Recent molecular and morphological evidence supports the fact that the Fabaceae is a single monophyletic family. This point of view has been supported not only by the degree of interrelation shown by different groups within the family compared with that found among the Leguminosae and their closest relations, but also by all the recent phylogenetic studies based on DNA sequences. These studies confirm that the Fabaceae are a monophyletic group that is closely related to the Polygalaceae, Surianaceae and Quillajaceae families and that they belong to the order Fabales.
The Fabaceae family includes a number of important agricultural and food plants, including Glycine max (soybean), Phaseolus (beans), Pisum sativum (pea), Cicer arietinum (chickpeas), Medicago sativa (alfalfa), Arachis hypogaea (peanut), Ceratonia siliqua (carob), and Glycyrrhiza glabra (liquorice). A number of species are also weedy pests in different parts of the world, including: Cytisus scoparius (broom), Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust), Ulex europaeus (gorse), Pueraria lobata (kudzu), and a number of Lupinus species.
The name 'Fabaceae' comes from the defunct genus Faba, now included in Vicia. The term "faba" comes from Latin, and appears to simply mean "bean". Leguminosae is an older name still considered valid, and refers to the fruit of these plants, which are called legumes.
Fabaceae range in habit from giant trees (like Koompassia excelsa) to small annual herbs, with the majority being herbaceous perennials. Plants have indeterminate inflorescences, which are sometimes reduced to a single flower. The flowers have a short hypanthium and a single carpel with a short gynophore, and after fertilization produce fruits that are legumes.