Leguminous Plants, or Legumes, or Pulses, plants that bear fruits in the form of a pod that splits along two seams, to one of which the seeds are attached. The edible fruit of the leguminous plant is called the legume or pulse. (The pod is also called a legume.) These plants may be annual, biennial, or perennial, and include low shrubs and trees.
Legumes include some of the most important of all food and forage crops, such as clover, peas, beans, alfalfa, peanuts, and soybeans. Many legumes are exceptionally rich in proteins and are practically the only non-meat source of some of the proteins essential to the human diet. Legumes also include a large number of ornamental plants and plants providing such products as dyes, drugs, resins, perfumes, and wood.
Leguminous plants have swellings, called nodules, on their roots. These nodules contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which change gaseous nitrogen of the atmosphere into forms of nitrogen that plants can use in making food. Legumes produce more useful nitrogen than they need themselves, and this surplus nitrogen is absorbed by the soil. Farmers can make this enriched soil available to other types of plants by rotating leguminous with non-leguminous crops.
Leguminous plants belong to the pea family, Leguminosae.