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PHASEOLUS vulgaris 'Cherokee Trail of Tears'

Image of Phaseolus vulgaris 'Cherokee Trail of Tears'



Botanical Name

PHASEOLUS vulgaris 'Cherokee Trail of Tears'

Plant Common Name

Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean, Green Bean, Pole Bean

General Description

This Native American heirloom bean is rich in history, humility and survival. 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' - also known as 'Cherokee Black' - was carried with the Cherokee people when they were expelled from Tennessee by the U.S. Government and forced to walk to Oklahoma in the late 1830s. The exiles preserved seeds of this pole bean as they forged the Trail of Tears. Immature bean pods were eaten as snap beans and/or the mature dry pod seeds were a protein source in soups or stews. Today, gardeners enjoy the 6-inch-long (53 centimeter) pods, which are green with a purplish blush, or allow the pods to fully ripen and dry to shell the shiny black beans inside. Snap beans are ready to harvest about 55 days after sowing the seeds, and dry beans are ready for shelling around 85 days after planting.

Bean leaves are trifoliate (three-leaved), arranged in an alternate fashion on the stem and have somewhat diamond-shaped leaflets. The flowers are typical of peas or beans; larger, rounded petals subtend smaller petals that form a lip or keeled beak. They are produced in loose clusters on short stalks among the foliage and may be white or pinkish. Modern bean cultivars are self-fertile. If harvested young the immature bean pods are eaten, as with green or wax beans. If allowed to mature, the dry, hard seeds can be shucked, stored and eaten at a later date or saved for planting the next year.

After the danger of frost has passed, plant bush beans in full sun and fertile, evenly moist, well-drained garden loam. Seeds should be sown directly in the soil at a depth of about three times their width. Bush types should be spaced about a finger’s length apart, in rows wide enough to allow easy access to the plants. Over watering seeds prior to germination may cause them to rot, so be sure to keep them moderately moist, never wet. To ensure a longer harvest, successive plantings may be made two to three weeks apart, continuing through midsummer. Tossing the seeds in a commercially available Rhizobium inoculant may be beneficial, but is not essential for success. Harvest beans every few days to keep plants producing.

Originating from regions of Central and South America, common beans have been cultivated for many centuries. These frost-tender vegetables are grown as summer crops in cooler temperate climates; whereas in warm, tropical zones they are planted as fall and winter crops. Frost kills bean plants.


  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type


  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    5'-10' / 1.5m - 3.0m

  • Width

    2'-3' / 0.6m - 0.9m

  • Bloom Time


  • Native To

    Central America, South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate


  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit


  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest


  • Flower Color

    White, Light Pink, Lavender

  • Fruit Color


  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Purple

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Fragrant Flowers


  • Fragrant Fruit


  • Fragrant Foliage


  • Bark or Stem Fragrant


  • Flower Petal Number


  • Repeat Bloomer


  • Showy Fruit


  • Edible Fruit


  • Showy Foliage


  • Foliage Texture


  • Foliage Sheen


  • Evergreen


  • Showy Bark


Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Vine

  • Sharp or Has Thorns


  • Invasive


  • Self-Sowing