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Spurred butterfly-pea
Centrosema virginianum

Copyright by: Michelle Hayden
In habitat, Eleuthera, Bahamas, 2013

General Landscape Uses: Primarily recommended for natural landscapes and habitat restorations. Also wildflower and butterfly gardens.

Ecological Restoration Notes: A relatively common element of pinelands and open, coastal uplands.

Availability: Grown by enthusiasts.

Description: Trailing or twining vine with delicate stems.

Dimensions: N/A; a vine with stems to 6 feet or more in length, but often shorter. Sometimes spreads and forms small open patches.

Growth Rate: Moderate.

Range: Central and southern United States west to Texas and south to the Monroe County Keys; West Indies, southern Mexico, Central America and South America. In the Monroe County Keys, apparently disjunct from Miami-Dade County to Bahia Honda and the lower Keys; also reported for Windley Key, where perhaps introduced.

Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

Habitats: Pinelands and coastal uplands.

Soils: Moist, well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with or without humusy top layer.

Nutritional Requirements: Low to moderate; it can grow in nutrient poor soils or soils with some organic content.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Moderate; grows near salt water, but is protected from direct salt spray by other vegetation.

Drought Tolerance: High; does not require any supplemental water once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade.

Flower Color: Purplish lavender to nearly white, about 1" long.

Flower Characteristics: Showy.

Flowering Season: All year; peak summer-fall.

Fruit: Flat pod (legume).

Wildlife and Ecology: Larval host plant for long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus) and northern cloudywing (Thorybes pylades) butterflies.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed. The pods will open and eject the seeds when completely ripe, so collect pods when mature and store in a paper bag until they open.

Comments: Forms in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have narrow leaflets; forms to the north and west have broad leaflets. Local sources of material should be used.

Copyright by: Michelle Hayden
In habitat, Eleuthera, Bahamas, 2013

Copyright by: Michelle Hayden
In habitat, Eleuthera, Bahamas, 2013

Copyright by: George D. Gann
in habitat, Miami-Dade County, Florida, 2013

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer

Copyright by: Rosimar Rivera

Other data on Centrosema virginianum available from:

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