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Canavalia Species, Horse Bean, Jack Bean, Overlook Bean, Sword Bean

Canavalia ensiformis

Family: Fabaceae (fab-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Canavalia (kan-uh-VAY-lee-uh) (Info)
Species: ensiformis (en-see-FORM-iss) (Info)
Synonym:Canavalia gladiata var. leucosperma
Synonym:Dolichos ensiformis
Synonym:Dolichos pugioniformis




Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Light Shade


Grown for foliage

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


24-36 in. (60-90 cm)


3-6 in. (7-15 cm)

6-9 in. (15-22 cm)


USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Magenta (pink-purple)

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Mid Fall

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:

Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Pensacola, Florida

Zephyrhills, Florida

Lawrenceville, Georgia

Walnut Shade, Missouri

Efland, North Carolina

Hillsborough, North Carolina

Florence, South Carolina

Cleveland, Tennessee

Houston, Texas

Keller, Texas

Longview, Texas

Sherman, Texas

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Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 2, 2007, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Jack Bean Canavalia ensiformis is Naturalized in Texas and other States.


On Nov 6, 2006, galdenrover from Keller, TX wrote:

I bought it as a seedling from a plant-in-a-can company and it has grown like crazy. If the trellis was tall enough this baby would be 14' tall! If only, if only.
Instead it goes up 7' and back down again.


On Nov 22, 2005, ligia from So Paulo,
Brazil wrote:

Allelopatic against Poaceae and some other Fabaceae. Useful to prevent some insects in crops, also some fungi. Unnecessary to innoculate Rhizobium, the association is native in jack beans.


On Dec 1, 2003, Horseshoe from Efland, NC (Zone 7a) wrote:

Mercy! It took several months to find out what this "mystery lima" plant was. Thanks to some Internet friends it was discovered this is no lima but rather a "pea"!
A fun plant to grow, a great conversation piece, a wonderful green manure/cover crop and, instead of eating the bean/seed it is said that people eat the young foliage. (Use as a potherb or stir-fry.)

Native to the West Indies and Central America, this plant thrives on heat but has been successfully grown at elevations of 6,000 ft.

Seed can be planted in rows, as a potted specimen plant, or if planted as a green manure then broadcasting the seed is recommended. (Those of you with short growing seasons may want to start seed indoors. Maturity date for seed runs from 180-300 days!)
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