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Wild Blue Vine Centrosema virginianum

Previously known as:

  • Bradburya virginiana
  • Centrosema virginianum var ellipticum
Phonetic Spelling
sen-TROH-seem-uh vir-jin-ee-AN-um
Description

Butterfly Pea is an herbaceous perennial vine with a wide native range, growing from the tropical and subtropical Americas up to the Eastern United States. In its natural state, it is often found in the dry, sandy soils of woodlands.  In North Carolina, it can be found in pine forests and coastal uplands. Butterfly Pea grows by either trailing along the ground or twining around vertical structures. If grown without supports, it will sprawl over the ground as an effective ground cover. The plant's extensive root system makes it useful for stabilizing soils. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria that form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant, but some is also used by other plants growing nearby.

Butterfly Pea has butterfly shaped violet flowers, single or in clusters of 2 to 4 in the axil of compound leaves. The flowers of this delicate showy vine are recognized by their "upside-down" position.  This plant blooms daily during the flowering season, however, the flowers are short-lived, only lasting half a day.  

Having no tendrils, it climbs by twining around structures.  If no structures are present, it will spread over the ground as a ground cover.  Its root system is extensive, thereby making it useful as a form of erosion control or to stabilize the soil.  

Butterfly Pea prefers well-drained dry or moist soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soils and sandy soils. It does well in mildly acid, neutral and mildly alkaline PH and tolerates very acid soils. It prefers full sun and tolerates partial shade, but cannot grow in the deep shade, and can tolerate drought.

Although pollinated primarily by bees, it serves as a host for the Northern cloudywing and the Long-tailed skipper butterflies.  Its high protein and mineral content make it a good forage crop for livestock.  

Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

No known diseases or insect pests.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Centrosema arenocola - Sand Butterfly-pea
    Ovate leaflets indented at the base
  • Centrosema floridana - Florida Butterfly-pea
    Oval to lanceolate leaflets up to 3" long
Centrosema arenocola - Sand Butterfly-pea, Centrosema floridana - Florida Butterfly-pea
Tags:
#showy flowers#drought tolerant#purple flowers#climbing#erosion control#herbaceous#NC native#nitrogen fixation#vines#climbing vines#trailing#herbaceous perennials#native garden#groundcover#native groundcover#native vine#twining vine#poor soils tolerant#vertical spaces#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#pea-shaped flowers#perennial vines#forage#short lived blooms#salt spray intolerant#salt intolerant#wet soils intolerant#shade intolerant#perennial#butterflies#butterfly#climber#butterfly garden#bees#forage crop
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Centrosema arenocola - Sand Butterfly-pea
    Ovate leaflets indented at the base
  • Centrosema floridana - Florida Butterfly-pea
    Oval to lanceolate leaflets up to 3" long
Centrosema arenocola - Sand Butterfly-pea, Centrosema floridana - Florida Butterfly-pea
Tags:
#showy flowers#drought tolerant#purple flowers#climbing#erosion control#herbaceous#NC native#nitrogen fixation#vines#climbing vines#trailing#herbaceous perennials#native garden#groundcover#native groundcover#native vine#twining vine#poor soils tolerant#vertical spaces#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#pea-shaped flowers#perennial vines#forage#short lived blooms#salt spray intolerant#salt intolerant#wet soils intolerant#shade intolerant#perennial#butterflies#butterfly#climber#butterfly garden#bees#forage crop
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Centrosema
    Species:
    virginianum
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used to treat unspecified medicinal disorders and as animal food.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeastern United States
    Distribution:
    Southeastern North America, from New Jersey southwards into the Tropics. Introduced into India
    Wildlife Value:
    Bees and butterflies are attracted to the blooms.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Climbing Method:
    Twining
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Vine
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Climbing
    Creeping
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5b, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    A flat pod that will open to eject the seed when it is ripe.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Irregular
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Singular, purple 1 1/2 inch flowers with a white central spot appear in clusters of 2 to 4. With a flat shape, the flower is similar to Clitoria mariana, but differs in having a pronounced scooped shape for its largest petal. Blooms throughout the summer.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Alternately arranged, veined, compound leaves with three leaflets each.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The delicate, thin, flexible stems allow the plant to trail and climb. They have no tendrils.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Rock Wall
    Slope/Bank
    Vertical Spaces
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Dry Soil