Clitoria ternatea

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Clitoria ternatea
White butterfly pea.jpg
A white butterfly pea
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Clitoria
Species: C. ternatea
Binomial name
Clitoria ternatea
A blue variety of the pea

Clitoria ternatea, commonly known as Asian pigeonwings,[1] bluebellvine, blue pea, butterfly pea, cordofan pea and Darwin pea,[2] is a plant species belonging to the Fabaceae family. The flowers of this vine were imagined to have the shape of human female genitals, hence the Latin name of the genus "Clitoria", from "clitoris". (Synonyms: Clitoris principissae.).[3]


This plant is native to tropical equatorial Asia Thailand and Malaysia, but has been introduced to Africa, Australia and America.


Flower and pods in different states of ripeness

It is a perennial herbaceous plant, with elliptic, obtuse leaves. It grows as a vine or creeper, doing well in moist, neutral soil. The most striking feature about this plant is the color of its flowers, a vivid deep blue; solitary, with light yellow markings. They are about 4 cm (1.6 in) long by 3 cm (1.2 in) wide. Some varieties yield white flowers.

The fruits are 5–7 cm (2.0–2.8 in) long, flat pods with six to ten seeds in each pod. They are edible when tender.

It is grown as an ornamental plant and as a revegetation species (e.g., in coal mines in Australia), requiring little care when cultivated. As a legume, its roots form a symbiotic association with soil bacteria known as rhizobia, which transform atmospheric N2 into a plant-usable form (a process called nitrogen fixing), therefore, this plant is also used to improve soil quality through the decomposition of nitrogen rich plant material.

Clitoria ternatea



In Southeast Asia, the flower is used as a natural food colouring. Known as bunga telang,[4] in Malay cooking, an aqueous extract is used to colour glutinous rice for kuih ketan (also known as pulut tai tai or pulut tekan in Peranakan/Nyonya cooking) and in nyonya chang. In Kelantan, east part of Malaysia, by adding a few buds of this flower in a pot while cooking white rice will add bluish tint on the rice which is served with other side dishes and such meal is called nasi kerabu. In Thailand, a syrupy blue drink is made called nam dok anchan (น้ำดอกอัญชัน), it is sometimes consumed with a drop of sweet lime juice to increase acidity and turn the juice into pink-purple. In Burmese and Thai cuisines, the flowers are also dipped in batter and fried. Butterfly pea flower tea is made from the ternatea flowers and dried lemongrass and changes color depending on what is added to the liquid, with lemon juice turning it purple.[5]

The flowers have more recently been used as a botanical in a colour-changing gin. Blue in the bottle, this turns pink when mixed with a carbonated mixer such as tonic water.[6] One example of such this type of can be seen in Ink Gin and the colour is derived from the deep infusion of petals from the exotic blue flower. This natural floral infusion gives Ink Gin a remarkable and lustrous quality, most elegantly displayed in an Ink & Tonic, which changes colour from deep blue to blush pink when mixed. Organic colours are not permanent, so this type of Gin is stored in a dark place.[7]

Traditional medicine[edit]

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is ascribed various qualities including memory enhancing, nootropic, antistress, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, tranquilizing, and sedative properties.[8] In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant has been ascribed properties affecting female libido due to its similar appearance to the female reproductive organ.[9]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Chemical compounds isolated from C. ternatea include various triterpenoids, flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins and steroids.[8] Cyclic peptides known as cliotides have been isolated from the heat-stable fraction of C. ternatea extract.[10]



  1. ^ "Clitoria ternatea". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 31 Jul 2016. 
  2. ^ "Clitoria ternatea L". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 31 Jul 2016. 
  3. ^ Pharmacopia Indica Awl
  4. ^ "Flora and Fauna Web: Clitoria ternatea L". 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "Sharish - Blue Magic Gin". Hammonds of Knutsford. 
  7. ^ "Craft Spirits From Crafty Connoisseur | Product Page". Craft Spirits From Crafty Connoisseur. Retrieved 2018-09-01. 
  8. ^ a b 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. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Nguyen, GK; Zhang, S; Nguyen, NT; Nguyen, PQ; Chiu, MS; Hardjojo, A; Tam, JP. (Jul 2011). "Discovery and characterization of novel cyclotides originated from chimeric precursors consisting of albumin-1 chain a and cyclotide domains in the Fabaceae family". J Biol Chem. 286 (27): 24275–87. doi:10.1074/jbc.m111.229922. PMC 3129208Freely accessible. PMID 21596752. 

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