At least four of the species have been domesticated since pre-Columbian times for their beans. Most prominent among these is the common bean, P. vulgaris, which today is cultivated worldwide in tropical, semitropical and temperate climates.
Previous classifications placed in this genus a number of other well-known species that have now been removed to genus Vigna, sometimes necessitating a change of species name. For example, older literature refers to the mung bean as Phaseolus aureus, whereas more modern sources classify it as Vigna radiata. Similarly, the snail bean Vigna caracalla was discovered in 1753 and in 1970 moved from Phaseolus to Vigna. The modern understanding of Phaseolus indicates a genus endemic to the New World alone.
Phaseolus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including Common Swift, Garden Dart, Ghost Moth Hypercompe albicornis, Hypercompe icasia, the Nutmeg and various caterpillar species.
The generic name Phaseolus was introduced by Linnaeus in 1753, borrowed from the Latin phaseolus a combination of phasēlus and the diminutive suffix -olus, in turn borrowed from Greek φάσηλος 'cowpea' (often incorrectly glossed as 'kidney bean', a New World crop), whose ultimate origin is unknown.
Phaseolus acutifolius — Tepary bean
Phaseolus aegypticus — Pea bean
Phaseolus coccineus — Runner bean
Phaseolus filiformis — Slimjim bean
Phaseolus lunatus — Lima bean, butter bean
Phaseolus maculatus — Spotted bean
Phaseolus vulgaris — Common bean, black bean, kidney bean, pinto bean, green bean
|Ref: ILDIS Version 6.05