coastal plants
Sea bean
Canavalia maritima

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 seashores including Changi. It was previously known as Canavalia rosea.

Features: The climber (2-10m long) creeps over other coastal plants. The end of the plant sometimes twines and often it roots from the nodes. Compound leaf with three fleshy, oval leaflets (3-15cm). Flowers (2-2.5cm) reddish-violet with a white streak down the middle, and are upside down when fully opened. Several flowers on a long stalk. They are sweetly scented. Fruits are bean-like pods, straight or slightly curved (6-15 cm long) with 2-10 seeds, brown oval.

Human uses: According to Burkill, the Malays use the flowers as flavouring, the young seeds are said to make a good peas porridge and the pods are edible when young. According to Giesen, young pods and seeds are edible after (prolonged) boiling. Flower used as spice. The plant is considered suitable as ground cover against soil erosion on eroding coastal lands.

Pulau Semakau, Apr 09

Pulau Semakau, Mar 09

Sea bean on Singapore shores

Photos of Sea bean for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map


  • Canavalia rosea on Total Vascular Flora of Singapore Online: photos and fact sheet.
  • Giesen, Wim and Stephan Wulffraat, Max Zieren and Liesbeth Scholten. 2006. Mangrove Guidebook for Southeast Asia (PDF online downloadable). RAP publication 2006/07 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Bangkok.


  • 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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