Scientific NameVigna unguiculata
Other Common Names:
The two lateral leaves are asymmetrical, and the terminal leaf is symmetrical. The plant also has extra floral nectaries, small pores on its leaves and stems of leaves that release nectar and attract beneficial insects.
Cowpea is a warm-season, annual legume that exhibits a wide range of growth habits. Varieties may be short and bushy, prostrate, or tall and vine-like. Canopy heights can be 2 "3 feet, depending on the variety. The upright stems are hollow and hairless, roughly 0.4 or 2/5 inch (1 cm) wide. The stems of twining varieties are thinner. The 4 inch (10 cm) long and 3 inch (8 cm) wide leaves are three-parted, egg-shaped, and hairless.
Flower Seed Head
The branchless inflorescence produces stemmed flowers, 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, along the main axis. The flowers can be purple or white. The lowermost whorl of leaves under the flower is bell-shaped. The lobes of the flower are fused, and the lateral petals are shorter than the upper petal.
The seeds are born in 3 to 6-inch (8-15 cm) long, slender, round, two-valved pods growing from the leaf axils. There are roughly 6-13 seeds per pod growing within spongy tissue. The kidney-shaped seeds are white with a black mark around the scar that marks the point of attachment to the seed stalk.
In the United States, cowpea can be found in cultivation from the Great Lakes south to Florida, from the Atlantic coast west to Texas, and in California.
woody bush or tree
Thorns or Spines
Approximate Flower Diameter
Dominant Flower Color
longer than leaf
Stem Cross Section
round or oval