Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC.

Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC.




Dolichos gladiatus Jacq., Canavalia ensiformis (L.) DC. var. gladiata (Jacq.) Kuntze, C. ensiformis auct. non (L.) DC.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Kacang parang, kacang polong.
English Sword bean.
Indonesia Kara pedang, kacang parasman, koas bakol.
Philippines Habas (Tagalog), magtambokau (Bisaya).
Cambodia Tioeuhs.
Laos (khùa) 'khao 'khièo.
Thailand Thua-phra.
Vietnam d[aaj]u r[uwj]a.
French Pois sabre.

Geographical Distributions

Canavalia gladiata is of Asiatic or African origin. It is only known in cultivation andprobably derived from C.  virosa (Roxb.) Wight & Arnott, the most closely related wild species, occurring mainly in Africa. C. gladiata is widely cultivated in South and Southeast Asia, especially in India, Sri Lanka, Burma and Indo-China. It has now spread throughout the tropics and has become naturalised in some areas.



C. gladiata is a vigorous, woody and perennial climber. It can grow measuring 3-10 m long and often grown as an annual. The root system is deeply penetrates the soil.

The leaves are trifoliolate, measuring 5-17 cm long petiole and with measure 4-7 mm petiolules. The leaflets are ovate in shape, measuring 7.5-20 cm x 5-14 cm, acuminate and sparsely pubescent on the both surfaces.

The inflorescence is an axillary raceme, measure 7-12 cm long, measuring 4-20 cm long peduncle and with measure 2 mm long pedicels. The flowers are often reflexed. The sepal is measure up to 16 mm long. The white petal is measure about 3.5 cm long.

The fruit is a legume, linear-oblong in shape, slightly compressed and with a size of measuring 15-40 cm x 2.5-5 cm. It is widest near the apex, sometimes curved with strongly developed ridges and contains 8-16 seeds.

The seeds are oblong-ellipsoid in shape, strongly compressed, measuring 2-3.5 cm x 1.5-2 cm, pink, red, reddish-brown to almost black and rarely white in colour. The dark brown hilum is measure 1.5-2 cm long. The seed-coat is very tough and thick.


Ecology / Cultivation

C. gladiata requires a tropical climate. It grows well at temperatures of 20-30°C and is cultivated from sea-level up to 1000 m altitude. Its deep root system allows sword bean to survive dry conditions, but it fares best with an evenly distributed rainfall of 900-1500 mm/year. It grows well on the very leached, nutrient-depleted, lowland tropical soils and on acid soils with a pH of 4.5-7.0. It is more resistant to saline soils and less affected by waterlogging or drought than many other legumes. It also tolerates some shade.


Line Drawing / Photograph



    1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 8: Vegetables.