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noun, plural: legumes

(botany) A type of dehiscent fruit that split open at both edges (sutures) when mature

(taxonomy) A common name for any of the members of the taxonomic family Leguminosae (Fabaceae) that produce legume fruits and form root nodules (in symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria)


In botany, a legume pertains to a type of a dehiscent fruit. Fruits of flowering plants may be grouped into three based on dehiscence: (1) dehiscent fruit, (2) indehiscent fruit, and (3) schizocarpic fruit. A dehiscent fruit is a fruit that splits open when ripe. A legume is a dehiscent fruit that splits open at both edges (sutures). It arises from a superior unilocular ovary with a single carpel.

In plant taxonomy, legumes include the members of the family Leguminose (or Fabaceae) characterized by their production of legume fruits and their symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their root nodules. Several species, like the vetches, cause lathyrism, favism, and other forms of poisoning of cattle or people. Other species yield useful materials like gums from acacia and various lectins like phytohemagglutinin from phaseolus.

Examples include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, lupin bean, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanuts and tamarind.

Word origin: Latin legūmen (“bean”)

See also:

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