Sea beans

Sea beans

Entada gigas or sea heart is a flowering vine from the bean family (Fabaceae).

It has the largest seed pod in this family: up to 2 m long and 12 cm wide. They are sea beans that can be carried by sea currents across large distances.

In America they are locally called monkey ladders: they grow so lush that they cover the tops of the trees and allow monkeys to move across the canopy.

Their weight is so great that they can topple trees but they remain rooted and start climbing neighboring trees.


Entada gigas or sea bean is a tropical vine that can climb trees up to 30 m high very quickly. The main stem is flat like a ribbon or spiral shaped. It can measure up to 30 cm in diameter.

Leaves are pinnate with 3-4 leaflets.

Flowers are small, yellow-green and grow in a spike.

The fruit is a huge pod of 1-2 m long and 10-12 cm wide. The pod is the largest in the world. It contains 10-15 seeds of 6 cm in diameter. The seeds are heart-shaped and are transported by rivers into the sea where they can travel over quite large distances on the currents. The seeds are resistant to the salt and maintain their viability up to 2 years.


Common names:

Monkey ladder vine, Mackay bean, nicker bean, samo, sea Heart, sea bean, sword bean, water vine


Entada gigalobium, Entada planoseminata, Entada scandens, Entada umbonata, Mimosa gigas, Mimosa scandens


Entada: it is uncertain whether the name is derived of the native name for the plant in Malabar, India, or from the Portuguese dentado (toothed), referring to the spines on the stems and leaves of some species Entada.
Gigas: from the Greek gigas (huge).


Central America, the Caribbean, northern South America and Africa


Wet lowland forests of tropical America and Africa where they grow along river banks and forest edges. They can drape tall trees with with a green curtain.


USDA zone 10

Entada gigas plant

Entada gigas plant



Well drained


Sun, partial shade


Keep soil constantly moist but not wet. Needs quite a lot of water in summer.


Since it is such a strong grower, it needs much fertilizer. Provide organic fertilizer at the end of the winter or liquid fertilizer weekly during the growing period.


As the plant grows very fast you may need to prune it to restrain it.



Sowing instructions:

  • the seeds are very hard and should therefore be scarified: file carefully on the side until you see the endosperm appear, without damaging it
  • soak 1 night in water
  • sow in ordinary potting soil
  • 20-25 °C