Vigna luteola

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Vigna luteola
Vigna luteola plant11 (11397816813).jpg
Vigna luteola habit
Scientific classification
V. luteola
Binomial name
Vigna luteola
(Jacq.) Benth.
  • Calopogonium pendunculatum Standl.
  • Dolichos gangeticus Roxb.
  • Dolichos luteolus Jacq.
  • Dolichos luteus Sw.
  • Dolichos niloticus Delile
  • Dolichos repens L.
  • Orobus trifoliatus Sesse & Moc.
  • Phaseolus luetolus (Jacq.) Gagnep
  • Phaseolus marinus Burm.
  • Phaseolus maritimus Hassk.
  • Scytalis helicopus E. Mey.
  • Vigna brachystachys Benth.
  • Vigna bukombensis Harms.
  • Vigna fischeri Harms.
  • Vigna glabra Savi
  • Vigna helicopus (E. Mey.) Walp.
  • Vigna jaegeri Harms
  • Vigna longepedunculata Taub.
  • Vigna marina (Burm.) Merr.
  • Vigna nigerica A. Chev.
  • Vigna nilotica (Del.) Hook
  • Vigna oblonga Hook. f.
  • Vigna repens Kuntze
  • Vigna villosa Savi

Vigna luteola, commonly known as the hairy cowpea, is a perennial vine found in many tropical areas.


Vigna luteola is widely known in North America by the common names hairy cowpea or hairypod cowpea. This common name is derived from the Chickasaw waakimbala, which translates literally to "cow bean".

The vine also has a variety of other common names in South America and the Caribbean. In Cuba the plant is known as frijol cimarrón, Spanish for "wild bean", in Venezuela the plant is known as bajuco marullero, and in the Bahamas the plant is known as yellow vigna.[2]



Vigna luteola is a hairy, short-lived perennial vine that occurs in moist soil and grows in either a spreading or climbing fashion. Its leaves are trifoliate, meaning they are a compound leaf of three leaflets. The leaflets are oval shaped and become acute at their apex. The leaflets are 2.5–10 cm (0.98–3.94 in) long, and 1.5–5 cm (0.59–1.97 in) wide. It has numerous yellow flowers that are 1.8–2.2 cm (0.71–0.87 in) long and are made of one large standard petal, two lateral wing petals, and two lower keel petals. This creates bilateral symmetry in the flower.[3] It has thin, pubescent pods that are up to 5 cm (2.0 in) long and 5–6 mm (0.20–0.24 in) wide. The pods are range from green to brown or black. The pods contain numerous large black seeds, and the pod twists spirally when the seeds are dispersed.[4]


The flavinoids quercetin and isorhamnetin are found in the leaves, and are thought to help the plant resist aphids. The seeds resist storage pests due to their high levels of phytic acid, trypsin, and cystatin.[5]


Vigna luteola was first classified as Dolichos luteolus in 1771 by Nicholas von Jacquin, naming it from plants he cultivated in Vienna. In 1859, it was moved to the genus Vigna by George Bentham, classifying it as Vigna luteola.[2] The name Luteola is derived from the Latin luteus, meaning "yellow", in reference to the plant's yellow flowers.[6]

Habitat and Ecology[edit]

Vigna luteola can be found in tropical areas on many continents. Formerly native to the New World, the plant was brought into cultivation in Ethiopia and is now spread around the world.[2]

Vigna luteola grows in most commonly in coastal habitats on the Atlantic coast of the Americas, ranging from tropical regions of South and Central America to the Gulf Coast states, as far north as North Carolina.[7] In Africa, the plant is most common to Zimbabwe, but ranges from Senegal to Ethiopia to Egypt, and can be found in the Middle East, in Australia, and is widespread across Asia.[8][9]

It grows in swampy grasslands, on sandy lake shores, on stream sides, in wet pastures, in swamps, and in swamp forests.[5] It prefers moist to wet clay soils, and will tolerate a wide range of salinities, from 0-10 ppt.[7]

It is a larval host plant for cassius blue, grey hairstreak, long-tailed skipper and dorantes skipper butterflies,[6][10] is often used as a source of browsing for white-tailed deer, and ground-feeding birds often consume the seeds.[7]

Oomyces langloisii grows from dead stems of the plant in North America.[11]


The flowers of Vigna luteola are eaten as a boiled vegetable in Ethiopia and Malawi, and the roots are chewed for the sweet juice. In Ethiopia the leaves and flowers are mixed with Hagenia abyssinica to treat ulcers and syphilis. In Argentina it is used to control cholesterol levels and is reported to have antimicrobial properties as well. It is also used to treat "ghost sickness", a supernatural ailment, in Polynesia.[6]

Vigna luteola is most often considered a weed for crops due to its abundance.[12] However, the plant is palatable for livestock and grows well in friable and slightly saline soils, meaning it is used as a pasture plant and as a ground cover in many countries, such as Ghana, Zambia, and Australia.[13] However, its short lifespan and vulnerability to insects and frost can make it ineffective.[5]



  1. ^ Umberto Quattrocchi (2012). CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781439895702.
  2. ^ a b c Daniel F. Austinis (2004) Florida Ethnobotany ISBN 9780849323324
  3. ^ Conley K. McMullen (1999) Flowering Plants of the Galápagos ISBN 9780801486210
  4. ^ P. J. Skerman (1982) Les legumineuses fourrageres tropicales
  5. ^ a b c G. J. H. Grubben (2004) Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: Vegetables ISBN 9789057821479
  6. ^ a b c Roger L. Hammer (2016) Central Florida Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Lake Wales Ridge, Ocala National Forest, Disney Wilderness Preserve, and More than 60 State Parks and Preserves ISBN 9781493022151
  7. ^ a b c Lloyd-Reilley, John (1 October 2003). "WILD COWPEA" (PDF). USDA. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  8. ^ Ib Friis, Kaj Vollesen (1998) Flora of the Sudan-Uganda Border Area East of the Nile ISBN 9788773042977
  9. ^ Mohar Singh, Ishwari Singh Bisht, Manoranjan Dutta Broadening the Genetic Base of Grain Legumes ISBN 9788132220237
  10. ^ Michael F. Braby (2000) Butterflies of Australia: Their Identification, Biology and Distribution ISBN 9780643102927
  11. ^ Job Bicknell Ellis, Benjamin Matlack Everhart (1892). The North American Pyrenomycetes: A Contribution to Mycologic Botany. Ellis & Everhart. p. 69.
  12. ^ Alicia B. Pomilio and Enrique M. Zallocch (1989). "Two New Kaempferol Isorhamninosides from Vigna luteola". Journal of Natural Products (3 ed.). 52 (3): 511–515. doi:10.1021/np50063a008.
  13. ^ International Association of Research Scholars and Fellows Symposium (1998). International Association of Research Scholars and Fellows: Symposium Proceedings, 1995, 1996, 1997. IITA. p. 118. ISBN 9789781311505.