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coastal plants
Poisonous sea bean
Canavalia cathartica

Family Fabaceae

updated Jan 2013
Where seen? This climber with large lilac flowers and dark green leaves is sometimes seen on our wild coastal areas. According to Hsuan Keng, it was common on our sandy shores. It was previously known as Canavalia turgida, C. obtusifolia.

Features: A twinning climber. Compound leaf made up of three leaflets eye-shaped (4-9cm) thin. Flowers (2-2.5cm) rose-pink to dark purple. Several flowers on a long stalk. Fruits are oval pods (3-5cm long) with 3 keels pointed tip, flat green ripening brown with several beans, black oval and poisonous.

According to Butterfly Circle, this plant is one of the host plants for the caterpillar of the Common Sailor (Neptis hylas papaja).

Pulau Ubin, Jan 09

Pulau Ubin, Jan 09

Pasir Ris Park, Jan 10

Pasir Ris Park, Oct 09

Poisonous sea bean on Singapore shores

Photos of Poisonous sea bean for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map



  • Hsuan Keng, S.C. Chin and H. T. W. Tan. 1990, The Concise Flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and Dicotyledons. Singapore University Press. 222 pp.
  • Burkill, I. H., 1993. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. 3rd printing. Publication Unit, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Volume 1: 1-1240; volume 2: 1241-2444.
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