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Clitoria (253000626).jpg
Clitoria ternatea
Scientific classification


Many, see text.

  • Neurocarpum Desv.
  • Ternatea Tourn. ex Mill.

Clitoria is a genus of Old World, insect-pollinated flowering pea vines.

Distribution and uses[edit]

These plants are native to tropical and temperate areas of the world, including Southeastern Asia (Indonesia & Malaysia) and Madagascar, where the flowers are often used as a food dye or dipped in batter and deep-fried.

The most widely known species of the genus is Clitoria ternatea, also known as butterfly pea. It is used as an herbal medicine,[1][2] and it is used as food, as well.[3][4] Its roots are used in ayurveda Hindu medicine.[5]

Naming of the genus[edit]

This genus was named after the human clitoris, for the flowers bear a resemblance to the vulva. Originally the first described species of the genus was given the name Flos clitoridis ternatensibus in 1678 by Rumpf, a German-born botanist employed by the Dutch East India Company. It was regarded as appropriately named by Johann Philipp Breyne in 1747.[6] Many vernacular names of these flowers in different languages are similarly based on references to female external genitalia.[7]

Controversies existed in the past among botanists regarding the good taste of the naming of the genus. The analogy drew sharp criticism from botanists such as James Edward Smith in 1807, Amos Eaton in 1817, Michel Étienne Descourtilz in 1826, and Eaton and Wright in 1840. Some less explicit alternatives, like Vexillaria (Eaton 1817) and Nauchea (Descourtilz 1826), were proposed, but they failed to prosper, and the name Clitoria has survived to this day.[8]


Blue and white varieties of Clitoria ternatea


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mukherjee PK, Kumar V, Kumar NS, Heinrich M (2008). "The Ayurvedic medicine Clitoria ternatea-From traditional use to scientific assessment". J Ethnopharmacol. 120 (3): 291–301. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.09.009.
  2. ^ Fantz, Paul R. (1991). "Ethnobotany of Clitoria (Leguminosae)". Economic Botany. New York Botanical Garden Press. 45 (4): 511–20. doi:10.1007/BF02930715. JSTOR 4255394.
  3. ^ "Flora and Fauna Web: Clitoria ternatea L."
  4. ^ Pantazi, Chloe (February 26, 2016). "Watch this tea dramatically change from deep blue to vibrant red with a squeeze of lemon". Business Insider Deutchsland. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  5. ^ "APARËJITË (Root)". The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India (Part I Volume II) (PDF). Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. pp. 10–11.
  6. ^ Paul R. Fantz, Nomenclatural notes on the genus Clitoria
  7. ^ Clitoria ternatea
  8. ^ Fantz, Paul R. (1991). "Ethnobotany of Clitoria (Leguminosae)". Economic Botany. New York Botanical Garden Press. 45 (4): 511–20. doi:10.1007/BF02930715. JSTOR 4255394.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rai KS, Murthy KD, Karanth KS, Rao MS (July 2001). "Clitoria ternatea (Linn) root extract treatment during growth spurt period enhances learning and memory in rats". Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 45 (3): 305–13. PMID 11881569.