I discovered this petite, maroon beauty growing along the canal across the street from my house yesterday. The aptly-named Cow Pea (aka Phasey Bean Macroptilium lathyroides) is a high-protein legume commonly used as a forage crop for cattle (added benefit for the farmer, it is also a nitrogen fixer which helps replenish depleted soil).
Native to South and Central America, Cow Pea was introduced to Florida for agricultural use but in 2013 it earned a spot on the state’s invasive species list. This adaptable little plant not only self-pollinates but it can tolerate wet locations, sandy or clay-filled soil as well as salty areas. Another key to its success? Two pounds of Cow Peas contains roughly 119,000 seeds – that’s a lot of potential for spreading!
On the plus side, it is favored by local pollinators, including butterflies which some think the flower resembles.