The Leguminosae (or Fabaceae), known as the legume, pea or bean family, is the third largest plant family after orchids and the sunflower family and occurs worldwide. The family is well represented in the Neotropics, Africa and Australia, but relatively poorly represented in Asia. Legumes have been gathered, cultivated, eaten and used in a multitude of other ways by humans for millennia. They have a broad range of uses and legume products contribute enormously to the world’s economy. Ancient cultures were aware of the ability of many legumes to improve the soil, even if they did not then appreciate that this results from symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Some 40 to 60 metric tons of nitrogen are fixed annually by agriculturally important legumes.
Kew has been a world centre for legume research for centuries, including the world's largest and best curated legume collections (about 700 000 of our 7 million herbarium specimens).
By transcribing the labels on these plants, you can help us make the data on these specimens accessible and available online for everyone, scientists and non-scientists. Their collection and identification data form a valuable source of information that allows a variety of subsequent studies.
What are scientists at Kew working on? Have a look at some of our blogs if you want to know more:
Probably the world's heaviest living organism described in 2017
Ever had an ice cream bean for dessert?
We do not have legumes in our herbarium collection only but also in various other collections. The expedition image showcases images taken in the field or from one of our collections:
From top left to bottom right: Illustration: Bauhinia purpurea L., General John Eyre Collection, China | Marianne North painting: Various species of Acacia and other shrubs, Australia | Microscope slide: Transverse section of Dalbergia tomentosa Vogel wood with bark | Herbarium: Astragalus bahrakianus Grey-Wilson, Afghanistan | Field: Bauhinia longicuspis Spruce ex Benth., Brazil | Economic Botany: Entada polystachya (L.) DC. stem snake, Colombia