Scientific Name: Vigna unguiculata

Common Name: cow pea

Other Common Names: blackeyed pea, field pea, southern pea, crowder pea, caupi, catjang, yardlong bean

Leaves: 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.

Identifying Characteristics: 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.

Seed Fruit: 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.

Where Found: 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.

  • Life cycle: summer annual

  • Milky sap: Not Present

  • Plant type: Vine

  • Thorns: Not Present

  • Plant family: Fabaceae

  • Leaf arrangement: alternate

  • Leaf shape: lance; oval

  • Ochrea: Not Present

  • Leaf margin: entire

  • Stem hairs: no hairs; has hairs

  • Flower color: purple

  • Growth habit: woody bush or tree

  • Stem: round or oval

  • Leaf structure: trifoliate

  • Leaf hairs: no hairs

  • Flower diameter: quarter; nickle

  • Flower symmetry: bilateral symetry

  • Root structure: taproot

  • Leaf stalk: longer than leaf