DixPix Photographs






The Pea Family, Fabaceae (or Leguminosae) is huge, in fact it is the third largest floral family after Asters and Orchids.  Estimates vary greatly, but it has roughly 20,000 species.  The family splits fairly cleanly into three sections, however, which some botanists even raise to family rank in their own right.  This page treats the Faboideae (alias Papilionoidae) which, with some 14,000 members, is by far the largest of the three divisions.  The other two sections, namely Mimosoideae and Caesalpinioideae, get separate pages.  The Faboideae include several species of economic importance, including a wide variety of peas and beans as well as alfalfa, clover and many other forage crops.


The Erythrina genus encompasses about 130 species of trees, some of ornamental value. They are found in all the warmer parts of Earth, known in English as Coral Trees.  In Latin America they use the translation Arbol de Coral, but one more often hears the word Poro.  This is a typical example of a flower head from an undefined species in Colombia. Click to see big picture (640x474 pixels; 93 KB)
Erythrina edulis flowers at the botanical gardens in Quito.  Native from Panama to Bolivia in the highlands, but more widely planted for the edible beans known as Chachafruto.
A look at an Erythrina edulis shrub in the El Dorado Reserve of the Santa Marta Range, northeastern Colombia;
Erythrina costaricensis has pods which are as striking as its flowers.  Known as Poro Cimarron, it is one of the trees used for living fences in its range form Nicaragua to Colombia. The white tangle in the background is a bromeliad. Click to see big picture (598x480 pixels; 123 KB)
An unusual Erythrina flower with pink petals from northwestern Panama.  Apparently E. costaricensis again. Click to see big picture (349x480 pixels; 72 KB)
Erythrina fusca is also known as E. glauca.  It is typically found on the coast, but here is overhanging Lake Nicaragua.  From its native range of Guatemala to Brazil, it has now spread around the tropics, partly by being exported and partly because is seeds float. Click to see big picture (628x480 pixels; 141 KB)
Erythrina fusca can from a tree of noble size.  Here it is at the mouth of the Palomino in northeastern Colombia.
A closer look at the odd flowers of Erythrina fusca.  In Latin America it goes by names such as Poro Blanco, Bucayo and Elequeme. Click to see big picture (343x480 pixels; 52 KB)
Known as the Machete Tree, Erythrina lanceolata may be encountered from Nicaragua to Panama.  It has found a specific use as a frame for vanilla vines. Click to see big picture (640x434 pixels; 89 KB)
This appears to be Erythrina Coralloides, known as the Naked Coral Tree, as the flowers appear before the foliage.  Now widely planted, its native range was from the southern U.S. to southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 164 KB)
Widespread in the Neotropics, Erythrina poeppigiana is seen here in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia, where it is known as Anaco.
For purposes of identification, here are the fallen flowers and leaf of Erythrina poeppigiana.
By a process of elimination, this appears to be Erythina schimpffii at the Wildsumaco Reserve in Ecuador.  The species seems confined to that nation.
Erythina schimpfii has a somewhat unusual structure of floral presentation.
Probably Swartzia simplex, although S. myrtifolia looks almost identical.  Both would be at home here in the Canal Zone, in fact through most of the Neotropics.  Identified in garden circles as the Showy Chalice Vine. Click to see big picture (451x480 pixels; 112 KB)
Gliricidia sepium is known as Madero Negro (black wood), and it is one of the species most commonly employed for living fences.  Native from Mexico to Panama, it is now more widely planted.  Mata Raton (rat killer) is another popular name. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 174 KB)
A closer look a the flowers of Gliricidia sepium, sometimes referred to as Sangre de Drago.  The species is useful in that a branch stuck in the ground will grow, but also appreciated for its flowers, beans (fodder) and rot-resistant wood. Click to see big picture (640x431 pixels; 112 KB)
Andira inermis is widespread in the western Neotropics, and now found in Africa as well.  The bark is used to make what is described as a narcotic vermifuge.  Names include Cabbagebark Tree and Carne Asado (means roast meat). Click to see big picture (513x480 pixels; 143 KB)
This one started out in Asia, but has used its medicinal applications as a passport around the tropics.  Flemingia strobilifera in English is known as Wild Hops or the Luck Plant, here growing near Lago Gatun in Panama. Click to see big picture (523x480 pixels; 95 KB)
The Mucuna genus field about 100 species of vines and lianas, several with this odd form, giving them the name Chandelier Vines.  This is the bat pollinated Mucuna holtonii found from Southern Mexico to Colombia. Click to see big picture (640x450 pixels; 94 KB)
The beans of Mucuna holtonii have given the species the name of Black Horse-eye Bean.  These are one of the 'sea beans', which float.  In some parts Mucuna Beans are used as Amuletas de la Suerte (good luck amulets). Click to see big picture (602x480 pixels; 83 KB)
Mucuna urens is found in the cloud forests in the Neotropics from Costa Rica south.  Here at Monteverde.  Locally known as Ox Eye Bean. Click to see big picture (318x480 pixels; 71 KB)
This is likely the pod and an Ox Eye Bean from Mucuna urens in central Costa Rica. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 128 KB)
At the town of Minca in northeastern Colombia, the dry pods of Mucuna mutisiana hang waiting to fall.  This species is found mainly from Costa Rica to Venezuela.
From the Coast of Panama's wild Darien Province, here is a closer view of the rather unfriendly looking pod of Mucuna mutisiana.

With fur-covered beans, Mucuna pruriens is known as Velvet Bean or Frijol Terciopelo.  But that fur is irritating, originating the names of Cow Itch and Bejuco picapica.  The reason that the species has gone pantropical, however, is due to its ability to increase dopamine, which is to say an anti- depressant and a libido enhancer.

Click to see big picture (386x480 pixels; 106 KB)
A cascade of Mucuna beans above the Rio San Juan in southeastern Nicaragua. These appear to be M. holtonii again. Click to see big picture (568x480 pixels; 118 KB)
The fruit of Sophora (or Cali) secundiflora are known as Mescal Beans, and despite being highly toxic, were once used as a hallucinogenic by native cultures. Click to see big picture (639x480 pixels; 100 KB)
Sophora secundiflora also has attractive flowers, and is to be found from southern U.S. to southern Mexico.  A common name is Texas Laurel, and even in Mexico they allude to that state, calling it Frijolito de Texas. Click to see big picture (505x480 pixels; 94 KB)
Pithecellobium dulce is widespread in the northern Neotropics.  That red pulp surrounding the seeds is sweet and a welcome treat.  It joins some other species in being called Monkey Pod. Click to see big picture (634x480 pixels; 71 KB)
And here is the flower and branch of the Monkey Pod Tree, with a thrush thrown in.  From the southwest coast of Mexico.
Spartium junceum is a major weed on the world stage, under the name of Spanish Broom.  European by origin, it is now common in western North America and in the Andes from Colombia to Bolivia. Click to see big picture (372x480 pixels; 75 KB)
Here in southern Mexico, the most likely of the Kidneywood genus is Eysenhardtia polystachya, locally known as Palo Dulce.  It ranges from here northward into southern U.S. Click to see big picture (319x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Calopogonium caeruleum is a woody, scrambling vine, native to tropical Americas, but widely planted as a forage crop and nitrogen fixer.  This tangle, however, is in an Archaeological Park in southwestern Mexico.  It goes by names such as Jicama.
The Purple Bush Bean, Macroptilium atropurpureum, has been planted as a forage crop from Texas to Peru and likely beyond.  Siratro is a name widely applied in Latin America. Click to see big picture (640x478 pixels; 121 KB)
Rhynchosia minima is grown throughout the Neotropics, and in English is known as the Least Snoutbean.  A vine-like bush, it is adapted to saline soils.  The beans are eaten in many areas, but in parts of the Caribbean it is known as 'burn mouth'. Click to see big picture (620x480 pixels; 111 KB)
The Crotalaria genus, some 600 species strong, are known as Rattlepods or Cascabels, as the beans are loose in dry pods.  This is C. retusa, now pantropical from Africa, and referred to as Yellow Rattleweed and Devil Bean. Click to see big picture (284x480 pixels; 62 KB)
Crotalaria laburnifolia also started out in Africa and Asia, but has been widely planted under such names as Bird Flower and Sun Hemp.  Here it is in a garden in Colombia. Click to see big picture (313x480 pixels; 69 KB)
Also from the highlands of Columbia, this appears to be Crotalaria pallida var.obovata, known as Smooth Rattlebox or Streaked Rattlepod.  It is now widespread from Africa, despite the fact that the pollen tends to activate allergies. Click to see big picture (340x480 pixels; 58 KB)
Crotalaria nitens may have originated in the Amazon basin, but is now widespread in the Neotropics with weedy tendencies.  The furry pods turn black.  From a garden in the Jatun Sacha Reserve, Ecuador.
Aeschynomene americana, the American Joint Vetch is Neotropical in origin, but has been planted across the tropics as a forage adapted to wet ground. Click to see big picture (640x411 pixels; 68 KB)
American Joint Vetch is a sensitive plant, which gives it the alternative name of Shy Leaf.  And those sticky hairs give it one of its Latin American names of Pega-pega.  As with many species of the Aeschynomene genus, the leaflets are alternate.  Click to see big picture (447x480 pixels; 65 KB)
And here on the banks of the Rio Papaturro in southern Nicaragua, is another bush with alternating leaflets, likely a Joint Vetch.  It is the right site for Aeschynomene fluitans, but the leaf shape is wrong. Click to see big picture (541x480 pixels; 89 KB)
Coursetia dubia, known in one language or the other as Baby Bonnets, is confined to the mountains of Ecuador, here just north of Quito.
A weed of disturbed places in Mesoamerica, Indigofera suffruticosa is the source of the Mayan Blue Dye.  Known as Wild Indigo and Indigobush in English and as Añil or Tlaceuilli in Mayan territory, it was planted throughout the tropics in the days when organic dyes ruled. Click to see big picture (349x480 pixels; 74 KB)
There are some 180 species of Prairie Clovers.  This is likely Dalea foliosa, as it has a lemon scent and is found in Oaxaca.  Known locally as Almaraduz, it ranges from the southern U.S. to Honduras. Click to see big picture (640x456 pixels; 120 KB)
And this, from the mountains of Colombia, would be Dalea coerulea.  It may be found in the high country from here to northern Peru, with the local name of Chiripique. Click to see big picture (519x480 pixels; 86 KB)
A more mature Dalea coerulea at the Botanical Gardens in Quito.  Here it goes by names such as Isu or Izu.
A generic lupin (or lupine).  There are roughly 280 species of these things, and most look about the same.  In the tropics they prefer to stay high, above the biological warfare of the jungles, in this case on Cortez Pass, Mexico.  Lupins are known as Lupino or Altramuz  in Latin America. Click to see big picture (365x480 pixels; 78 KB)
This would be Lupinus costaricensis, one of three species reported here in the paramo atop Cerro de la Muerto in Costa Rica.  The red leaf stems are unusual. Click to see big picture (283x480 pixels; 70 KB)
And this one, from high on Volcan Baru in western Panama is most likely Lupinus clarkei. Click to see big picture (306x480 pixels; 75 KB)
Lupinus pubescens has been reported mainly from the Andes of Ecuador, in this case Papallacata Pass.  It goes by names such as Chocho del Paramo and Sacha Chocho.
This would appear to be Lupinus ramosissimus in the foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes, but no guarantees.  The species is mainly found in Ecuador and Peru.
At 4000 meters altitude in the paramor surrounding Ecuador's Chimborazo Mountain, Lupinus microphylla forms alpine mats.
Desmodium heterocarpon, the Asian Tick Trefoil is indeed Asian in origin, but has been widely planted in Mesoamerica as a forage crop. Click to see big picture (640x412 pixels; 97 KB)
A weed near the town of San Javier in eastern Bolivia.  This is likely a Desmodium of some sort.
Most species of the Desmodium genus seem to look more like this, with pink flowers turning to blue with age. Click to see big picture (640x311 pixels; 85 KB)
Phaseolus coccineus started its career as a vine in the mountains of Central America, where it is still known as Ayocote.   Appreciated for both food and flowers, it has now been planted in temperate and semi-tropical locations around the world, and is best known as the Scarlet Runner Bean. Click to see big picture (640x429 pixels; 108 KB)
Vicia andicola from near Papallacta Lake, Ecuador.  It crops up in the Andes of South America from Colombia to Bolivia.
The Snail Vine or Enredadera Caracol is a widespread oddity in the Neotropics, usually classified as Vigna caracalla, with counterclockwise twist.  Corkscrew flower is another name shared with similar species. Click to see big picture (640x428 pixels; 88 KB)
The Snail Vine also comes in white, but these are easy to confuse with other species, and the hairy leaves would suggest Vigna vexillata. Click to see big picture (554x480 pixels; 105 KB)
Vigna peduncularis comes in shades from white to purple.  It is widespread in the Neotropics, with photo from central Ecuador.
Judging by the width of the flower, this habitant of a beach in Panama is likely the Hairy Cowpea, Vigna luteola.  In truth, Vigna marina looks almost identical, however.  V. luteola is common through much of the Neotropics, especially the coasts, and as it is considered excellent forage, it has been spread to parts of Africa and Asia. Click to see big picture (505x480 pixels; 69 KB)
Another species that has travelled as a forage crop is Vigna adenantha, which goes by names such a Moth Bean.  It originated in the Neotropics, but now common in places such as West Africa.  Photo from southwest Africa.
A sky-blue Snail Flower from central Nicaragua, with a clockwise twist.  Click to see big picture (640x468 pixels; 99 KB)
Pueraria phaseoloides is known as the Tropical Kudzu.  Actually it is pantropical, traveling on its reputation for treating skin ulcers and boils. Click to see big picture (465x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Centrosema macrocarpum is one of the more attractive of the Butterfly Peas.  It is planted as fodder through much of the Neotropics.  That white shaft hanging down behind is the pod.  (C. plumieri can look similar, but the green streak on the flower midrib is more distinctive) Click to see big picture (578x480 pixels; 107 KB)
Centrosema molle is a more typical Butterfly Pea, sometimes called Centro in Mesoamerica and the Soft Butterfly Pea in English.  It has spread widely from the Neotropics, but is here at home on a beach in Panama. Click to see big picture (590x480 pixels; 93 KB)
Centrosema pubescens looks virtually identical to C. molle, but is found at higher elevations.  It has spread to some of the warmer parts of planet earth from the Neotropics, where it is known by terms such as Choreque negro. Click to see big picture (363x480 pixels; 88 KB)
Arachis pintoi carries a Brazilian passport, but this relative of the peanut has gained a reputation as a groundcover and high value forage, and is now common through the Neotropics and beyond.   Perennial Pea and Pinto Peanut are common names in English, while Mani Forajero is found in Latin America. Click to see big picture (568x480 pixels; 64 KB)
Here is a wider view of Arachis pintoi, showing the unusual four-leaf pattern.
The Astragalus genus is some 3000 strong, but when associated with the tropics they usually stay well above timberline, in this case in a paramo near Volcan Ruiz in Colombia.  These look like A. garbancillo, but that species is not supposed to be hanging out north of Peru. Click to see big picture (640x387 pixels; 95 KB)
At 4000 meters altitude on Chimborazo Mountain, Ecuador's highest, this would be Astragalus geminiflorus.  It seems confined to the high paramos of Ecuador.
Crotalaria agatiflora is known as the Canarybird Bush, and is widespread in the warmer regions from an origin in east Africa.  Photo from southern Mexico. Click to see big picture (528x480 pixels; 104 KB)
From a cloud forest in northern Nicaragua, a handsome, unidentified pea bush with drooping leaves. Click to see big picture (510x480 pixels; 108 KB)
Cymbosema rosea overhanging a tributary of the Rio San Juan in southeastern Nicaragua. This striking liana flower would be a welcome addition to any tropical garden. Click to see big picture (533x480 pixels; 80 KB)