Clitoria ternatea

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Clitoria ternatea
Clitoria ternatea flower by Dr. Raju Kasambe DSCN1517 (8).jpg
Flowers and foliage
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Genus: Clitoria
C. ternatea
Binomial name
Clitoria ternatea

Clitoria ternatea, commonly known as Asian pigeonwings,[1] bluebellvine, blue pea, butterfly pea, cordofan pea or Darwin pea[2] is a plant species belonging to the family Fabaceae, endemic and native to the Indonesian island of Ternate.[3]: 215 

In India, it is revered as a holy flower, used in daily puja rituals.


The genus name Clitoria is a direct translation from the local name of these plants in the Ternate language, Telang, which literally means "clitoris", due to their blossoms' shape that resembles the shape of human female genitals. The first reference to the genus, which includes an illustration of the plant, was made in 1678 by Jakób Breyne, a Polish naturalist, who described it as Flos clitoridis ternatensibus, meaning 'Ternatean flower of the clitoris'.[4][5] The species name is derived from the name of the island where Botanist Carl Linnaeus's specimens originated from: the Ternate Island, located in the northern part of the Maluku Islands.[6][3]


This plant is native to equatorial Asia, including locations in South Asia and Southeast Asia but has also been introduced to Africa, Australia and the Americas.


It is a perennial herbaceous plant, with elliptic, obtuse leaves. It grows as a vine or creeper, doing well in moist, neutral soil. Its most striking feature is the color of its flowers, a vivid deep blue; solitary, with light yellow markings. They are about 4 cm (1+12 in) long by 3 cm (1+14 in) wide. Some varieties yield white flowers and pink.

The fruits are 5–7 cm (2–2+34 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.

Blue flower
White flower


C. ternatea does not suffer from any severe pest or disease problems.[7][8]


Rarely suffers from caterpillars,[7] whiteflies,[7][8][9] and spider mites.[8][9]


Suffers from anthracnose and bacterial soft rot.[9] Rarely suffers from fungal root rots.[8]


Culinary use[edit]

In Southeast Asia, the flower is used as a natural food colouring to colour glutinous rice and desserts like the Eurasian putugal as well as an Ayurvedic medicine.[10] In Kelantan, in the north-east of peninsular Malaysia, it is an important ingredient in nasi kerabu, giving it its characteristic bluish colour. In Burmese and Thai cuisines, the flowers are also dipped in butter and fried. It is also used to colour the Nyonya dish Pulot tartal.[11]

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.[12] In Thailand and Vietnam, this butterfly blue pea flower tea is commonly mixed with honey and lemon to increase acidity and turn the beverage a pink-purple color, to produce for a drink usually served after dinner, or as a refreshment at hotels and spas.[13] The drink is a typical local drink like chamomile tea is in other parts of the world.[13] The tea is found in both hot and cold varieties[14]

The flowers have more recently been used in a color-changing gin. Blue in the bottle, it turns pink when mixed with a carbonated mixer such as tonic water due to the change in pH.[15] As organic colours are not permanent, this type of gin is recommended to be stored in a dark place to maintain the effect.[16]

Traditional medicine[edit]

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is ascribed with various qualities including memory enhancing, nootropic, antistress, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, tranquilizing, and sedative properties.[17] In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant has been ascribed properties affecting female libido due to its similar appearance to the female reproductive organ.[18] Using its extract have also shown its ability to reduce intensity of behavior caused by serotonin and acetylcholine.[19]

Its extracts possess a wide range of pharmacological activities including antimicrobial, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, diuretic, local anesthetic, antidiabetic, insecticidal, blood platelet aggregation-inhibiting and for use as a vascular smooth muscle relaxing properties. This plant has a long use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for several diseases and the scientific studies has reconfirmed those with modern relevance. [20]

Textile use[edit]

The flower can be used to dye natural fibers and is used by traditional societies in Asia to do so.

Chemical constituents[edit]

Chemical compounds isolated from C. ternatea include various triterpenoids, flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins and steroids.[17] Cyclic peptides known as cliotides have been isolated from the heat-stable fraction of C. ternatea extract.[21] The blue colour of C. ternatea is a result of various anthocyanins, most importantly ternatins - polyacylated derivatives of delphinidin 3,3', 5'-triglucoside (Da-T).[22][23][24]



  1. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Clitoria ternatea". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. 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. ^ a b Don, George (1831). A General History of the Dichleamydeous Plants. J. G. and F. Rivington. C. Ternatea being a native to the island of Ternate
  4. ^ Fantz, Paul R. (2000). "Nomenclatural Notes on the Genus Clitoria for the Flora North American Project". Castanea. 65 (2): 89–92. JSTOR 4034108.
  5. ^ Breyne, Jakób (1678). Exoticarum aliarumque minus cognitarum plantarum centuria prima [Exotic and other less-known plants of the first century] (in Latin). Biblioteca Digital del Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid: David-Fridericus Rhetius.
  6. ^ Oguis, Georgianna K.; Gilding, Edward K.; Jackson, Mark A.; Craik, David J. (28 May 2019). "Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea), a Cyclotide-Bearing Plant with Applications in Agriculture and Medicine". Frontiers in Plant Science. 10: 645. doi:10.3389/fpls.2019.00645. PMC 6546959. PMID 31191573.
  7. ^ a b c "Clitoria ternatea (Pale Blue)". NParks Singapore. 2021-08-19. Archived from the original on 2021-01-28. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
  8. ^ a b c d Blackstone, Victoria Lee (2012-12-06). "How to Make Blue Pea Vines Bloom". SF Gate. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
  9. ^ a b c "Clitoria ternatea". Plant Finder. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
  10. ^ Vuong, Tung Thanh; Hongsprabhas, Parichat (2021-01-01). Yildiz, Fatih (ed.). "Influences of pH on binding mechanisms of anthocyanins from butterfly pea flower (Clitoria ternatea) with whey powder and whey protein isolate". Cogent Food & Agriculture. 7 (1): 1889098. doi:10.1080/23311932.2021.1889098. S2CID 233972591.
  11. ^ "Pulut Tai Tai". Nyonyacooking. 14 March 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2021. 1 tbsp butterfly pea flowers (dried
  12. ^ Pantazi, Chloe (February 26, 2016). "Watch this tea dramatically change from deep blue to vibrant red with a squeeze of lemon". Business Insider Deutschland. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Goldberg, Elyssa (January 31, 2016). "The Science Behind This Mesmerizing Color-Changing Tea". Bon Appétit. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  14. ^ Reid, Marian (October 16, 2012). "Be good to yourself in Chiang Mai". BBC Travel. the British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  15. ^ "This magical gin changes colour when tonic's added to it". Good Housekeeping.
  16. ^ "Road test: Ink gin changes colour when mixed with tonic". The Australian. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  17. ^ 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. PMID 18926895.
  18. ^ 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. S2CID 38939748.
  19. ^ Jain, Neeti N.; Ohal, C.C; Shroff, S.K; Bhutada, R.H; Somani, R.S; Kasture, V.S; Kasture, S.B (2003-06-01). "Clitoria ternatea and the CNS". Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 75 (3): 529–536. doi:10.1016/S0091-3057(03)00130-8. ISSN 0091-3057. PMID 12895670. S2CID 25178020.
  20. ^ Mukherjee, Pulok; Venkatesan, Kumar; Satheesh Kumar, Nanjappan; Heinrich, Michael (2008-10-01). "The Ayurvedic medicine Clitoria ternatea-From traditional use to scientific assessment". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 120 (3): 291–301. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.09.009. PMID 18926895.
  21. ^ 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" (PDF). J Biol Chem. 286 (27): 24275–87. doi:10.1074/jbc.m111.229922. PMC 3129208. PMID 21596752.
  22. ^ Terahara, Norihiko; Saito, Norio; Honda, Toshio; Toki, Kenjiro; Osajima, Yutaka (1990-01-01). "Acylated anthocyanins of Clitoria ternatea flowers and their acyl moieties". Phytochemistry. 29 (3): 949–953. Bibcode:1990PChem..29..949T. doi:10.1016/0031-9422(90)80053-J. ISSN 0031-9422.
  23. ^ Terahara, Norihiko; Oda, Masahiro; Matsui, Toshiro; Osajima, Yutaka; Saito, Norio; Toki, Kenjiro; Honda, Toshio (1996-01-01). "Five New Anthocyanins, Ternatins A3, B4, B3, B2, and D2, from Clitoria ternatea Flowers". Journal of Natural Products. 59 (2): 139–144. doi:10.1021/np960050a. ISSN 0163-3864. PMID 8991946.
  24. ^ Terahara, Norihiko; Saito, Norio; Honda, Toshio; Toki, Kenjiro; Osajima, Yutaka (1990-01-01). "Structure of ternatin A1, the largest ternatin in the major blue anthocyanins from clitoria ternatea flowers". Tetrahedron Letters. 31 (20): 2921–2924. doi:10.1016/0040-4039(90)80185-O. ISSN 0040-4039.

External links[edit]

Media related to Clitoria ternatea at Wikimedia Commons