Mendoza-González, G.; Luisa Martínez, M., and Lithgow, D., 2014. Biological flora of coastal dunes and wetlands: Canavalia rosea (Sw.) DC. Journal of Coastal Research, 30(4), 697-713. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
The genus Canavalia includes 60 species, of which 37 are found in the Neotropics. One of the most common members of this genus is Canavalia rosea. In this paper, we present a compilation of the ecological, physiological, and geomorphological biology of this pantropical beach and coastal dune species that will serve as a basis for scientists and managers interested in the species. This legume (Fabaceae) is a perennial trailing vine that grows on five continents and is also found on many islands. The leaves are compound, and the leaflets are roughly circular in shape, with an entire margin and a short petiole. The flowers are small, pink-purple, in racemes and range from 1 to 3 cm in diameter. Blooming takes place with greatest intensity between May and September, although sporadic racemes can be found throughout the year. Fruits are large, 7-12 cm long, with marbled brown dormant seeds. The root is monopodic and presents a mycorrhizal association. It is a successful colonizer of tropical shorelines due to the dispersal of its seeds by ocean currents and a high tolerance to salt spray, burial, low-nutrient substrates, and high temperature. The species is an important sand colonizer and plays a significant role in the geomorphology of beaches and frontal dunes. The species often covers large areas and forms a relatively continuous mat that stabilizes the sandy substrate in which it grows. The leaves, stems, and seeds have many nutritional and medicinal uses due to their high protein content and active bactericidal ingredients.