A large and diverse family of herbs, woody climbers, shrubs and trees. The compound leaves are highly variable in size and number of leaflets; some are trifoliate, while others are once or more pinnate. The margin of leaflets is always entire. Terminal leaflet may or may not be present. Stipules are present and usually prominent. Flowers are bisexual, with five flower parts. The fruit is a legume (bean), which splits down both sides when dry.
About 16,400 species of legumes are known; many of which are of economic importance as timbers, vegetable crops and ornamentals. Legumes also play an important ecological role in fixing nitrogen and transforming it into a usable form for plants.
The family name arises from the genus Fabus, which means beans.