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Hairypod Cowpea       Vigna luteola

The Hairypod Cowpea, sometimes just called Cowpea, is a perennial vine that trails along the ground or twines on nearby vegetation.  Its stems can reach a length of 10 feet.  It grows along shores, in tidal marshes, pinelands, and disturbed sites such as roadsides.  It is found in the southeastern part of the United States.  It is a Florida native plant found mainly in the peninsula portion of the state.

The 3/4-inch yellow flowers are produced in small clusters at the top of angled stems that stick above the foliage.  The ‘peaIike’ flowers have 5 unequal petals: a large upper petal, two side petals, and two lower petals usually fused into a single boat-shaped ‘keel.’  This plant has compound leaves, each with 3 oval to lance-shaped leaflets.  The fruit consists of thin hairy pods with seeds that are initially green, then turning reddish-brown as they mature.

These plants are legumes, meaning that they return nitrogen to the soil. They also serve as host plants for several butterflies, including Cassius Blue, Gray Hairstreak, Dorantes Skipper and Long-tailed Skipper.

The images were taken in October in Punta Gorda, Charlotte County.

The range distribution maps for the Hairypod Cowpea are from the Plants Database of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).