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Publication #HS560

Beans, Willow-Leaf Lima—Phaseolus lunatus forma salicis Van Esel.1

James M. Stephens2

The willow-leaf lima bean is a form of pole butter bean (P. lunatus L.) that keeps surfacing from time to time in home gardens around the state of Florida. In most respects, it is like the standard pole lima bean, except that it has very narrow lanceolate leaflets the shape of a willow or peach leaf.

Lima beans are of American origin, and evidence indicates that they have been grown in or near the tropics since prehistoric times. Guatemala is considered to be the original home of the lima bean, although its naming came from Lima, Peru, where it is thought to have originated. American settlers were growing baby limas in about 1700.

Figure 1. 

Willow-leaf lima bean.


Credits: James M. Stephens

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Strains of lima beans found in tropical America, where it is indigenous, always had the broader, ovate leaf pattern and the indeterminate (vine) form of growth. The alternative characteristics—lanceolate leaflets and determinate (bush) growth habit—are derived characteristics and are restricted to cultivated types. Thus, it appears that the willow-leaf lanceolate shape was derived from a rare mutation. Cultivated varieties of this leaf shape are very few, although the shape has been transferred to most all types.

This species exhibits the seldom encountered genetic characteristic of narrow leaflets. The smooth, white, or otherwise colored seeds are edible. The plants should be grown in the garden just like the more familiar types of pole lima beans.



This document is HS560, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date April 1994. Revised March 2009 and August 2015. Visit the EDIS website at


James M. Stephens, professor emeritus, Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.