Spurred Butterfly Pea

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Beautiful colors form a butterfly flower meant to capture life.

The Spurred Butterfly Pea, Centrosema virginianum, is a perennial twining vine that can grow to six to eight feet in length.  As this species does not have tendrils, it uses its vine to coil around vegetation to support itself. Compound leaves appear alternately along the vine. Each leaf is composed of three ovate to lanceolate leaflets.

Butterfly like flowers occur along the stem in the leaf axis. This is the junction of the vine and petiole (leaf stalk).  A member of the Bean family, Spured Butterly Pea, has a butterfly like flower structure. The bloom or corolla consists of three pairs of petals. Two extra large petals are fused together to form a banner and two smaller petals are fused together in the shape of a boat keel.   Two narrow petals are on either side of the keel and are called wings. The flower’s corolla is light lavender blue with dark blue purplish  white markings. The flower opens upside down so that the banner can act as a parking lot for flying pollinators. The wings and keel are curled over the banner.  In the picture you can see the bottom of the keel with wings on either side.

The Spurred Butterfly Pea can be found in every county in the State. In the US it is distributed in the S.E. States.  On the Island, Spurred Butterfly Pea can be found in Bowditch Park and in some of the swales along Estero Blvd. The specimen in the picture grows on Lover’s Key.