Beautiful Butterfly Pea

Spurred butterfly pea (Centrosema virginianum) is a perennial herbaceous vine that is occasionally found growing at Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) and is pictured above engulfing bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (PINWR). Sometimes you will find it growing along the ground as seen below along Highway A1A near PINWR.

This delicate vine can be quite variable.  A member of the pea family, Fabaceae, butterfly pea holds its leaflets in groups of three (trifoliate). Each leaflet can be linear and narrow, as seen above.  Or, on some plants the leaflets can be lanceolate or elliptical.

The flowers are short-lived and persist for about half of a sunny day. Flowering in the warmer parts of Florida occurs throughout the year, peaking in the late summer or early fall. Flower color can be purplish, pinkish, bluish, or nearly white.

Its fruits are a flat brown pod that splits length-wise (a legume), and granivorous birds consume the flat dark brown seeds. It is a larval host plant for the long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus) and northern cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) butterflies.

The “landing strip” for pollinators is marked in white and darker purple.  Check out these fabulous photos shared by Sandy Peterson of a green orchid bee visiting a butterfly pea flower.

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