Wild beans of the greater southwest: Phaseolus metcalfei and P. ritensis

G. P. Nabhan, J. W. Berry, C. W. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Cocolmeca (the Phaseolus metcalfei group) are leguminous root perennials of the uplands (1,000–2,500 m elevation) of southwestern North America. Their cultural significance has been underestimated both within and beyond their natural range, where they have been utilized in prehistoric and historic times. Ambiguities in both scientific taxonomy and folk taxonomy obscure the fact that both P. metcalfei and P. ritensis have been widely used as systemic medicine, food, in fermentation, as forage, and as glue. The use of the seeds as green and dried bean foods was historically extensive, but was abandoned due to changes in Indian subsistence patterns and in the availability of the plants themselves. Herb dealers today are responsible for transport of the roots as far north as the Navajo in Utah; it is suggested that cross- cultural merchants may have been responsible for their diffusion historically or even prehistorically. Bean seed from the two species contain 20.5–30.9% crude protein. Germ plasm conservation and screening are needed in order to evaluate further the potential of these species as cultivated food and forage crops for semiarid uplands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-85
Number of pages18
JournalEconomic Botany
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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