Cool Beans! (And Peas)

Prime blooming season for both at Awbury Arboretum

Purple Robe (Robinia pseudoacacia) All photos courtesy of Karen Flick

String beans, legumes, sweet peas, soybeans, locust trees?! All these plants fit together; they are all part of the bean and pea family of plants called Fabaceae. This plant family contains thousands of plants all around the world and is one of the largest families. Knowing some key traits seen in plants within the same family can help in recognizing new plants and identifying them.

The Bean and Pea Family is all over the Awbury landscape from the Agricultural Village and meadows to the groves of trees and small woodlands. This is a great group of plants to search for all year, but June is certainly prime blooming season for many. Key traits of the Pea Family are seen in the structures of the plant parts including the flower, leaves, and fruit.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

First, the unique flower petals are not the common arrangement like a sunflower. Instead, they have a three-petal form: at top is the largest petal, called the banner; the side or middle petals are the wings; and the lower central petal is the keel. The leaves contain many smaller leaves called leaflets.

The leaves can be like the simple heart-shaped leaf of the redbud tree, three leaves like clovers, or as many thirty leaflets like on the honey locust tree. Finally, as a key food source all around the world, the fruit containing the seeds of the pea family plants are typically in the form of a pod. With these three features in mind, start by looking at the plants you know are beans or peas, and see if you can find other plants with similar features.

American yellowwood (Cladastris kentukea)

Awbury Arboretum’s landscape is a great place to learn about plant families. While the design contains several different models, one of them was focused on grouping plant families. This design was created by Arthur Cowell, famous landscape architect of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Thankful for his foresight, Awbury’s landscape still features this subtle design enhancing the landscape’s use as a nature education tool today.

Awbury Arboretum
One Awbury Rd.
Hours: Although the Cope House and the Arboretum offices are closed until further notice, the meadows, gardens, and grounds of Awbury are open every day from sunrise to sunset, and, as always, free.

Awbury Arboretum (the former Cope family estate) transports visitors from city streets into a country retreat that is the largest remaining oasis of open space in Germantown. Trails weave through 55 acres landscaped in the English romantic style, with open meadows, ponds, woods and rolling hills. The Copes lent their Quaker sense of aesthetics to this world-class arboretum; in 1870, they hired William Saunders, designer of the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., to bring their vision to fruition. Today, Awbury’s mission is to preserve and interpret their historic house and landscape, in order to connect the community with nature and history. Awbury is free and open to the public every day (dawn til dusk). More info at

Follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: @awburyarboretum

About Karen Flick 10 Articles
Karen is Awbury's Landscape Manager. She is a former intern at the arboretum and a Temple University graduate with degrees in psychology and horticulture.

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