Hairypod cowpea (Vigna luteola) is a delicate and fast-growing native vine that some folks characterize as weedy. Other common names for this plant include cowpea, hairy cowpea, wild cowpea, and yellow vigna.
Its genus name, Vigna, honors Italian professor Dominicus Vigna (1581 – 1647). Its species name, luteola, means yellow.
Its alternate compound leaves are held on long petioles (leaf stems) and have 3 lanceolate leaflets. Its twining stems may be smooth or hairy.
It blooms throughout the year with clusters of flowers at the top of angled stems that stand well above the foliage.
Like many members of the pea family, Fabaceae, hairypod cowpea has extrafloral nectaries (non-floral parts with nectar) that attract ants and other insects.
Its pods are definitely hairy, up to 1/2″ long, and twist open to expel tiny, hard dark seeds that germinate readily.
You will find this tropical vine growing in tidal flats, mangrove hammocks, thickets, and open disturbed sites Its grows throughout Florida to North Carolina and Texas, as well as in the West Indies, Mexico, and South America. It is a quite common at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation.
Hairy cowpea is one of many larval host plants used by cassius blue (Leptons cassius), ceraunus blue (Hemiargus ceraunus), and gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) butterflies, as well as the dorantes long -tailed skipper (Urbanus dorantes) and the long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus). Butterflies also sometimes nectar on the flowers.
Fast-growing hairy cowpea can be grown over a trellis or other support in your landscape. If it does climb atop other plants, it can easily be removed. Its sunny yellow sweet-pea shaped flowers will brighten your life throughout the year.