Strophostyles helvola (L.) Elliott

Wild Bean


CC = 2
CW = 0
MOC = 75

© SRTurner

Family - Fabaceae/Faboideae

Habit - Taprooted forb, usually annual, twining in other vegetation.

Stem - Trailing or climbing, to 3 m, branched, sometimes rooting at nodes, moderately to densely pubescent.

Strophostyles_helvola_stem.jpg Stem and flower.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, pinnately trifoliate, petiolate, stipulate. Leaflets rounded or angled at the base, angled or tapered to a bluntly or sharply pointed tip, often with a minute extension of the midvein at the very tip, the upper surface glabrous or sparsely appressed-hairy, the undersurface sparsely to moderately appressed-hairy; the terminal leaflet with a stalk 6-15 mm long, the blades up to 6.5 cm long and 5 cm wide, variously ovate-triangular, oblong-triangular or pear-shaped, asymmetrically ovate, or rhombic, unlobed or with 1 or more commonly a pair of blunt basal lobes.

Strophostyles_helvola_leaves1.jpg Strongly lobed leaves.

© SRTurner

Strophostyles_helvola_leaves2.jpg Nearly unlobed leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Headlike clusters of 3-5 flowers, the inflorescence stalk 5-20 cm long, the flower stalks 1-2 mm long, the pair of bractlets closely subtending each flower 3.0-4.5 mm long, as long as or longer than the calyx tube.

Strophostyles_helvola_bract.jpg Bract.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyces with the tube bell-shaped, 1.5-3.0 mm long, sparsely hairy, the lobes 1.5-3.0 mm long. Corollas papilionaceous, pinkish purple to pink, fading to greenish yellow, the banner 6.5-12.0 mm long, the wings 7-9 mm long, the keel 8-12 mm long and abruptly constricted above the midpoint into a beaklike tip, this relatively slender and usually sharply curved or twisted to the side.

Strophostyles_helvola_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Strophostyles_helvola_flower.jpg Flower.

© SRTurner

Strophostyles_helvola_ff.jpg Flower and fruit.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Legumes, linear, terete, sessile, 3-9 cm long, 4-10 mm wide, sparsely hairy to nearly glabrous at maturity, 4-10 seeded. Seeds 5-8 mm long, rectangular in outline, the surface sometimes appearing waxy, brown, sometimes faintly mottled, pubescent with white-woolly patches.

Strophostyles_helvola_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Strophostyles_helvola_seeds1.jpg Mature seeds.

These appear moldy but are actually woolly-hairy, typically in patches.

© SRTurner

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Forests, streambanks, pond margins, prairies, savannas, glade margins, pastures, open disturbed areas.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Strophostyles leiosperma, S. umbellata. Vegetatively similar to Amphicarpaea bracteata.

Other info. - This twining plant is found throughout Missouri, and across the eastern half of the continental U.S. It occupies a variety of habitats which are somewhat difficult to characterize, though perhaps most commonly found along rivers.

The plant is easily recognized as a wild bean by its characteristic flowers and fruits, but identification to species sometimes requires close examination. Leaves with pronounced lobing always indicate S. helvola, but the lobing is highly variable and can sometimes be difficult to discern, as the photos above show. A more reliable character is the length of the tiny bractlet located just behind the calyx. In S. helvola this is at least as long as the calyx tube (ignore the calyx lobes - see photo above).

Photographs taken at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 8-26-2006, 9-10-2015, and 9-12-2018, in Pacific, St. Louis County, MO, 7-27-2015, Route 66 State Park, St. Louis County, MO, 9-3-2019, and near Creve Coeur Lake Park, St. Louis County, MO, 8-30-2021 (SRTurner).