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Friday, October 23, 2009

Bean promiscuity

A few red flowered beans turned up this year amongst the drying beans, Black Coco and what we call Turin (almost certainly fagiolo zolfino) and the green beans Tendergreen. The plants look intermediate between Phaseolis vulgaris, the commmon or 'French' bean and Phaseolis coccineus, the runner bean. The beans inside look like runner beans. So, I am wondering if these plants are hybrids. Last year all the vulgaris varieties were grown in the same garden as the Black Magic runner bean which has black seeds. Has anybody out there had any red flowered plants in their beans or know of any cases of these two species crossing?


  1. I have something extremely similar to this that just happened to pop up in my garden bed this year! I never planted it so I assume it came from the bird poopies of the birds visiting my fountain. I have been unable to identify it precisely in my book but your photo is very similar. Does it start out with red tubular flowers? :)

  2. Hi Madeline,

    I meant to bring this up in our workshop, but forgot. I did chat briefly with Tom about it later, who said simply different bean species didn't usually cross.

    Separately, in the workshop there was an unrelated bean conversation and Ben of RS mentioned his experience with beans was the genetics were very unpredictable. He mentioned in particular some viruses can cause recessive genes to suddenly express themselves, for no particular reason.

  3. I've also heard that bean species don't usually cross but it's happened ( or appeared to have happened!) a couple of times in my recent gardening history. The first time about 6 or 7 years ago I had some remarkable difficulties with french beans (which normally don't cross even amongst themselves) hybridising and also some rogue runner/french looking flowers which produced runner bean type seeds. I intended to grow them out to see what I had but never got around to it.

    This year growing out last year's Royal Red bush kidney bean I had one plant that did the same thing. It climbed (Royal Red doesn't) and had scarlet red Runner type flowers instead of the pinky white of the type. These seeds were grown in isolation from other French beans last year but there were some white flowered Runners nearby.

    I didn't save the rogues but it does look to me more like some sort of hybridisation than an expression of recessives, if only because there are very few scarlet flowered French beans in cultivation (I can't think of any, but expect to be proved wrong!)

  4. Thank you for that. I was beginning to think I had imagined it, so it is great to know you have had a similar experience. I will grow out the seeds next year and report back.