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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.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes from South Florida north to southern Brevard, Osceola, Polk, and Pasco counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations from the Monroe County Keys north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

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: High; can tolerate moderate amounts of salt wind without significant injury.

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. Attracts bee pollinators.

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.

References: Hammer 2004

Comments: Forms in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have narrow leaflets, and are segregated by some authors as C. angustifolia; forms to the north and west have broad leaflets. Appropriate sources of material should be used. See also the Florida Wildflower Foundation's Flower Friday page.

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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