onto warts to remove them.

Crop wild relatives of faba bean

The Millennium Seed Bank and the Global Crop Diversity Trust are engaged in a ten-year project, called 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change'. The project aims to protect, collect and prepare the wild relatives of 29 key food crops, including faba bean, so that they are available to pre-breeders for the development of new varieties that are more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plants worldwide, focusing on those plants which are under threat and those which are of most use in the future. Once seeds have been collected they are dried, packaged and stored at -20°C in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank vault.

Description

of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 921 g

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two

Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant can be dried to a low moisture content without significantly reducing their viability. This means they are suitable for long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

Germination testing: Successful

This species at Kew

Pressed and dried specimens of faba bean are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. Details and images of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

Ecology
Faba bean prefers cooler temperatures. It grows best in well-drained soils with a neutral pH of around 6.5-7.5 and is fairly intolerant to waterlogging or drought.
Conservation
Not threatened due to its wide cultivation.
Hazards

Inhalation of the pollen or ingestion of the seeds may cause favism. This only occurs in cases of excessive consumption of the raw seed and when the person has a genetic disposition towards the disease.

[UPB]

The Useful Plants of Boyacá project

Distribution
Cultivated and naturalised in Colombia.
Morphology General Habit
Herb.
Ecology
Alt. 1000 - 3300 m.

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada y naturalizada en Colombia; Alt. 1000 - 3300 m.; Andes.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba, trepadora

[ILDIS]

International Legume Database and Information Service

Conservation
Cultigen not known in the wild
Ecology
Africa: Cultivated
Morphology General Habit
Annual, Not climbing, Herb
Vernacular
Ackerbohne, Acker-Wicke, Bakla, Baklasim, Bob, Bokilo, Bokla, Bondbona, Broad Bean, English Bean, Faba Bean, Fava Bean, Fava Cavalina, Faveira, Feldbohne, Feve, Feve De Calabar, Feve des Marais, Feves de Mardis, Field Bean, Haba, Habas, Harkapapu, Hastbon

[ILDIS]

International Legume Database and Information Service

Conservation
Cultigen not known in the wild
Morphology General Habit
Annual, Not climbing, Herb
Vernacular
Faba Bean, Field Bean, Tick Bean

[KSP]
Use
Food, hay, silage, medicine.

[UPB]
Use Animal Food
Eaten by animals (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Food
Food (Florez-Cárdenas et al. 2010).
Use Gene Sources
Crop wild relatives which may possess beneficial traits of value in breeding programmes (State of the World's Plants 2016).
Use Medicines Injuries
Leaves - Used to promote healing (Lagos-López 2007).
Use Medicines Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
Medicinal (Instituto Humboldt 2014).

[ILDIS]
Use
Environmental, Food and Drink, Forage, Medicine

[ILDIS]
Use
Food and Drink, Forage

Native to:

Afghanistan, Iran

Introduced into:

Albania, Algeria, Altay, Angola, Argentina South, Assam, Baleares, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canary Is., Central European Rus, Chad, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Corse, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, East Aegean Is., Ecuador, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, India, Iraq, Italy, Jawa, Kenya, Krym, Lebanon-Syria, Leeward Is., Libya, Madeira, Mexico Southwest, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, New South Wales, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Sardegna, Sicilia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tibet, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Uruguay, Vermont, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Yemen, Yugoslavia

English
Faba bean
Spanish
Haba.

Vicia faba L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
26332.009
70000.264
Neal, M.C. [s.n.], Hawaii K001134447
s.coll. [Cat. no. 5951], India Faba vulgaris K001122627

First published in Sp. Pl.: 737 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Barina, Z., Rakaj, m. & Pifkó, D. (2013). Contributions to the flora of Albania, 4 Willdenowia 43: 165-184.
  • Brako, L. & Zarucchi, J.L. (1993). Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 45: i-xl, 1-1286. Missouri Botanical Garden.
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  • Danihelka, J. Chrtek, J. & Kaplan, Z. (2012). Checklist of vascular plants of the Czech Republic Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 84: 647-811.
  • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Dimopoulos, P., Raus, T., Bergmeier, E., Constantinidis, T., Iatrou, G., Kokkini, S., Strid, A., & Tzanoudakis, D. (2013). Vascular plants of Greece. An annotated checklist: 1-372. Botanic gardens and botanical museum Berlin-Dahlem, Berlin and Hellenic botanical society, Athens.
  • Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. (2012). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 4: 1-431. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
  • Figueiredo, E. & Smith, G.F. (2008). Plants of Angola Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Gilman, A.V. (2015). New flora of Vermont Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 110: 1-614.
  • Greuter, W., Burdet, H.M. & Long, G. (eds.) (1989). Med-checklist 4: 1-458. Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève.
  • Jalilian, N., Rahiminejad, .R., Maassoumi, A.A. & Maroofi, H. (2014). Taxonomic revision of the genus Vicia L. (Fabaceae) in Iran Iranian Journal of Botany 20: 155-164.
  • Jørgensen, P.M. & León-Yánes, S. (eds.) (1999). Catalogue of the Vascular Plants of Ecuador: 1-1181. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.
  • Jørgensen, P.M., Nee, M.H. & Beck., S.G. (eds.) (2013). Catálogo de las plantas vasculares de Bolivia Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 127: 1-1741. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Krasnoborov, I.M. & Armemov, I.A. (2012). Opredelitel' Rastenii Respublika Altai: 1-640. Novosibirsk: Izd-vo SO RAN.
  • Kumar, S. & Sane, P.V. (2003). Legumes of South Asia. A Checklist: 1-536. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lepschi, B. & Monro, A. (Project Coordinators) (2014). Australian Plant Census (APC) Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria. http://www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/index.html.
  • Lock, J.M. & Ford, C.S. (2004). Legumes of Malesia a Check-List: 1-295. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lock, J.M. & Heald, J. (1994). Legumes of Indo-China a checck-list: 1-164. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lock, J.M. (1989). Legumes of Africa a check-list: 1-619. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
  • Seregin, A.P. (2014). Flora of Vladimir Oblast, Russia: grid data analysis: 1-441. KMK schientific press, Moscow.
  • Shaheen, H., Qureshi, R., Akram, A., Gulfraz, M. & Potter, D. (2014). A preliminary floristic checklist of Thal desert Punjab, Pakistan Pakistn Journal of Botany 46: 13-18.
  • Standley, P.C. & Steyermark, J.A. (1946). Flora of Guatemala Fieldiana Botany New Series 24(5): 1-502. Field Museum of Natural History.
  • Townsend, C.C. (1974). Flora of Iraq 3: 1-662. Ministry of Agriculture & Agrarian Reform, Baghdad.
  • Webb, C.J., Sykes, W.R. & Garnock-Jones, P.J. (1988). Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. Botany division, D.S.I.R., Christchurch.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542.
  • Wood, J.R.I. (1997). A handbook of the Yemen Flora: 1-434. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Zervous, S., Raus, T. & Yannitsaros, A. (2009). Additons to the flora of the island of Kalimnos (SE Aegean, Greece) Willdenowia 39: 165-177.
  • Zuloaga, F.O., Morrone, O. , Belgrano, M.J., Marticorena, C. & Marchesi, E. (eds.) (2008). Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares del Cono Sur Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 107: 1-3348. Missouri Botanical Garden.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

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Useful Plants of Boyacá Project

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Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
  • Barina, Z., Rakaj, m. & Pifkó, D. (2013). Contributions to the flora of Albania, 4 Willdenowia 43: 165-184.
  • Brako, L. & Zarucchi, J.L. (1993). Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 45: i-xl, 1-1286. Missouri Botanical Garden.
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  • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. (2012). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 4: 1-431. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
  • Figueiredo, E. & Smith, G.F. (2008). Plants of Angola Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012). Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies), ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Gilman, A.V. (2015). New flora of Vermont Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 110: 1-614.
  • Greuter, W., Burdet, H.M. & Long, G. (eds.) (1989). Med-checklist 4: 1-458. Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève.
  • Hong, D.Y. (ed.) (2019). Flora of Pan-Himalaya 19(6): 1-130. Science Press, Beijing. Cambridge University Press.
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  • Jørgensen, P.M., Nee, M.H. & Beck., S.G. (eds.) (2013). Catálogo de las plantas vasculares de Bolivia Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 127: 1-1741. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Krasnoborov, I.M. & Armemov, I.A. (2012). Opredelitel' Rastenii Respublika Altai: 1-640. Novosibirsk: Izd-vo SO RAN.
  • Kumar, S. & Sane, P.V. (2003). Legumes of South Asia. A Checklist: 1-536. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lepschi, B. & Monro, A. (Project Coordinators) (2014). Australian Plant Census (APC) Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria. http://www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/index.html.
  • Lock, J.M. & Ford, C.S. (2004). Legumes of Malesia a Check-List: 1-295. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lock, J.M. & Heald, J. (1994). Legumes of Indo-China a checck-list: 1-164. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lock, J.M. (1989). Legumes of Africa a check-list: 1-619. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
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  • Shaheen, H., Qureshi, R., Akram, A., Gulfraz, M. & Potter, D. (2014). A preliminary floristic checklist of Thal desert Punjab, Pakistan Pakistn Journal of Botany 46: 13-18.
  • Standley, P.C. & Steyermark, J.A. (1946). Flora of Guatemala Fieldiana Botany New Series 24(5): 1-502. Field Museum of Natural History.
  • Townsend, C.C. (1974). Flora of Iraq 3: 1-662. Ministry of Agriculture & Agrarian Reform, Baghdad.
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  • Webb, C.J., Sykes, W.R. & Garnock-Jones, P.J. (1988). Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. Botany division, D.S.I.R., Christchurch.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542.
  • Wood, J.R.I. (1997). A handbook of the Yemen Flora: 1-434. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
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  • Zervous, S., Raus, T. & Yannitsaros, A. (2009). Additons to the flora of the island of Kalimnos (SE Aegean, Greece) Willdenowia 39: 165-177.
  • Zuloaga, F.O., Morrone, O. , Belgrano, M.J., Marticorena, C. & Marchesi, E. (eds.) (2008). Catálogo de las Plantas Vasculares del Cono Sur Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 107: 1-3348. Missouri Botanical Garden.

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Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
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Colombian resources for Plants made Accessible
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
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International Legume Database and Information Service
International Legume Database and Information Service (ILDIS) V10.39 Nov 2011
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Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
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Legumes of the World Online
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Useful Plants of Boyacá Project
ColPlantA database
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