Winged Bean Origins
A case study in crop evolution
The winged bean plant as Rumphius
(1747) recorded it.
The winged bean
(L.) DC.) is a leguminous vegetable plant of the humid tropics.
Its origins are obscure; while the other eight named species of
Psophocarpus DC. are African,
the winged bean is essentially a crop of Asia and the Western
Two hypotheses have
been proposed to explain this anomaly. One, supported by much
recent taxonomic research, postulates that the progenitor of winged
bean arose on the African side of the Indian Ocean whence it was
carried East and domesticated through human cultivation. The alternative,
implies a wider natural distribution for Psophocarpus,
with the winged bean first domesticated within an Indian centre
in one model, or within island Southeast Asia and Melanesia in
This review of literature
and of research into genetic variation in the winged bean, concludes
that the evidence is still insufficient to eliminate either hypothesis,
but reveals diverse circumstantial evidence for the antiquity
of the domesticate in Southeast Asia and Melanesia.
TO WINGED BEAN ORIGINS
for a Word 2000 version
of the complete paper [637 k].