Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
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SPURRED BUTTERFLY PEA
Found in moist to dry hammocks, sandhills and coastal swales throughout most of Florida. The range includes the southeastern United States, extending west to Texas, then north to Illinois, eastward south of the Ohio River then northeast into New Jersey, plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
This trailing and climbing herbaceous vine has alternate leaves with three stalked narrow to elliptic entire leaflets having raised veins on the lower surface. The bilaterally symmetric flowers are made up of standard, wing and keel petals, with the keel uppermost. They may be bluish or pinkish with a blotch of white in the center of the standard petals. The lower calyx lobe is awl-shaped 8-11 mm long and the upper calyx lobe is split into two, with these bifurcate lobes 7-8 mm long. The fruit is a linear, flattened legume 7-14 cm (2-3/4 - 5-1/2 in.) long with an elongated tip.
Spurred butterfly pea is differentiated from the Clitoria genus and other species of Centrosema by the long calyx lobes and the tri-foliolate leaves. There are two other Centrosema species in Florida. C. arenicola is an endangered endemic found n sandhills of the northern and central peninsula. Known as both pineland butterfly pea and sand butterfly pea, it has a lower calyx lobe that is 5-8 mm long and upper, spllt calyx lobes that are 3-4 mm long and lower leaflet surfaces without raised veins. A non-native species from tropical America - C. sagittatum - has been found in Alachua County. The arrow shaped unifoliate leaves have winged petioles and give this plant it's common name of arrowleaf butterfly pea.