February 8
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Plant Genus of the family Fabaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Acacia In Australia, where the largest number of true Acacia species originate, they are invariably called wattles. Until the early nineteenth century Acacia was classified in the genus Mimosa, and mimosa persists as their common name in Europe. In North America it is Robinia pseudoacacia which is known as ?acacia?. The genus Acacia consists of at least 1,200 species of which over 900 are Australian; its other major centers are Africa and warmer parts of the Americas, with a smaller number in tropical Asia and islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Most are shrubs or small to medium-sized trees, but a few are either large forest trees or climbers scrambling by hooked spines. Like other members of the mimosa subfamily of legumes, they have small flowers densely crowded into spikes or globular heads, the stamens more conspicuous than the tiny petals. Flower color is yellow, cream or white, with rare exceptions. The leaf structure is basically bipinnate with many small leaflets?but in many species the leaves on developing seedlings soon lose their bipinnate blades and the leaf stalks widen in a vertical plane to form phyllodes, taking over the leaves? photosynthetic function. Australian Acacia species display a wide range of phyllode shapes and sizes, some quite bizarre. The acacia fruit is a typical legume pod, splitting open when ripe to reveal a row of hard seeds. In Africa, though the number of Acacia species is much smaller than in Australia, they form an important part of the scenery over large areas. These are the ?thorn trees? with their characteristic flat-topped crowns, fine bipinnate leaves, and branches armed with sharp spines arranged in pairs at the leaf nodes. The spines of some African acacias are exceptionally large and fierce; in a few species the spines are much thicker than the branchlets that bear them. This peculiarity also occurs in a group of tropical American acacias. These large spines may be hollow, providing shelter for ants. Most acacias are fast growers that rapidly colonize disturbed soil. Being legumes, they can obtain nitrogen from the air and convert it into soil nitrogen, the most valuable of plant nutrients. This ability assists their growth in low-nutrient soils, thus making them useful plants for restoring vegetation on denuded areas. Economic uses of acacias include timber, tanbark, gums (exuded from bark wounds), and edible seeds or seedpods; many species are valued for ornament or landscape use. Australian acacias especially are noted for their abundant displays of blossom, brilliant golden yellow in many cases, and characteristically appearing in winter or spring. CULTIVATION: Most acacias require well-drained soil and full sun, although some thrive in semi-shade. In mild climates, acacias are among the most easily grown of any trees and shrubs. This very quality makes them likely to become environmental weeds, as has happened in the case of some Australian species in South Africa, and some African and American species in Australia. For this reason, it is important to be careful about introducing non-native species into environments that might favor their spread. The fast growth of many acacias may be offset by a short life, with many of the shrubby species reaching their prime in as little as 5 years and declining thereafter. Decline in vigor is often accompanied by insect damage to bark or foliage; replacing the plants is usually more practical than controlling the insects. Most acacias do not take kindly to hard pruning, as this causes gum exudation and opens the way for insect and fungal attack. Propagation is nearly always from seed, the rare exceptions being the relatively few cultivars of prostrate habit or with colored foliage. Seeds should be treated by rubbing on sandpaper or pouring boiling water over them, followed by soaking in cold water for a day?germination is usually then rapid. Seedlings are best planted out at an early stage.
Adenandra This is a genus of 18 species of small evergreen shrubs native to South Africa where they grow on rocky mountainsides and sea cliffs. Ranging up to 3 ft (1 m) in height, they have gland-dotted branches that are often sticky. Small aromatic leaves are a feature they share with the related Coleonema genus. The 5-petalled flowers, about 1 in (25 mm) wide, are usually white or pink and are fragrant in some species. CULTIVATION: These shrubs require a deeply worked, free-draining gritty soil in a sunny open position and are ideal for growing in rock gardens and containers. In cooler climates they can be wintered in a greenhouse. Any fertilizer should be applied sparingly. Propagate from seed sown in early summer or half-hardened cuttings in late summer.
Adenanthera Belonging to the mimosa subfamily of legumes, this mainly tropical Asian genus is made up of 12 or so species of small to medium-sized trees. The bipinnate leaves consist of many oval leaflets, and small flowers are borne on dense elongated spikes. The flowers are followed by seed pods that split open when ripe to reveal conspicuous glossy seeds that remain attached to the twisted pod halves. They are fast growing but may be rather short lived. CULTIVATION: They are suited only to the tropics and warmer subtropics, thriving in a wide range of soils but preferring good drainage. Watering and fertilizing results in fast growth but weak stems that may require staking. Propagate from seed, which should be rubbed on sandpaper and soaked in water for 24 hours before sowing. Cuttings of half-hardened wood can also be used.
Adenanthos This southern and western Australian genus of evergreen protea-family shrubs includes around 30 species, many of which have become endangered in the wild. The leaves, which are often densely hairy, are variably shaped, being either simple, divided, lobed or toothed edged. Those with especially hairy gray foliage are known as woollybushes. The others are called jugflowers or basket flowers because their tepals are fused to form a long-necked cup or urn, the bowl at the base of which is a nectary. This makes the bushes very attractive to nectar-feeding birds during the spring to summer flowering season. CULTIVATION: Woollybushes tolerate only light frosts, but provided the usual protea-family rules are followed?light, well-drained soil, good ventilation, sunshine and little or no phosphate?they are not too difficult to cultivate. Most species respond well to pruning, thinning and shaping, and both the flowers and foliage last well in water when cut. Propagation is usually from seed.
Adenium Opinions have varied as to how many species can be distinguished in this genus of shrubs with thick stems and showy oleander-like flowers, but the current view seems to be that it consists of a single, variable species ranging all the way from southern Arabia through eastern and central Africa as far as northeastern South Africa. Within this species there are a number of subspecies, some with extremely swollen, succulent stems?these are prized by succulent-plant enthusiasts. The less succulent forms are popular ornamentals in tropical gardens around the world, displaying their striking trumpet-shaped blooms in clusters on rather gaunt branches that may or may not be leafless at time of flowering. Like many other members of the oleander family, Adenium bleeds copious milky sap from all parts when cut or broken, and is believed to be poisonous. The fleshy leaves, widest toward the apex, are unusual in this family in being spirally arranged rather than opposite or whorled. CULTIVATION: Adeniums are grown outdoors in the tropics, commonly in pots, tubs and planter boxes; in garden beds they may require measures to improve drainage. In warm-temperate climates they can be grown against a hot, sunny wall but in cool climates they require a greenhouse or conservatory with high light levels. They are very drought and heat tolerant, but watering through summer and autumn promotes leaf growth and prolongs flowering. Propagation is from seed (if obtainable) or cuttings, which should be allowed to callus before planting in a gritty medium and kept warm. Grafting onto an oleander rootstock has been used to produce more vigorous and hardy plants.
Adenocarpus A legume genus of the broom tribe, Adenocarpus consists of 15 or so species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs. The majority are found in the western Mediterranean region, but a few are native to the Canary Islands and Madeira and as far east as Turkey. They resemble Genista in having smallish leaves divided into 3 leaflets, and yellow pea-flowers in terminal spikes. Distinctive features are bark that becomes rough or flaky with age, leaves clustered in crowded short shoots, and sticky seed pods. Some species have proved attractive garden plants, suited to mild climates but often short-lived. CULTIVATION: Most of the species are not very frost hardy and in cool climates are best planted against a sunny wall. Soil should be very open, well drained and on the dry side. Like most brooms, they adapt poorly to warmer climates with a long wet summer. Propagate from seed or half-hardened tip cuttings.
Adenostoma This genus from southwestern North America is composed of just 2 species. Belonging in the rose family, the Rosaceae, they are evergreen shrubs or small trees with fine, aromatic, heath-like foliage, resinous young stems and leaves and peeling red-brown bark. They produce panicles of scented, small, white flowers in spring and early summer. CULTIVATION: Apart from an intolerance of heavy or repeated frosts, these shrubs are tough, adaptable and long lived. If trimmed to shape when young they can be kept compact but they could never be called neat bushes. They are drought tolerant once established and generally prefer fairly light soils that are well drained and not inclined to be waterlogged in winter. Plant in full or partial shade with shelter from strong winds and propagate from seed or half-hardened cuttings.
Albizia This genus contains trees, shrubs and vines in the Mimosaceae?the mimosa family. (While the members are sometimes referred to as ?mimosas?, this name is more usually kept for a member of the related acacias?Acacia dealbata?the silver wattle.) Most have attractive feathery foliage of bipinnate compound leaves and showy flowerheads of prominent stamens in pink, cream or white. Flowers are followed by flattened pods (legumes). The members of this genus are fast growing but generally short lived, often attacked by borers. They can become weedy. Most are reasonably drought and cold tolerant to 23?F (?5?C). The foliage and seed pods provide nutritious fodder and the powdered bark has been used as a soap. CULTIVATION: Albizia species are tolerant of poor soils but perform best on well-drained loam in a sheltered position, requiring moisture and warmth in summer. Because the seeds have impermeable coats, it is best to first soak the seed in sulfuric acid for half an hour and then to wash it thoroughly prior to sowing. In early spring, root cuttings of at least 1?2 in (12 mm) diameter, and planted immediately, are also successful.
Amorpha A genus of 15 species of deciduous leguminous shrubs native to North America, the name of which is derived from amorphos (deformed), and refers to the single-petalled flowers. These are crowded into one-sided racemes and are usually shades of pink, mauve, purple or white. The foliage is pinnate and composed, in some species, of over 40 elliptical leaflets. Plant size varies considerably, with some less than 3?ft (1 m) tall and others over 12?ft (3.5?m). The flowers tend to be short lived but are followed by seed pods that usually remain until leaf-fall. CULTIVATION: Most species are very frost hardy and easily grown under average garden conditions. A sunny or partly shaded location with well-drained soil and summer moisture is fine. Propagate by summer half-hardened cuttings, winter hardwood cuttings or by seed.
Bauera Bauera is an eastern Australian genus of just 4 species. Named by Sir Joseph Banks in honor of two German botanical artists, the genus was among the first Australian plants to be described. Once included in the saxifrage family, these evergreen shrubs are now included among the butterknife bushes (Cunoniaceae) and some botanists now name the family after this genus?the Baueraceae. They are characterized as wiry-stemmed shrubs clothed with small leaves, and in spring and early summer display small but colorful flowers. CULTIVATION: Apart from being fairly frost tender, Bauera is easily grown and undemanding. They do best in well-drained, light, sandy soil with added humus for moisture retention. They prefer to avoid extremes of heat and cold, so some shade from the hottest afternoon sun is appreciated, as is winter shelter. Occasional trimming will keep the bushes compact. Propagate by seed or half-hardened cuttings.
Bauhinia Taken in the broad sense, Bauhinia is a genus of around 300 species of which the great majority are confined to the tropics. It occurs in all continents (except Europe) and larger tropical islands. Bauhinias belong to the caesalpinia subfamily of legumes and include shrubs, climbers and small to medium-sized trees. A large proportion of the family is deciduous. Their most characteristic feature is the compound leaf consisting of only 2 broad leaflets, though in most species these are fused for part or all of their length along their inner edges. The paired leaflets are said to have inspired Linnaeus?s choice of the genus name, honoring the sixteenth-century botanist brothers Johann and Caspar Bauhin. The flowers are often quite showy, borne in the leaf axils or in terminal sprays on the branches. They have 5 petals that are of more or less similar size, though the upper one is often broader and more strongly marked. The seed pods are flattened and slightly woody, splitting open when ripe with the two halves springing apart elastically and, in some cases, flinging the flattened seeds quite some distance. Botanists have at times seen Bauhinia as heterogeneous and have therefore separated off some groups of allied species as distinct genera. Pilidiostigma and Lysiphyllum are the best known such segregate genera, recognized by African and Australian botanists, but other recent specialists insist on a broadly defined Bauhinia. The main use of bauhinias is as ornamental trees and shrubs, but some are used in traditional medicine or as a fiber source, and the seeds of a few species are edible, with high protein content. CULTIVATION: Most species adapt readily to cultivation in warm climates, though some are very slow-growing. Many come from tropical climates with a long dry season and do not grow or flower well in wetter climates. They are deep-rooted and do not take kindly to transplanting, but will often tolerate hot exposed positions and hard dry soils. Few of them grow well in shade. Propagation is most easily achieved from seed, which germinates readily, but half-hardened cuttings can also be used.
Butea Only 2 species make up this genus of deciduous leguminous trees allied to Erythrina, native to tropical Asia. They have compound leaves consisting of 3 large leaflets, coated in whitish silky hairs when they first unfurl. Spectacular flowers are borne on leafless branches, in dense short spikes usually clustered in panicles; the buds are clothed in silvery hairs. Individual flowers are large, clearly of a pea- or bean-flower structure similar to that of Erythrina with an erect, recurving standard petal. Flowers are followed by flattened bean-like pods. CULTIVATION: They require a tropical or subtropical climate with a well-marked dry season and completely frost free, and a position in full sun. They are tolerant of poorly drained and sandy soils, but growth can be rather slow. Propagation is normally from seed.
Caragana This is a leguminous genus of around 80 species of deciduous trees and shrubs that, while seldom spectacular, are often extremely hardy. They are wiry branched, sometimes thorny and have pinnate leaves, often clustered near the branch tips, that are made up of many tiny leaflets. The small pea-like flowers are nearly always yellow, may be borne singly or in small clusters and appear in spring and summer. They are followed by small brownish seed pods of little ornamental value. CULTIVATION: Naturally adapted to a temperate continental climate with cool to cold winters and hot summers, these are tough, easily grown plants that adapt to most temperate climates with distinct seasons. They are equally unfussy about soil but generally perform best on neutral to slightly alkaline soils. Trim to shape if necessary but avoid hard pruning because the old wood can be slow to reshoot. Propagation is usually from seed, though cultivars are cutting-grown or grafted depending on the growth form.
Cassia Once a very large genus of annuals, perennials, subshrubs, shrubs and trees, Cassia has been extensively revised in recent years and while still containing well over 100 species, it is now a far more consistent grouping of plants. The shrubs and trees in the genus are mainly evergreen and characterized by pinnate, sometimes hairy leaves and bright yellow or pink flowers that may be borne singly, in small clusters or in panicles. The flowers often appear over a long season and are followed by bean-like seed pods. CULTIVATION: Although hardiness varies with the species, few will tolerate repeated frosts. The general preference is for a mild climate, moist well-drained soil and a position in full sun or partial shade. Propagation is usually from seed, which should be soaked in warm water prior to sowing. Some cassias will grow from half-hardened cuttings.
Ceratonia This genus of legumes is possibly allied to Cassia and consists of 2 species of evergreen tree native to the Arabian Peninsula and Somalia, one of them known since biblical times as a food and fodder plant. Botanists believe the genus is a relict of a tropical Asian-type rainforest that occurred over much of this region in warmer and wetter times before the Ice Ages took hold. The leaves are pinnate with large leathery leaflets and the flowers are small and unisexual in dense branched spikes that emerge from the trunk as well as from small and large branches. The sexes are variably distributed on each tree and at certain times a tree may become in effect entirely male or entirely female. The fruits are plump brownish pods with shiny seeds embedded in a sweet, floury, edible pulp. CULTIVATION: Only Ceratonia siliqua (the carob) is known in cultivation and was long ago spread by man through the Middle East and warmer parts of the Mediterranean region. Although it will grow in a wide range of climates, it needs a hot dry summer, a moderately wet winter and permanent deep soil moisture to produce good crops of pods. It likes a fertile well-drained soil. If only one tree can be grown it should be of a variety known to bear male and female flowers together. Propagate from seed, extracted from fresh pods and sown immediately, or from green branch cuttings planted in late summer.
Cercis This small genus of 6 or 7 deciduous trees and shrubs in the caesalpinia family is found in the temperate zone from North America to Southeast Asia and grown for the showy spring flowers. The leaves are alternate and mostly broadly ovate; the flowers are pea-shaped with 5 petals in a squat calyx, usually borne on bare stems before or with the early leaves. The fruit is a flat legume with a shallow wing along the edge. CULTIVATION: Cercis species prefer a moderately fertile soil that drains well, and exposure to sun for most of the day. All species are frost hardy. Some early shaping is needed to select a main leader but little regular pruning is needed after that. Propagation is usually from freshly harvested seeds which need pre-soaking in hot water to soften the hard coat. Half-hardened cuttings may be taken in summer or early autumn.
Cladrastis Native to China, Japan and eastern USA, this leguminous genus of 5 species of deciduous trees is cultivated mainly for its flowers, which are carried in wisteria-like racemes opening from early summer, followed by flat seed pods. The pinnate leaves, usually around 12 in (30 cm) long, have fine hairs on the undersides of the 4 in (10 cm) long leaflets. They are known as yellowwoods after the American species Cladrastis lutea, both for the color of its timber and the yellow dye it yields. The heartwood is used for gunstocks, especially those with carved detailing. CULTIVATION: Yellowwoods tolerate a wide range of soil types provided the drainage is good. They will not withstand extremes of soil moisture, drought or waterlogging, but are otherwise easily grown in any sunny position. The branches are narrow-forked and the wood is rather brittle, so shelter from strong winds is advisable and older trees often require corrective pruning or guying to prevent wind damage. Propagate from seed or winter hardwood cuttings.
Colutea The 30-odd species of deciduous shrubs and small trees that make up this leguminous genus occur naturally in Africa and Europe eastward to Central Asia. They are wiry stemmed, sometimes spiny, and have pinnate or trifoliate leaves, usually composed of very small leaflets. The small racemes of yellow to orange pea-like flowers that appear from spring to autumn are quite attractive, but often the most interesting feature is the pods that follow. The pods become very inflated and balloon-like and may be colored, translucent, glossy or hairy. While rarely strikingly ornamentals, they are worth growing as novelties; children love the pods because of the noise they make when burst by squeezing. CULTIVATION: Most species are moderately to very frost hardy and will grow in a wide range of soils provided the drainage is good. They thrive in inland gardens and also grow well near the coast. Plant in full sun for the best flower and pod production. Regular tip pinching and thinning will help to keep the plants from becoming rangy. Propagate from seed or summer cuttings.
Coronilla There are about 20 species of annuals, perennials and shrubs, some evergreen and some deciduous, within this genus. Native to Europe, Africa and Asia, their habitat ranges from open woodland to dry scrub and grassland. Coronilla valentina grows on cliffs, and is used for erosion control. The leaves of Coronilla are usually pinnate; pea-like flowers are borne in umbels, with some species being fragrant. CULTIVATION: They need shelter from cold winds and winter frosts, and do best in full sun in well-drained moderately fertile soil. Propagate by taking cuttings either in summer or autumn or by sowing freshly ripened seed.
Crotalaria This African-centered tropical and warm temperate genus of around 600 species includes many evergreen shrubs notable for their racemes of showy pea-like flowers, often in strong yellow tones. Conspicuous seed pods follow the flowers and as they ripen the seeds within rattle around, hence the common name rattlebox and the Latin name, which comes from krotalon, a castanet. The leaves may be simple or trifoliate and vary in texture from soft and pliable to leathery depending on the species. CULTIVATION: Although some species will tolerate light frosts, a warm climate or at least a good hot summer is essential to ensure heavy flowering. Flowering is mainly in late spring, though trimming after the first flush of flowers can encourage a second crop. Propagate from half-hardened cuttings or by sowing fresh seed, which should be soaked first.
Cytisus This genus of about 50 species belonging to the pea family consists of mainly evergreen shrubs. Most are native to Europe, with a few in western Asia and North Africa. They vary from small prostrate shrubs to small trees. All have typical pea-shaped flowers; the main flowering season is late spring or summer. The broom-like twiggy growths are sometimes almost leafless. The fruit is a flattened legume with small hard-coated seeds. The brooms are useful ornamentally for their extreme hardiness and showy flowers. CULTIVATION: Brooms need a free-draining soil, preferably slightly acidic but fairly low in fertility. An exposed sunny position gives the best display of flowers. Spent flowers and shoots should be removed after flowering, together with some of the older shoots, in order to open up the center of the plant and encourage new growth from the base. The typical arching habit of the plant should be maintained. Most species can be propagated from short-tip cuttings of ripened current year?s growth, taken in late autumn or early winter.
Darwinia This genus consists of around 45 species, all endemic to Australia, with a large number confined to southern Western Australia, growing in moist peat or sandy soil. Mostly small evergreen shrubs, they have small crowded leaves that are often marked with numerous oil glands. The tiny tubular flowers have long protruding styles and fall roughly into 2 groups: those that are clustered into pincushion-like flowers and those enclosed by large colorful bracts giving the flowerhead a bell-like appearance. The flowers of most species are rich in nectar and will attract birds. A number of the highly ornamental, but often unreliable, Western Australian darwinias are available as grafted plants. They are very well suited to growing in containers and this is recommended in frost-prone areas. CULTIVATION: They require a light well-drained soil with some moisture and a little dappled shade. A good mulch around the root area will conserve soil moisture during summer. Prune lightly after flowering to maintain compact shape. Propagate from half-hardened tip cuttings at the end of summer.
Desmodium A member of the pea subfamily of the Leguminosae, this genus from warm-temperate and tropical regions contains about 450 species. Most are scrambling perennials, others are deciduous or evergreen shrubs. The genus is characterized by its pink, purple, blue or white flowers, trifoliate leaves and fruits that break into single-seeded segments upon maturity. These segments have small hooked bristles that attach them to any passing furry animal or to human clothing, thereby aiding dispersal. Some species from the warmer regions are weedy, but some of the shrubby species from cooler origins are attractive garden plants. CULTIVATION: Propagate from seed in spring, or from cuttings. Sunny, well-drained sites are preferred, and species from the warmer areas will need greenhouse shelter in cooler locations.
Genista There are about 90 species in this genus within the pea-flowered subfamily of legumes. Most species are deciduous but some of them appear evergreen because of their flat green branchlets. Native to Europe and the Mediterranean to west Asia, these shrubs or small trees tolerate all types of soils; most species grow on rocky hillsides in the wild. The leaves are alternate, simple or consist of 3 leaflets, and branches can also be nearly leafless. CULTIVATION: Full sun is a main requirement and not all plants are fully frost hardy. Half-hardy plants can be grown in a well-ventilated greenhouse. They need a light well-drained soil to flower well. Seed should be sown into pots as soon as ripe, in autumn or in spring, and protected from winter frosts until plants are ready to be transplanted. Propagation can also be from half-hardened cuttings in summer.
Gleditsia There are 14 species of deciduous trees in this genus which is part of the large pea family (Leguminosae). They are native to North and South America, central and eastern Asia, Iran and parts of Africa. All have attractive, fern-like, pinnately or bipinnately arranged leaves and are armed with stout, sometimes branching, thorns on the trunk and branches. The flowers are insignificant and followed by seed pods of varying lengths. In some species the pods contain a sweet pulp. CULTIVATION: Gleditsia species grow best on a sunny site in moderately fertile soil that is moisture retentive, and may require frost protection when young. However, they are generally very tough, tolerating a range of soils and climates and are pollution resistant. Gleditsia triacanthos in particular is widely used in street and amenity planting in the USA. If necessary, pruning for shape can be carried out in late summer. Species are propagated from seed sown in autumn, while cultivars are grafted or budded.
Gymnocladus A member of the pea family, this genus of 2 to 5 deciduous trees is found across warm-temperate regions of North America and eastern Asia. They have bipinnate leaves and separate male and female plants with flowers in short terminal panicles. The fruit is a large woody pod containing flat, hard glossy seeds. The fruit of Gymnocladus dioica was used by early American settlers as a substitute for coffee. Native Americans cooked and ate the seeds. CULTIVATION: Adaptable to most soil types in an open sunny position, these trees are drought and frost resistant. Propagation is from seed.
Lespedeza This genus is a member of the large legume family, which includes many edible plants such as peas and beans. It contains about 40 species of prostrate or trailing annual and perennial herbs and deciduous shrubs that are found in eastern and tropical Asia, Australia and the eastern USA. The leaves are trifoliate and the flowers are small, but usually borne in long racemes. CULTIVATION: Grow in a sunny position in deep well-drained fertile soil. In cooler areas give the protection of a warm wall. In spring prune out dead growth and cut back hard to rejuvenate the plant. Propagate by seed or half-hardened cuttings.
Lupinus There are about 200 species of annuals, perennials and evergreen shrubs in this genus which is a member of the legume family. They are found in North and South America, southern Europe and northern Africa, usually in dry habitats. Many have ornamental flowers borne in showy terminal panicles or racemes. The leaves are palmate with 5 to 15 leaflets and the stems are often covered in fine soft down. A number of species are grown for horticultural purposes such as nitrogen fixing and stock fodder, and the seeds of some are processed in various ways for human consumption. CULTIVATION: Although Lupinus species generally tolerate poor dry conditions, they are best grown in full sun in moderately fertile well-drained soil. Shrubby species can be used in shrubberies or mixed borders and L. arboreus can be used for naturalizing rough areas. Propagation is from seed or cuttings. The seedlings should be planted out when small, as these plants dislike root disturbance.
Medicago This genus of about 56 species of annuals, perennials and shrubs is a member of the legume family and includes the important fodder crop Medicago sativa (lucerne, or alfalfa). Species are found over a range of habitats in Europe, Africa and Asia. Growth habits vary considerably but all have clover-like leaves and some species have slightly downy foliage and stems. The flowers are usually yellow and the seed pods that follow are curved or twisted and often spiny. CULTIVATION: Shrubby species will grow in any reasonably fertile well-drained soil. They should be planted in full sun and in cooler areas need the protection of a warm wall. They are attractive ornamentals and, with their deep rooting systems, are also useful for soil stabilization. Propagation is from seed, or from softwood or half-hardened cuttings taken in summer.
Mimosa This genus allied to Acacia in the pea or bean family, Fabaceae, consists of around 480 species of herbs, shrubs, vines or trees. The majority of species are from South and Central America, southern USA, Asia and Africa, growing in habitats ranging from forest to dry savannah. The name comes from the Greek mimos, meaning ?to mimic?, because the movement of the leaves mimics animal movement. They have bipinnate leaves and often spiny stems. The miniature flowers can be white, pink or lilac and have long multiple stamens and 4 or 5 petals. They are borne singly or in stalked rounded heads, less frequently in spikes or racemes. The often prickly flat seeds split open when mature. Some species can be invasive weeds. CULTIVATION: They are best suited to a sunny position in well-drained moderately fertile soil with freedom from frost. Propagate from seed, usually pre-soaked in hot water, or cuttings taken from young growth.
Psoralea Found mainly in the Americas and South Africa, this genus of perennials and evergreen shrubs is made up of around 150 species. Their leaves, which are often narrow, sometimes scale-like, and may be single, trifoliate or pinnate, are often downy or hairy. Clusters of pea-like white or blue flowers appear at various times and are followed by insignificant brown seed pods. CULTIVATION: Cold hardiness varies with the species, though few will tolerate anything but the lightest of frosts. Inclined to be rather untidy open-growing plants, they can be kept compact if pruned after flowering. They prefer to grow in light but reasonably moist soil that is well drained and will flower best if grown in full sun. Propagate from seed or half-hardened cuttings.
Robinia This is a genus of some 20 species of deciduous trees and shrubs found mainly in eastern USA. They are leguminous plants with pendulous racemes of white, cream, pink or lavender, pea-like flowers followed by flat seed pods. The leaves are pinnate, often quite large, and in some species develop vivid yellow autumn colors. The stems sometimes carry fierce thorns that tend to be hard to see until one is impaled. Some robinias are grown for their flowers, others for their foliage, a few for their general growth habit. CULTIVATION: These tough adaptable plants grow quickly and tolerate most soils provided they are well drained. They are, however, rather brittle, with branches that are prone to break or tear in strong winds. Prune when young to establish a strongly branched structure. Some species sucker freely and the suckers can be used for propagation, otherwise they are propagated from stratified seed or cuttings. The special growth forms are usually grafted.
Senna This genus contains about 350 species of tropical and warm-temperate trees, shrubs and a few climbers, most occurring in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas. It is a member of the cassia subfamily of the legume family, and, until recent years, was included in the genus Cassia. All species have pinnate leaves and almost all are evergreen. The majority have yellow flowers, a few with pink flowers, but all are very showy when in flower and many are cultivated for this reason. Many of these species are the source of chemical compounds used medicinally. Their fruits are relatively large and are long, flat or rounded pods. Many species have become invasive weeds in countries where they have escaped from cultivation. CULTIVATION: All species are frost tender and need to be grown in well-drained soils in open sunny positions. The soil pH generally seems not to be overly important. Those species that originate from low-rainfall desert regions appear to be more frost hardy. Propagation is usually from seed, which germinates readily after pre-treatment, or from cuttings.
Sesbania Widespread in the tropics and subtropics, this genus encompasses some 50 species of evergreen and deciduous leguminous herbs, shrubs and trees. They have pinnate leaves that can be quite large, but their main feature is their racemes of pea-like flowers. These develop in the leaf axils and usually open in summer. Angular seed pods follow and should be removed to prolong the flowering. CULTIVATION: Demanding a warm climate, most species, even the trees, are quick growing and short lived. They can appear rather rank and untidy unless trimmed but usually make up for it with a colorful flower display. They thrive with moderately fertile, deep, well-drained soil and a position in full sun or partial shade. Water well during the flowering season and keep dry during the cooler months. Propagate from seed or half-hardened cuttings.
Sophora This widespread genus includes over 50 species of evergreen, deciduous or briefly deciduous shrubs and trees. They have pinnate leaves, often composed of many tiny leaflets. The flowers are pea-like, usually cream or yellow in color, and frequently have a prominent keel; they are carried in racemes or panicles. Spring is the main flowering season, though the tropical species are less seasonal in their flowering. Woody winged seed pods follow the flowers. CULTIVATION: While hardiness varies with the species, most adapt well to cultivation and thrive in any well-drained soil with a position in sun or light shade. Propagate from seed, cuttings or, in some cases, grafting. The seed is very moisture resistant and must be soaked in warm water before sowing. This feature allows the seed to survive prolonged exposure to seawater and accounts for the unusual distribution patterns of some species.
Tephrosia Part of the legume family, this genus contains about 400 species of usually evergreen perennials or shrubs native to tropical and subtropical areas. They show considerable variation and may be erect or sprawling, with alternate leaves comprised of 1 to 41 leaflets. The flowers, borne in pairs or clusters, are typical of those in the pea family and range in color from orange to purple. CULTIVATION: Most species are frost tender but if given a good protective mulch in winter in cooler areas they should resprout from the base in spring. They will grow in any soil that is well drained and can tolerate quite arid conditions. Propagation is from seed, which requires hot water treatment.
Ulex Cultivated as ornamentals in some areas, among the worst of weeds in others, gorses can provoke quite extreme reactions when gardeners meet farmers. This genus from western Europe and North Africa is made up of some 20 species of densely branched, fiercely spiny shrubs that are largely leafless when mature and which are smothered in yellow pea-like flowers at differing times depending on the species. Young plants have fuzzy trifoliate leaves but the foliage is reduced to a chlorophyll-bearing spine in adults. The flowers, borne singly or in small clusters, are fragrant and range in color from pale yellow to gold. CULTIVATION: Often growing far too easily, gorses are tough and adaptable plants that thrive under a wide range of conditions. Generally they prefer moist, light, well-drained soil, but they will tolerate winter damp and grow well on sandy soils near the coast. They can be severely pruned if necessary and may be used as a near-impenetrable hedge. In New Zealand, where common gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a seemingly unstoppable weed, farmers often tame it and use it for roadside hedging.

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