x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Plant Library: Butterfly pea

This captivating climber grows well on a trellis or as a creeper on the ground.

Clitoria ternatea.
Clitoria ternatea.

Clitoria ternatea, Blue Pea Vine This captivating, blue-flowered, evergreen climber is useful for covering fences, trellis or training over other plants. It grows vigorously as a vine by twining with its slender stems on whatever support it comes into contact with, or as a creeper on the ground.

Its bright blue flowers have a pale yellow or white throat and are either notched or rounded at the apex. Besides the typical royal blue colour, the striking flowers can be white, with some fabulous varieties bearing sky blue, blue-violet, bright purple and mauve flowers that even appear in double-petalled form, such as C ternatea var pleniflora (plena) and C ternatea var alba plena.

In South East Asia, Clitoria's flowers are used as a natural blue dye to colour food, and in Malaysia, they are sun-dried to provide a blue tinge to rice and in glutinous rice cakes. In Thailand, the flowers are used to make a syrupy blue drink, while in Kerala and the Philippines they are eaten as vegetables.

Water Clitoria regularly to keep it from defoliating in the summer. Propagate by seed or cuttings. After soaking seeds overnight, germination should take place within seven to 10 days.