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a genus of perennial prostrate trailing, climbing, or, sometimes, woody plants of the family Leguminosae. The leaves are ternate. The flowers are large, up to 6 cm long; they are usually purple or violet, in racemose inflorescences. The fruit, or bean, is 6—40 mm long, hard, swordlike, with 4—15 large seeds. Approximately 50 species exist in the tropics and subtropics, mainly of America and Africa. The sword bean (Canavalia gladiata) and the jack bean (C. ensiformis) are widely cultivated as annual vegetable plants in India, Indochina, Japan, and southeastern North America. The seeds and unripe beans are edible. In the southern regions of North America, the jack bean is sometimes used as green manure. Some species are ornamentals.