Clitoria ternatea flower




pronounced: fab-AY-see-eye

the pea family

subfamilies: Caesalpinioideae - the cassia subfamily

Faboideae - the bean subfamily


Fabaceae is named for faba, the Latin name for a particular broad bean. The family is also known as Leguminosae, named for legumen, the Latin name for pulse in general. This is a very large family, divided into 3 sub-familes: Caesalpinioideae, Faboideae and Mimosoideae, which are sometimes treated as separate families. Rather inconsistently, I have chosen to retain the first 2 as sub-families of Fabaceae, but to treat the third as a separate family, the Mimosaceae. I have done this because I think our wonderful Australian wattles deserve their own family, at least within Australia!

Fabaceae are trees, shrubs or herbs, sometimes climbing or trailing, usually with compound leaves, nearly always alternate; stipules are usually present, and stipels are often present. The flowers are usually bisexual and 5-merous. There are usually 5 sepals, free, or more often fused into a toothed tube. There are usually 5 petals, free or sometimes fused, equal or unequal. There are often 10 stamens, free or variously fused, sometimes reduced to staminodes; the anthers are 2-locular, opening by longitudinal slits or rarely by pores. The ovary is superior, the carpel solitary. Members of the Faboideae subfamily have the characteristic pea flower.The fruit is usually a pod.

Photograph © Donald Simpson