Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Spurred Butterfly-pea - Centrosema virginianum   (L.) Bentham
Members of Fabaceae:
Only member of Centrosema in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(L.) Bentham
DistributionThroughout the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain, though somewhat spotty in occurrence in the far eastern counties; seemingly absent in the northern half of the Mountains.

This is a Southern species, ranging north to southern NJ and south to the Gulf Coast from FL to central TX.
AbundanceCommon over the Piedmont and most of the Coastal Plain, but infrequent in the counties north and south of Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. Uncommon to infrequent in the southwestern Mountains, but perhaps absent farther northward.
HabitatThis is a species favoring sun or partial sun, in dry to mesic situations. It is usually seen along woodland borders and roadbanks, but it also grows in thickets, old fields, sandhills habitats, and many other places with somewhat dry and sunny conditions.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August, and fruits from July to October.
IdentificationThis is a slender herbaceous vine, often trailing on the ground, but at times climbing, and reaching up to 5-6 feet long. It has alternate leaves, each containing 3 leaflets that are ovate in shape and about 1.5 inches long and about half as wide. This species shows vein reticulations on the undersides of the leaflets, to differentiate a non-flowering plant from its "cousin" -- Clitoria mariana -- which has no obvious vein pattern visible on the underside of the leaflets. When in bloom, these two should be easily separated, as Centrosema has a rotund flower (essentially the standard portion of the flower), bluish-purple to lavender-purple in color, the standard flat in profile, with a white center; this standard is quite large and about 1.5 inches across. Clitoria has the standard rolled inward (like a spoon), and the standard is usually a lavender color with a purple center. Both of these species grow nearly statewide, both are common or reasonably so, and both grow in similar habitats. Thus, it usually should not take you long to become familiar with each of these, but some people may want to be cautious in making an identification until flowers are visible, even if the plants can be identified when only in leaf by careful biologists.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None that are in general use. "Butterfly-pea" is a name usually assigned just to Clitoria mariana, but at times is given to Centrosema.
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieWhispering Pines, adventive to yard, 13 July 2015. MoorePhoto_natural
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