Characteristics and economic importance of family Leguminosae

  • This family is also known as Papilionaceae or Fabaceae or commonly known as pea family.
  • It is considered to be the second largest family of dicotyledonous plants.
  • It is a terrestrial plant widely distributed in temperature and tropical countries of the world.
  • The plants are of great economic importance.
  • They are herbs, shrubs and trees.


  • The roots are tap roots, fibrous or tuberous.
  • The outstanding feature is the presence of roots tubercles or nodules which harbor nitrogen fixing bacteria (Rhizobium) inside them.
  • Plants are grown to enrich the soil with nitrogenous substances.


  • Leaves are stipulate(stipules are large and foliaceous), alternate and pinnately compound.
  • Stipules may be modified into spines.
  • Generally, the leaves are compound and sometimes the leaf petiole is modified to form a
  • In some other plants, the leaves form tendrils for climbing purposes.

Stem: It is  branched, smooth or glaucious, may be erect or weak, herbaceous or woody. Some are climbing with the help of leaf tendrils.

Inflorescence: Raceme, flowers are arranged in axillary racemes.


  • Flowers are complete, bracteate and pedicellate.
  • They are either actinomorphic or zygomorphic.
  • They are hypogynous and cyclic,tetramerous.


  • Sepals are generally 5 in number.
  • They are usually gamosepalous and the odd sepal is always anterior in position.
  • Aestivation may be ascending imbricate or vexillary.


  • Petals are 5 in number, white or pink in color.
  • They may be polypetalous or gamopetalous (generally polypetalous) and are variously shaped.


  • There are generally 10 stamens, 9 stamens united to form a tube around the ovary while the tenth stamen is free.
  • They are polyandrous or diadelphous.


  • It is monocarpellary, superior and unilocular.
  • There are numerous ovules on parietal or marginal placentation.

Fruit: A legume or pod with few seeds.

Floral diagram with floral formula (Pisum sativum or garden pea):

Some important plants of the family:

  • Pisum sativum (Garden pea)
  • Melilothus indica (Motha)
  • Lathyrus odorantus (Sweet pea)
  • Phaseolus mungo (Urad)
  • Phaseolus anreus (Mung)
  • Cajanus cajan (Arhar)
  • Arachis hypogaea (Mungphali or ground nut)
  • Dalbergia sisoo (Shisham)
  • Cicer arietinum (Charia)

Economic importance:

  • As pulses: Large number of plants are the sources of pulses which are rich in proteins. E.g. Pisum sativum (garden pea), Vicia faba (broad bean), Glycine max (soyabean) Vinga mungo (black gram), V. radiate (green gram), Cajanus cajan (pigeon pea), Lens esculenta (Musur) etc.
  • Vegetables: Garden pea, mumgphali or ground nut
  • Natural fertilizers: Crotolaria juncea (sun hemp), Trifolium repens (Clover), Medicago sativa (alfa alfa)
  • Oil: Oil can be extracted from soyabean and ground nut.
  • Condiments (flavoring agent): Seeds of Trigonella foenum graecum (Methi) are used to add flavor to food.
  • Fibers: Sun hemp and Sesbania cannabina (river hemp or yellow pea bush) are used to extract fibers.
  • Timber: Shisham and Dalbergia latifolia (India rosewood)
  • The leaves of Indigofera tinctoria yield indigo dye.
  • The red seeds of Arbus precatorious are used as jeweler’s weights.

 Characteristics and economic importance of family Leguminosae