Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Phaseolus lunatus
(lima bean)



Phaseolus lunatus (lima bean)


  • Last modified
  • 15 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Phaseolus lunatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • lima bean
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • P. lunatus is a fast-growing herbaceous vine, attaining up to 6 m in length, that can become weedy in the wild. It can rapidly colonize degraded areas and secondary vegetation forming dense thickets which displ...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Phaseolus lunatus L.

Preferred Common Name

  • lima bean

Other Scientific Names

  • Dolichos tonkinensis Bui-Quang-Chieu
  • Phaseolus bipunctatus Jacq.
  • Phaseolus ilocanus Blanco
  • Phaseolus inamoenus L.
  • Phaseolus limensis Macfad.
  • Phaseolus limensis var. limenanus
  • Phaseolus lunatus var. macrocarpus (Moench) Benth.
  • Phaseolus macrocarpus Moench
  • Phaseolus portoricensis Spreng.
  • Phaseolus puberulus Kunth
  • Phaseolus rosei Piper
  • Phaseolus saccharatus Macfad.
  • Phaseolus tunkinensis Lour.
  • Phaseolus vexillatus sensu Blanco, non L.
  • Phaseolus viridis Piper
  • Phaseolus vulgaris sensu Blanco, non L.
  • Phaseolus xuaresii Zuccagni

International Common Names

  • English: bean (Lima); Burma bean; butter bean; haricot bean; Madagascar bean; sieva bean; sugar bean
  • Spanish: frijol de luna; frijol lima; haba; habichuela; judia de Lima; Judion; pallar; poroto de Lima; poroto de manteca
  • French: haricot de Lima; haricot du Cap; pois du Cap
  • Chinese: mian dou
  • Portuguese: fava-Belém; feijão-de-Lima

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: fava-Belém; feijão-de-Lima
  • Colombia: carauta
  • Cuba: faba de lima; frijol caballero; frijol caballero negro; frijol de la tierra; frijol de la tierra negro; frijol de Lima; frijolito
  • Dominican Republic: habas
  • Germany: Lima- Bohne; Mond- Bohne
  • Haiti: pois de souche; pois souche
  • India: bakla
  • Italy: fagiolo di lima; fagiolo di luna
  • Jamaica: broad bean
  • Mexico: frijol de ratón; frijol lima; frijol mantequilla; frijolillo
  • Netherlands: Kratok
  • Puerto Rico: haba lima
  • Venezuela: guaracaro; pallar; pira; tapirama

EPPO code

  • PHSLU (Phaseolus lunatus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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P. lunatus is a fast-growing herbaceous vine, attaining up to 6 m in length, that can become weedy in the wild. It can rapidly colonize degraded areas and secondary vegetation forming dense thickets which displace native vegetation. In addition, P. lunatus has deep rooting, drought tolerance, and wide environmental adaptation, which are traits that help it to colonize new habitats including degraded and infertile areas (Baudoin, 2006). It has been listed as invasive in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Fiji, Philippines, New Caledonia, and New Zealand (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; PIER, 2014). 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Genus: Phaseolus
  •                                 Species: Phaseolus lunatus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Phaseolus comprises about 105 species, mostly distributed across the Americas. The species Phaseolus lunatus has a Neotropical origin with at least two centres of domestication (Gutierrez-Salgado et al., 1995):

  1. Central America (Mexico through Guatemala) for the small-seeded types.
  2. South America (mainly Peru) for the large-seeded types.

This distinction coincides with a classification into two types: Mesoamerican and Andean, based on morphological, ecological, protein and molecular characters. The Andean wild populations have a very limited geographic distribution (Ecuador and northern Peru), while the Mesoamerican wild types extend from Mexico to Argentina through the east side of the Andes (Baudoin, 1989; 2006).

Recent discoveries have led to the proposition of three primary centres of genetic diversity, two of which are also domestication centres: (1) a centre of genetic diversity and domestication on the western slope of the Andes in southern Ecuador and northern Peru; (2) a centre of genetic diversity and domestication in Central America; and (3) a centre of genetic diversity in the region covering northern Peru, northern Colombia, northern Ecuador and western Venezuela (Baudoin, 2006; PROTA, 2014).

Currently, wild and cultivated types have been distinguished as P. lunatus var. silvester and P. lunatus var. lunatus, respectively (Hernández and León, 1994). Within the cultivated types three cultivar groups have been distinguished (Baudoin, 1989; 2006):

  • Sieva Group with medium-sized flat seeds.
  • Potato Group with small globular seeds, also known as Fordhook types.
  • Big Lima Group with large flat seeds. 


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Herbaceous vine, twining, attaining 5-6 m in length. Stems obtuse-pentagonal or cylindrical, puberulent. Leaves alternate, trifoliolate; leaflets chartaceous, the apex acute or short-acuminate, the margins sinuate; upper surface dark green, dull, glabrous, with slightly prominent venation; lower surface pale green or glaucous, glabrous, with the primary and secondary venation prominent; terminal leaflet 5.5-11 × 3.5-7.5 cm, rhombic or deltate, the base cuneate or truncate; lateral leaflets asymmetrically deltate, the base truncate; petiolules thickened, 3-5 mm long, pubescent; rachis 1.5-2.5 cm long; petioles 6.5-9 cm long, sulcate, puberulent, the base slightly broadened. Inflorescences of axillary pseudoracemes, erect, 3-30 cm long, the flowers in groups of 2 per node of the inflorescence; pedicels 6-9 mm long, pilose; bracteoles minute, oblong. Calyx 2-2.5 mm long, green, campanulate, pilose, the sepals deltate, subequal; corolla white or lilac, pink or bluish, the standard semicircular, 7-10 mm long, abaxially pilose, the wings obovate, unguiculate, as long as the standard, the keel spirally twisted, ca. 1 cm long; stamens 10, diadelphous, the vexillar stamen broadened at the base; ovary with hispidulous pubescence, intermingled with uncinate hairs. Fruit an oblong-falcate legume or in the form of a half-moon, flattened, 5-7 × 1-2 cm, puberulent with uncinate hairs or glabrescent, dehiscent by valves that open in a spiral containing 2–4 seeds. Seeds reniform, flattened, approximately 7 mm long, reddish brown, with dark spots (Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2005). 

Plant Type

Top of page Biennial
Seed propagated
Vine / climber


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P. lunatus is native to tropical and subtropical America, from northern Mexico to southern Argentina and Paraguay (USDA-ARS, 2014). It has been widely cultivated around the world and can now be found cultivated and naturalized in the West Indies, Asia, Africa, Europe, and on several islands in the Pacific Ocean (see distribution table for details, Baudoin, 2006; DAISIE, 2014; ILDIS, 2014; PIER, 2014).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


BhutanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FujianPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
-HainanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
-HebeiPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
-HunanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
-JiangxiPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
-ShandongPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
-YunnanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroduced Invasive Swarbrick, 1997
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Arunachal PradeshPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-AssamPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-BiharPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-DelhiPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-GoaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-GujaratPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-HaryanaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Himachal PradeshPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Indian PunjabPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-KarnatakaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-KeralaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-ManipurPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-MeghalayaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-MizoramPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-NagalandPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-OdishaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-RajasthanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-SikkimPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-TripuraPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-West BengalPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Irian JayaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
-JavaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
IranPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
IraqPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MaldivesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
PakistanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
SingaporePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
TaiwanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ThailandPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
VietnamPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014


AldabraPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
AngolaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
BeninPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
BotswanaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ComorosPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Equatorial GuineaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
GabonPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
GuineaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
KenyaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
LiberiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MadagascarPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MalawiPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MaliPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
MauritiusPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
NigerPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
NigeriaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Rodriguez IslandPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
RwandaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Sao Tome and PrincipePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
SenegalPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
SeychellesPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
SudanPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
TogoPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
UgandaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ZambiaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014

North America

MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedBaudoin, 2006Cultivated
-DelawarePresentIntroducedBaudoin, 2006Cultivated
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
-MarylandPresentIntroducedBaudoin, 2006Cultivated
-MississippiPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-MissouriPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2014
-WisconsinPresentIntroducedBaudoin, 2006Cultivated

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
BelizePresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Tortola
Costa RicaPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
GuatemalaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
JamaicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
NicaraguaPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
PanamaPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012St Croix, St Thomas

South America

ArgentinaPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
BoliviaPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroducedLima and Snak, 2014Naturalized
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedLima and Snak, 2014Naturalized
-ParaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-ParanaPresentIntroducedLima and Snak, 2014Naturalized
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedLima and Snak, 2014Naturalized
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedLima and Snak, 2014Naturalized
ColombiaPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status
EcuadorPresentILDIS, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Uncertain status. Introduced on Galapagos Is.
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
French GuianaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007Cultivated and naturalized
GuyanaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007Cultivated and naturalized
ParaguayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
PeruPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
SurinamePresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007Cultivated and naturalized
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedFunk et al., 2007; USDA-ARS, 2014Cultivated and naturalized


SpainPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2014


AustraliaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2014
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1985
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedFlorence et al., 2013Cultivated
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedWagner et al., 2013
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive MacKee, 1994
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Webb et al., 1988
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedHancock et al., 1988
TongaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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P. lunatus has been widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, facilitating its establishment and naturalization. In post-Columbian times, this species spread throughout the Americas. Spaniards took seeds across the Pacific to the Philippines and from there it spread to other parts of Asia, mainly Java, Myanmar, and to Mauritius. The slave trade introduced P. lunatus from Brazil into Africa, particularly to the western and central parts. Some large-seeded types from the Peruvian coast were distributed to south-western Madagascar and southern California. Currently, the USA is the largest producer of Lima bean with about 21,000 ha under cultivation (mainly in California, Delaware, Maryland, and Wisconsin; Baudoin, 2006). 

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of P. lunatus is very high. This species is now widely cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical regions and it has frequently become naturalized (Baudoin, 1989; 2006). It spreads by seeds and benefits from human association.


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P. lunatus is widely cultivated for its seeds. Outside cultivation, this species can be found growing in disturbed sites, grasslands, and secondary forests, along trails, riverbanks, on fences, and in thickets at low and medium altitudes, ascending up to 2000 m (Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2005; PIER, 2014). 

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

P. lunatus is a bisexual species in which autogamy is favoured by the synchronized maturity of pollen grains and stigma in its flowers, as well as the proximity within the bud (Martínez-Castillo et al., 2007). However, outcrossing rates of 0.02% up to 48% have been reported, depending on genotype, growth conditions, distance between plants, wind direction, and local pollinating insect populations (Baudoin et al., 1998; Zoro Bi et al., 2005).

In Puerto Rico, P. lunatus has been collected in flower and fruit from December to June (Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2005). P. lunatus has both photoperiod-insensitive types that flower in day-lengths up to 18 hours, and short-day types that require a day-length as short as 11–12.5 hours to initiate flowers (Baudoin, 2006). 

Physiology and Phenology

P. lunatus is an herbaceous species with an annual or short-cycle perennial lifecycle (Martínez-Castillo et al., 2007) but are grown commercially as annuals. Germination and emergence occur 4 to 10 days after sowing. Vegetative growth accelerates after one month. Flowers appear 35-70 days and ripe pods 80-120 days after sowing under short day-length (Baudoin, 1989; Baudoin, 2006). P. lunatus has a highly branched root system reaching depths of more than 1 m.


P. lunatus can fix nitrogen by symbiosis with Bradyrhizobium bacteria. In the tropics, this species is often cultivated in home gardens, or intercropped with cereals (maize, sorghum), roots and tubers (yam, cassava) or other crops such as cotton and sugar cane (Hernandez and Leon, 1994; Baudoin, 2006).

Environmental Requirements

P. lunatus grows best in low-altitude humid and sub-humid tropical climates, but it can be grown in a wide range of ecological conditions. It is found in warm temperate zones as well as in arid and semi-arid tropical regions. This species can be found from sea-level up to altitudes higher than 2000 m. Optimum temperatures are 16–27°C; frost is not tolerated. Large-seeded types are more sensitive to temperature than small-seeded. The plant does not flower if the temperature is above 30°C. Average rainfall is 900–1500 mm per year, but once established the crop tolerates as little rainfall as 500–600 mm. Some types are considered very drought resistant, due to their deep, well-developed root system. P. lunatus prefers well-aerated, well-drained soils with pH 6.0–6.8, but some cultivars tolerate acid soils with pH as low as 4.4 (Baudoin, 1989; Baudoin, 2006).


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 16 27


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall9002000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The following are serious pests, pathogens and diseases found in P. lunatus:

  • Web-blight caused by Thanatephorus cucumeris
  • Fusarium root rot caused by Fusarium solani
  • Anthracnose caused by Colletotrichum spp.
  • Downy mildew caused by Phytophthora phaseoli
  • Bacterial blight due to Xanthomonas campestris pv. phaseoli
  • Viral disease Lima bean golden mosaic virus (LGMV) transmitted by white flies (Bemisia spp)
  • Viral disease Lima bean green mottle virus (LBGrMV) transmitted by aphids.
  • Root-knot nematodes (mainly Meloidogyne incognita)
  • Mexican bean beetle (Epilachna varivestis)
  • Aphids (mainly Aphis craccivora)
  • Leafhopper (Empoasca dolichi)
  • Flower thrips (Megalurothrips sjostedti)
  • Legume pod borers (Maruca vitrata, Cydia spp. and Etiella spp.)
  • Bruchids (Callosobruchus, Acanthoscelides and Zabrotes spp.)

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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P. lunatus spreads by seeds. Seeds are intentionally dispersed by humans where the species is grown as an agricultural crop, and secondarily dispersed by water, agricultural machinery, and vehicles. 

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionCultivated for its edible seeds Yes Yes PROTA, 2014
Escape from confinement or garden escapeEscaped from cultivation Yes Yes Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2005
ForageCultivated for its edible seeds Yes Yes PROTA, 2014
Habitat restoration and improvementGreen manure Yes Yes PROTA, 2014
People foraging Yes Yes PROTA, 2014

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Consumables Yes Yes PROTA, 2014
Debris and waste associated with human activities Yes Yes PROTA, 2014

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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P. lunatus is a fast-growing vine with the capability of escape from cultivation and becoming naturalized in natural and disturbed habitats. Once established, it grows forming dense thickets which outcompete and displace native vegetation (Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2005; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; PIER, 2014). 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition - strangling
  • Hybridization
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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P. lunatus is cultivated primarily for its seeds, which are used in soups, salads, stews and as a vegetable. Particularly in Asia and Africa, immature sprouts, leaves and pods are also consumed. In the Philippines and Africa, dry seeds are used to produce high protein bean flour for enriching bread or noodles. Seeds and leaves are valued for their astringent qualities and consequently used as a diet for fever in traditional Asian medicine. After harvesting the pods, the vines are sometimes fed to cattle. Seeds are sometimes used as fodder. The leaves and stems may be turned into hay or silage. The silage contains 27.3% dry matter and up to 14.2% digestible nutrients. Lima bean is also grown as a short duration cover or green manure crop (Hernandez and Leon, 1994; Baudoin, 1989). In the USA, fresh and dry Lima beans are processed on an industrial scale involving canning and freezing (Baudoin, 2006). 

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage


  • Soil improvement

Human food and beverage

  • Flour/starch
  • Pulse

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore


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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, 2005. Vines and climbing plants of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 51:483 pp.

Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution.

Andueza-Noh, R. H., Camacho-Pérez, L., Martínez-Castillo, J., May-Pat, F., 2016. Geographical distribution of wild relatives of mesoamerican gene pool of lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus L.) in Mexico., Polibotánica:101-113

Andueza-Noh, R. H., Martínez-Castillo, J., Chacón-Sánchez, M. I., 2015. Domestication of small-seeded Lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus L.) landraces in Mesoamerica: evidence from microsatellite markers., Genetica, 143(6):657-669

Andueza-Noh, R. H., Serrano-Serrano, M. L., Chacón Sánchez, M. I., Sanchéz del Pino, I., Camacho-Pérez, L., Coello-Coello, J., Mijangos Cortes, J., Debouck, D. G., Martínez-Castillo, J., 2013. Multiple domestications of the Mesoamerican gene pool of lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus L.): evidence from chloroplast DNA sequences., Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 60(3):1069-1086

Baudoin JP, 1989. Phaseolus lunatus L. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 1: Pulses [ed. by Maesen, L. J. G. van der \Somaatmadja]. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Pudoc, 57-60.

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07/01/15 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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