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Family Fabaceae

Subfamily Faboideae

Description: Trees, shrubs or herbs, sometimes climbing or twining.

Leaves simple or compound (mostly pinnate or palmate) with 1-many leaflets, rarely absent; stipules usually present.

Inflorescences various; each flower on a pedicel subtended by a lower bract and with often 2 similar bracteoles just below the calyx or attached on the calyx tube. Flowers strongly zygomorphic. Calyx mostly unequally toothed, often 2-lipped. Corolla papilionaceous, petals unequal; upper petal (the standard) usually largest and borne externally to the adjacent lateral petals (wings), lower petals innermost and mostly fused (the keel) and enfolding the stamens and gynoecium. Stamens 10, free or more often monadelphous with the filaments fused to form a closed or open sheath around the gynoecium, or the uppermost filament often ± free so that the stamens are diadelphous; anthers 2-locular, dehiscing by longitudinal slits, all uniform or sometimes dimorphic and alternating in size.

Fruit commonly a pod or sometimes a lomentum; seeds usually arillate, though often inconspicuous.


Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 500 gen., 12 000 spp., widespread, chiefly trop. to temp. regions. Aust.: c. 140 gen., 1100 spp., all States.

The seeds and pods of many of the herbaceous species are eaten by humans as food; these are especially valued for their high protein content. Some, especially species of Trifolium and Medicago, are cultivated and used for feeding to livestock or ploughed in as a fertilizer. A number of species are used for timber, while many species are widely grown as ornamentals.

This subfamily is often treated as the family Fabaceae s.str. or Papilionaceae.

Bituminaria, Centrosema, Lablab, Phaseolus, Spartium are included in the key to genera (marked by **). Species of these genera are cultivated as ornamentals or food plants; however, they are not known to be fully naturalized in N.S.W., as a result they are not described in the text.

Key adapted from Crisp (1983)


Flower parts in Faboideae. A, side view of flower; B, separated petals (front view); C, diadelphous stamens with upper stamen free, anthers uniform; D, monadelphous stamens with all filaments fused into a tube, anthers alternately long and short.

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Abrus,    Carmichaelia,    Kummerowia,    Lessertia,    Stylosanthes,    Uraria

 Key to the genera 
1All leaves with 1 leaflet, simple, reduced, or absent.2
Leaves compound, comprised of 2 or more leaflets, rarely some leaves 1-foliolate.4
2Leaves absent or reduced to spines or scales.7
Leaves simple or 1-foliolate.
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3
3Leaves simple.16
Leaves 1-foliolate, an articulation at junction of petiole with lamina.
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39
4Leaflets even in number, rachis often ending in a bristle or tendril.47
Leaflets odd in number, rachis ending in a leaflet or character not obvious.
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5
5Leaflets 5 or more rarely some leaves 3-foliolate.91
Leaflets 3.
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6
6Leaves palmately 3-foliolate, all 3 petiolules ± equal.52
Leaves pinnately 3-foliolate, central petiolule longer than lateral petiolules.
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62
7Stamens all free.8
Stamens variously fused.
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12
8Flowers yellow, in long racemes and panicles; calyx teeth equal, shorter than tube; pods ovoid, thin, indehiscent.Viminaria
Not as above.
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9
9Flowers in axillary racemes, sometimes umbellate or reduced to 1 flower; barren bracts present on peduncle; pods ± triangular or (rarely) ovoid.Daviesia
Combination of characters not as above.
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10
10Upper 2 calyx teeth much enlarged and mostly fused; bracteoles large, round, caducous; pods globose.Sphaerolobium
Combination of characters not as above.
                       Back to 9
11
11Calyx teeth imbricate in bud.Isotropis
Calyx teeth valvate in bud.
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Jacksonia
12Upper stamen ± free, lower 9 joined in a sheath.13
All 10 stamens fused in a tube or sheath.
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14
13Trees with red to orange flowers 3–5 cm long; leafless at flowering.Erythrina
Shrubs or subshrubs with ± pink flowers <1 cm long; leaves present at flowering.
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Indigofera
14All 10 stamens joined in a tube; prickly shrubs with yellow flowers.Ulex
All 10 stamens joined in a sheath split on upper side; plants and flower colour variable.
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15
15Anthers with perceptible connective, all dorsifixed, uniform in size; branches flat with blunt apex.Bossiaea
Anthers with an inconspicuous connective, alternately basifixed and dorsifixed the latter often smaller; branches terete or flat with rigid, sharply pointed apex.
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Templetonia
16Stipules fused behind the axillary bud, margins scarious.Pultenaea
Stipules free or absent.
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17
17Stamens free or fused at very base.18
Stamens variously fused.
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30
18Upper 2 calyx teeth fused into a broad notched lip, lower 3 very small and narrow; bracteoles large, round, caducous; leaves tiny, caducous; pods globose.Sphaerolobium
Not as above.
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19
19Ovary partly divided by a longitudinal partition inside and/or pods longitudinally grooved above.Mirbelia
Combination of characters not as above.
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20
20Ovules 4 or more.21
Ovules 2.
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25
21Standard purple-veined behind; upper 2 caly teeth fused most of the way into a broad lip.Isotropis
Combination of characters not as above.
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22
22Calyx teeth abutted in bud; pods ± globose.Gompholobium
Calyx teeth overlapping in bud; pods ovoid or more elongated.
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23
23Keel about twice as long as wings; leaves ± opposite or whorled.24
Keel much shorter than wings or beaked; leaves mostly alternate.
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Chorizema
24Stipules ± rigid, recurved or spreading; hairs on stems laterally attached, ± 2-branched; bracts simple.Podolobium
Stipules bristly or absent; hairs on stems simple; bracts 3-lobed.
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Oxylobium
25Pods triangular (sometimes turgid) glabrous; flowers in often modified or reduced racemes with barren bracts on peduncle; bracteoles absent.Daviesia
Combination of characters not as above.
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26
26Leaves with recurved to revolute margins; seeds without an aril.27
Leaves flat with flat to involute margins or terete to trigonous and grooved above; seeds with aril.
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28
27Bracteoles absent.Aotus
Bracteoles present, 4–15 mm long, usually green and leaf-like.
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Phyllota
28Leaves opposite, in 2 rows.Eutaxia
Leaves alternate, scattered or crowded.
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29
29Standard much broader than long.Dillwynia
Standard slightly longer than broad.
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Almaleea
30All 10 stamens fused from base in a tube closed or open on upper side.31
Upper stamen free at least at base, other 9 joined in a sheath.
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37
31All stamens fused in a closed tube.32
All stamens fused in a sheath open along upper side.
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33
32Calyx with 5 small teeth, split to base on upper side; anthers bearded at base.Spartium
Calyx 2-lipped, not as above; anthers not bearded.
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Cytisus
33Calyx usually with 5 (rarely 4) subequal teeth; alternate anthers long and short with longer ones more than one and a half times longer.Crotalaria
Upper 2 calyx teeth joined higher than others or greatly enlarged; anthers uniform or alternate anthers longer but not more than one and a half times as long as shorter ones.
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34
34Anthers with perceptible connective, all dorsifixed, uniform in size; leaves distichous.35
Anthers without conspicuous connective, alternately dorsifixed and basifixed, the former often smaller; leaves spirally inserted.
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36
35Pods not thickly and narrowly margined or keeled above, with flattish valves; leaves absent, alternate or opposite; upper calyx teeth not as enlarged as below.Bossiaea
Pods with a thin conspicuous wing above, valves rolling back; leaves opposite; upper calyx teeth greatly enlarged, >6 times as long as lower teeth.
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Platylobium
36Petals blue or purple; pods not or scarcely longer than broad.Hovea
Petals yellow, red or reddish purple; pods at least one and a half times longer than broad.
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Templetonia
37Anthers tipped by a small raised gland; covered with ± appressed, laterally attached hairs.Indigofera
Anthers not as above.
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38
38Rigid shrubs with spiny branches; pods ± straight and smooth.Alhagi
More or less prostrate herbs, branches not spiny; pods twisted and ± spiny.
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Scorpiurus
39Stipules fused behind the axillary bud, margins scarious.Pultenaea
Stipules free or absent.
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40
40Stamens all free.Isotropis
Stamens variously fused.
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41
41All 10 stamens fused, in a sheath split along upper side, at least towards base.42
Stamens all or mostly fused but not as above.
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45
42Calyx with 5 (rarely 4) ± equal teeth; alternate anthers more than one and a half times longer than others.Crotalaria
Upper 2 calyx teeth joined higher than others or greatly enlarged; anthers uniform or not differing by more than one and a half times in length.
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43
43Anthers with inconspicuous connective, alternately basifixed and dorsifixed, the latter often smaller; leaves spirally inserted.Templetonia
Anthers with perceptible connective, all dorsifixed, uniform in size; leaves distichous.
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44
44Pods not or relatively thickly and narrowly margined or keeled above, valves flattish; upper calyx teeth not as enlarged as below.Bossiaea
Pods with thin conspicuous wing above, valves thin and rolling back; upper calyx teeth nearly as long as standard, enormously expanded relative to lower teeth.
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Platylobium
45Pods transversely jointed or constricted, divided into 1–8, indehiscent, 1-seeded articles (includes 43A Uraria).Desmodium
Pods continuous, not jointed, often short and 1- or 2-seeded.
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46
46All 10 stamens joined in a closed tube; erect shrubs.Cytisus
Upper stamen free, other 9 stamens joined in an open sheath; climbing or prostrate subshrubs.
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Hardenbergia
47Leaves ending in a tendril; climbing herbs.48
Leaves not ending in a tendril; shrubs or non-climbing herbs.
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50
48Stipules of similar appearance and size to leaflets (or larger).Pisum
Stipules smaller and narrower than leaflets.
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49
49Leaflets one pair.Lathyrus
Leaflets 2 to many pairs.
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Vicia
50Leaflets 2–6 and >3 cm long, 10–45 mm wide; flowers >2 cm long.Vicia
Leaflets 2–60 and <3 cm long, 1–15 mm wide; flowers <1 cm long.
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51
51Leaves with >10 leaflets; erect annual, >40 cm high; fruit not jointed, not breaking into 1-seeded articles.Sesbania
Leaves with 2 or 4 leaflets; prostrate to erect subshrubs, <40 cm high; fruit jointed, breaking into 1-seeded articles.
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Zornia
52Stamens all free; leaves sessile or nearly so; pods globose or nearly so.Gompholobium
Stamens variously fused; leaves petiolate; pods various, rarely ± globose.
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53
53All 10 stamens fused in a sheath open along the upper side.54
Stamens all fused in a closed tube, or upper one wholly or partly free.
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56
54Upper 2 calyx teeth greatly enlarged and/or joined higher than lower 3.Muelleranthus
Calyx teeth ± equal, or if not equal, then not as above.
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55
55Procumbent herbs; leaves in groups of 3 to 5; pods linear to oblong.Lotononis
Not as above; pods inflated.
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Crotalaria
56Leaves dotted with glands, at least on lower surface.57
Leaves not dotted with glands.
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58
57Fruit densely glandular.Cullen
Fruit not glandular.
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Bituminaria
58Plants herbaceous (sometimes woody at base).59
Plants shrubby.
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60
59Plants twining or trailing (usually woody at base); inflorescences racemose.Glycine
Plants erect to procumbent; inflorescences head-like, spicate or umbellate.
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Trifolium
60Keel petals curved along lower surface; style curved throughout its length.61
Keel petals oblong, straight along lower surface; style curved abruptly near the apex.
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Genista
61Flowers creamy white; calyx tubular, 9–10 mm long; stems ± terete, with obscure ridges.Chamaecytisus
Flowers yellow; calyx campanulate, c. 6 mm long; stems prominently angular.
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Cytisus
62Stipels clearly and consistently present at base of each leaflet, rarely gland-like; frequently twining or climbing plants.63
Stipels absent, minute or inconsistently present.
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81
63Trees or robust woody climbers with leaflets at least 5 cm long, and large showy flowers at least 2 cm long, sometimes plants leafless at flowering.64
Not as above.
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66
64Trees with red flowers; keel much shorter than standard.Erythrina
Woody climbers, flowers greenish or purple, blue or pink with yellow spot; keel equal to or longer than standard.
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65
65Leaves ± glabrous; keel longer than standard; pods with 2 wings along each margin, at first covered with irritant hairs, then ± glabrous.Mucuna
Leaves pubescent; keel ± equal to standard; pods not as above, softly villous.
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Pueraria
66Styles bearded, or hairy more than halfway.67
Styles glabrous, or hairy less than halfway.
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71
67Styles abruptly divided into thin basal part and thickened upper part.68
Styles uniformly thick or thin, or tapering.
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70
68Styles with thickened part (and keel) twisted through more than 360°.Phaseolus
Styles with thickened part twisted through no more than 360°, usually <180°.
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69
69Thickened part of styles bent through 90° just above the base, then curved slightly narrowed towards the apex, resembling a squarish hook.Macroptilium
Styles not as above, variously and smoothly curved.
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Vigna
70Styles straight and blade-like; standard mostly purple.Lablab
Styles strongly curved near base and apex in one direction, gently curved in middle in opposite direction; standard pinkish.
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Dipogon
71Leaves dotted with yellow resinous glands; pods acuminate, with oblique grooves between seeds, striped with maroon or purplish black.Cajanus
Not as above.
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72
72Herbs or shrubs, rarely twining; pods transversely jointed or constricted, separating into 1–8, indehiscent, 1-seeded articles (includes 43A Uraria).Desmodium
Stems long and trailing or twining (except rarely Hardenbergia); pods not as above.
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73
73Flowers solitary or clustered in leaf axils, or 1 or 2 on axillary peduncles.74
Flowers several to many in axillary racemes, sometimes clustered at apex of peduncle.
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75
74Standard white or greenish yellow; bracteoles ± subulate.Macrotyloma
Standard showy, predominantly shades of red or purple; bracteoles absent.
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Kennedia
75Pods with prominent longitudinal rib(s) near suture(s), or winged.76
Pods not as above.
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77
76Lowermost calyx lobe much longer than others; pods linear with an acicular beak.Centrosema
Lower 3 calyx teeth equal or absent; pods oblong, not or slightly beaked.
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Canavalia
77Calyx with 5 teeth, or slightly 2-lipped by upper 2 teeth more joined than lower 3.78
Upper 2 calyx teeth joined to or almost to apex, calyx appearing 4-lobed or 2-lipped.
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79
78Flowers solitary along rachis of inflorescence.Glycine
Flowers in clusters of 3 or more along rachis of inflorescence.
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Neonotonia
79Seeds with aril; bracteoles absent.Kennedia
Seeds without aril; bracteoles present although often small or caducous.
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80
80Upper stamen joined with other 9 in tube, or becoming free; stipules produced downward from base, usually >15 mm long.Pueraria
Upper stamen free, other 9 fused; stipules smaller than above, not produced downward.
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Galactia
81Stamens all fused by filaments into sheath open along upper side; pods dehiscent.Goodia
Stamens not as above or if (rarely) so, then pods indehiscent.
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82
82Margins of leaflets toothed or crenulate, or if entire then plants dotted with immersed (not superficial) glands.83
Margins of leaflets entire, not gland-dotted.
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87
83Leaflets dotted with immersed black or shining glands (sometimes obscured by hairs).Cullen
Leaflets not gland-dotted.
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84
84Pods enclosed in calyx; corolla persistent in fruit.Trifolium
Pods exceeding calyx; corolla not persistent in fruit.
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85
85Pods ovoid, straight, indehiscent; flowers in slender elongated racemes.Melilotus
Not as above.
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86
86Pods short, spirally coiled or rarely curved, usually indehiscent.Medicago
Pods long, linear, curved, tardily dehiscent.
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Trigonella
87Lower surface of leaflets, calyx and sometimes petals covered with superficial yellow or orange resinous gland dots (sometimes obscure).Rhynchosia
Not as above.
                       Back to 82
88
88Calyx of 4 acuminate teeth by union of upper 2 teeth.Galactia
Calyx otherwise.
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89
89Inflorescence a raceme, sometimes few-flowered and subumbellate; pods exserted.90
Flowers 1-several, clustered in leaf axils, or in heads or spikes; pods enclosed in calyx.
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Lespedeza
90Styles bearded.Swainsona
Styles not bearded.
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Canavalia
91Stamens all free, or rarely filaments shortly fused at base.92
Stamens mostly fused by filaments.
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94
92Shrubs; leaflets usually <5 mm wide, terminal one sessile; pods globose, <1 cm long; keel petals free or almost so.Gompholobium
Trees or tall shrubs; leaflets >5 mm wide; pods elongate, >3 cm long; keel petals fused.
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93
93Leaves ± glabrous; inflorescences in axils of old leaves or on old wood; pods dehiscent, 3–5 cm diam., woody, turgid; flowers 3–4 cm long.Castanospermum
Leaves densely hairy; inflorescences terminal; pods ± indehiscent, <1 cm diam., prominently constricted between seeds; flowers <2.5 cm long.
                       Back to 92
Sophora
94Anthers tipped by small raised gland; covered with more or less appressed laterally attached hairs.Indigofera
Not as above.
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95
95Herbs; leaves with 5 or 9 leaflets, upper 3 palmate at rachis summit, lowest 2 at its base often resembling stipules; actual stipules minute; 5 alternate or all filaments dilated upwards.Lotus
Not as above.
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96
96Stamens all fused in a sheath open along the upper side; pods dehiscent.97
Stamens variously fused, not as above, or if (rarely) so, then pods indehiscent and usually ornamented or winged.
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99
97Leaves palmately compound.98
Leaves pinnately compound.
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Ptychosema
98Pods inflated; style with a line of hairs on inner surface; calyx >11 mm long, glabrous; flowers yellow.Crotalaria
Pods not inflated, ± flat; style glabrous; calyx mostly <11 mm long; flowers usually blue or purple, occasionally yellow.
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Lupinus
99Stipules becoming enlarged and spinose; deciduous trees.Robinia
Stipules not spinose; plants not deciduous.
                       Back to 96
100
100Styles exserted from keel, incurved to hooked; wings petals greatly reduced; woody rainforest climbers.Austrosteenisia
Not as above.
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101
101Prostrate herbs with erect pseudo-umbels; flowers red, showy, c. 8 cm long; keel beaked; standard reflexed, acute, with a shining (usually) black boss.Swainsona
Not as above.
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102
102Standard silky or woolly behind; leaflets with lateral veins numerous, parallel, ascending to the margin; pods linear or oblong, not woody; herbs or shrubs.Tephrosia
Not as above.
                       Back to 101
103
103Styles bearded.104
Styles glabrous, or pubescent near base.
                       Back to 102
105
104Standard shorter than keel; flowers >3 cm long; shrubs to 1 m high.Sutherlandia
Standard ± equal to or longer than keel; flowers usually <3 cm long; herbs or subshrubs.
                       Back to 103
Swainsona
105Leaflets dotted with black glands.106
Leaflets not dotted with glands.
                       Back to 103
108
106Leaves pinnately compound, leaflets 5–17.107
Leaves palmately compound with 3–7 leaflets.
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Cullen
107Leaflets 5–11; flowers solitary or in axillary clusters towards end of stem.Psoralea
Leaflets 5–17; flowers in axillary spike-like racemes.
                       Back to 106
Glycyrrhiza
108Pods indehiscent, ± flat, thin, winged or keeled; woody climbers or somewhat shrubby.Derris
Pods various, not as above; habit various.
                       Back to 105
109
109Pods with several seeds, not transversely jointed, 2-valved.110
Pods jointed and separating into 1-seeded articles, or short 1-seeded and bristly.
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111
110Woody climbers in or near rainforest; flowers purplish.Callerya
Herbaceous weeds in drier habitats; flowers yellowish.
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Astragalus
111All or alternate filaments dilated upwards.112
Filaments not dilated upwards.
                       Back to 109
113
112Keel acute or beaked; pods 4-angled.Securigera
Keel obtuse; pods terete or compressed.
                       Back to 111
Ornithopus
113Pods 1-seeded, not jointed, bristly.Onobrychis
Pods jointed, of 2 or more 1-seeded articles, not bristly.
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Aeschynomene

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