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Short Notes on Nature Singapore

20 March 2016 | My Potted Legumes | Family: Fabaceae |

In a simple sense, legumes are plants that bear seeds in pods, a family known as Fabaceae or Leguminosae. It is a large plant family that includes members of variety of sizes, from the small weedy ones such as Desmodium triflorum (Lesser Clover-leaved Desmodium) to tall gigantic trees such as Koompassia malaccensis (Kempas). I happened to have 3 legumes growing in my pots along the balcony area at the moment. All 3 of them are climbers.

photo photo photo Macroptilium lathyroides (Phasey Bean): I had shared some features of this plant recently on 21 February. This climber can be found in open wild places but is relatively uncommon climber. During the second half of 2011, I brought back some seeds back to grow in my pot. It proved to be an easy plant and grew really fast. The only problem was its close relationship with the small white mealybugs. Once the mealybugs start appearing on the plant, they spread very fast and shortly after, the plant succumb to the attack. Although I had stopped actively propagating the plant, it continued to sprout spontaneously in the pots due to the way that the seeds are dispersed. The mealybugs had disappeared for a few months now but it is hard to predict when it will struck again.

photo photo photo Clitoria ternatea (Butterfly Pea): This legume is one of the most commonly propagated climber in Singapore. Its bright blue flower produces a natural blue dye used to colour food such as glutinous rice cake in Malaysia. Like most legume, it is relatively easy to grow. Almost every leaf node will produce a single flower. The branching is extensive, allowing it to be a good cover plant for wire fence. Compare to Phasey Bean, it is unable to self-propagate well in pot without human intervention. The seed pod rarely split spontaneously. Seeds are basically stuck in the pod until the pod rots away. My interest on propagating it occasionally is that it forms a green shield on my window grill giving the area the much needed greenery.

photo photo photo Centrosema molle (Centro): One of the common name of the third legume is also Butterfly Pea. The term “butterfly” is likely a description of the flower though this climber is one of the host plant of the butterfly Common Sailor (Neptis hylas papaja). In August 2015, I brought a long seed pod back when it was still green in colour. The seed pod gradually turned brown after about 2 weeks, where I then opened it to obtain the seeds to plant in my pot. The growth of the plant was relatively slow at the beginning compared to the 2 other legumes mentioned above. After more than 6 months now, I had yet to see a single flower. The climbers are extending their reach everywhere and seem to be adapting well to the potted environment much better than a few months back. Hopefully, it will flower.

The common characteristic of the 3 legumes, besides being climbers, is their water consumption capacity; all 3 are ferocious drinkers, especially on hot days. All pictures shown were taken from the plants at my balcony except for the seeds and flower of Centrosema molle, which were taken in the wild.

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