Purple Hyacinth Beans

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Purple Hyacinth Bean plants are fascinating tropical flowering vines that are easy to grow as annuals and provide unsurpassed ornamental beauty.  Native to Africa and known by the Latin names Dolichos lablab or Lablab purpurea, they are vigorous growers which can reach 10 to 15 feet in one season.  Provide some support for the plants and watch a dramatic show unfold.  They can be left  to grow with abandon over walls and fences.

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Fllowering mid-summer and well into fall in full sun, this is one plant that really delivers a big punch of color and charm to the garden and is a butterfly favorite.   The plant produces delicate lavender-pink blooms which contrast beautifully with their lush,  bright green foliage with its attractive purple veining.

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The seed pods develop beneath the flowers and grow to about 3 inches, maturing in about 80 days.  The pods are a shiny bright magenta-purple, the namesake of the plant, and are a  fascinating sight to behold.  Eventhough they look like an exotic vegetable, the pods are not edible as the beans are  considered poisonous. The plant is also commonly known as Egyptian Bean, Indian Bean or simply Hyacinth Bean.  It was grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.

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Fall is the time to harvest the beans/seeds of this stunning plant. Once the pods have turned brown and dried on the vine is when the beans are ready to be harvested.

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The beans can be easily plucked from the pod then stored in a cool dry place over the winter.  The distinctive black seeds are large, about the size of a kidney bean, and boast a nifty white stripe on the side.  Each pod will yield 3-4 beans.  Some dried pods will fall to the ground and may self-seed.  Come spring, after the danger of frost has passed, plant the seeds in a sunny location with good drainage.

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Special thanks  to my dear friend Nell who has gifted me with a bounty of seeds from her garden and provided the beautiful photographs of the purple hyacinth bean plant which enchanted me from the second I walked through her garden gate years ago.

image(Sources:  Monticello.org, Central Texas Gardener.org, Gardenersnet.com)

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