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Butterfly Pea Clitoria mariana


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Butterfly Pea 1
credit: Anthony Zukoff/CCSA

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Alternate name: Atlantic Pigeonwings

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description Twining vine, occasionally erect, with large, showy, lavender-pink, pea-like flowers, usually solitary but occasionally up to 3, in the axils of compound leaves.
Habit: native perennial vine or herb.
Height: 1-3 ft (30-90 cm).
Leaf: alternate, trifoliate; 3 leaflets lanceolate, to 3 in (8 cm) long and 1 in (3 cm) wide;
Flower: lilac to lavender to pink, with darker veining, to 2 in (5 cm) long, stalked; usually solitary, sometimes 2-3 clustered, in leaf axil.
Fruit: pod, flattened, beaked, to 1.5 in (38 mm) long; the open halves twisting after splitting.

Flower May to September.

Habitat Dry acidic soil: open woods, thickets, sandstone glades, ravines, ridges, stream banks, and thickets.

Range New York south to Florida; west to Texas and beyond to Arizona; north to Nebraska and Minnesota.

Discussion Also known as Atlantic pigeonwings. Endangered in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This plant is often confused with Spurred Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum), which has upside-down flowers, the banner pointing downward, while that of Clitoria stands erect.