Vigna luteola

Click on images to enlarge

Trifoliolate leaves, and flower.

Pods and seeds.

Foliage and flowers of cv. Dalrymple.

Flowers and differing stages of pod development.

cv. Dalrymple - a spreading twining short-lived perennial.

Groundcover and green manure crop.

cv. Dalrymple used as a groundcover in orchards in northern Australia.

Print Fact Sheet

Scientific name

Vigna luteola (Jacq.) Benth.


Dolichos luteolus Jacq. [basionym]
Dolichos niloticus Delile
Dolichos repens L.
Vigna glabra Savi
Vigna nilotica (Delile) Hook. f.
Vigna repens (L.) Kuntze


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Phaseoleae subtribe: Phaseolinae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

Common names

Dalrymple vigna (Australia);  frijol cimarrÓn (Spanish);  hairypod cowpea, deer pea (USA);  gilibande, goko, masheke, mugulula, indolo, a kwakwa, kavuhivahi, toshimbo shimbo (Democratic Republic of Congo).

Morphological description

Annual or perennial, trailing or climbing herb with glabrous to densely hairy stems, rooting readily when in contact with moist soil.  Leaves trifoliolate, with leaflets ovate or ovate-lanceolate, 2.5–10 (–11) cm long, 0.4–5 cm wide, acute or acuminate at the apex, rounded or cuneate at the base, sparsely pubescent on both surfaces, petiole 2–8 cm long;  rachis 0.5–1.2 cm long;  petiolules 2–3 mm long;  stipules ovate-lanceolate, 3–4 mm long, 2 mm wide, shortly bilobed at the base.  Inflorescences axillary, few to many flowered, rachis 1.5–5 cm long, peduncles 5–40 cm long;  pedicels 4–9 mm long.  Flowers papilionate;  standard yellow to greenish yellow (sometimes tinged red outside), 1.3–2.5 cm long, 1.2–2.6 cm wide.  Pods pendant, linear, 4–8 cm long, 5–6.5 mm wide with slight constrictions between the 4–9 (–12) seeds;  sparsely to rather densely adpressed pubescent .  Seeds dark red-brown or grey brown with black speckling to black, 3–4 mm long and 2–3 mm wide.  40,000 seeds/kg.


Native to:
Africa:  Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
Asia:  Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.
Australasia:  Australia, Papua New Guinea.
Found in swampy or seasonally wet grassland, reedy and sandy lake shores, and swamp forest.

Naturalised in:
Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Galapagos, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, USA, and Venezuela.


Can be used as a short-term (±3 years) legume in pasture, or as a green manure or ley in cropland.  Despite its performance in a range of environments and applications, V. luteola has not achieved wide acceptance by farmers.  It is, however, one of the best legumes for wet conditions and one of the best pioneer plants in such situations.  It forms a good ground cover in shaded situations, but its twining habit may present problems with young trees.


Soil requirements

Adapted to a wide range of soil types from light loams to heavy textured clays, and from very acid to strongly alkaline soils.  V. luteola is adapted to poorly drained and moderately saline soils.


Prefers good soil moisture conditions, and is tolerant of waterlogging and short-term flooding.  While it can make a useful contribution in areas with average rainfalls as low as 800 mm/yr, ideally rainfall should be >1,200 mm, and up to at least 4,000 mm.  In lower rainfall environments, soils should have good moisture storage characteristics.  It has little drought tolerance and does not perform well under dry conditions.


V. luteola is found over a diverse range of temperature environments.  While it mostly occurs at 650–2,150 m asl in tropical Africa, and has been found at 2,050 m asl (9° 50'N) in Costa Rica, it is also recorded from more temperate environments such as Buenos Aires (34ºS, Argentina) and New York (40°N, USA), and also from the lowland tropics of Central America.  Average annual temperature in these areas spans about 13–26°C.  Optimum temperature for growth is in the range 20–30°C.  ‘Dalrymple’ is very susceptible to frost.


Although V. luteola has been shown to be relatively high yielding compared with a wide range of other legumes under moderate and dense shade environments (50% and 20% light transmission), other legumes such as Arachis pintoi , A. repens and Desmodium heterocarpon subsp. ovalifolium offer greater persistence.  At 65% light transmission, even the more light-demanding species, Stylosanthes guianensis and S. scabra can give higher yields.

Reproductive development

Flowering time appears to vary with provenance.  There appears to be a photo-periodic requirement, which could well be confounded with moisture availability and/or a need for low temperatures.  Most of a range of accessions tested in subtropical (28ºS) Australia, flowered in early April, some 90 days after sowing, while natural stands at 26ºN in the USA flower through much of the growing season.  At lower latitudes, ‘Dalrymple’ flowered about 90 days after sowing at 15ºS in northern Australia, and another accession , CPI 46383 at 17ºS, commenced flowering only 50 days after planting (mid January), but produced peaks of flowering in late April and again in mid-July.


V. luteola is extremely palatable and is preferentially grazed.  Although established plants tolerate short periods of heavy grazing, recovery or spelling periods are an essential part of grazing management.  Under more lenient grazing, it may persist for 3 years or longer.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


V. luteola often has a high percentage of hard seed, and germination should be tested prior to use.  If hard seed levels are greater than 50%, then seed should be scarified before sowing.  It is not specific in its rhizobium requirements, but can be inoculated with cowpea strain (e.g. CB 756 in Australia) if there is any doubt.  Seed is normally sown 2–3 cm deep, at 2 kg/ha when sown in mixtures and 5 kg/ha when sown alone.  Sowing rates of 10–20 kg/ha are preferable when it is used as a green manure .  It has a large seed and vigorous seedlings, and is easily established in well-prepared seed beds, competing well with weeds.


V. luteola requires at least moderate soil P, and may also respond to Mo in more acid soils.  Additional S may be necessary in some soils.

Compatibility (with other species)

Compatible with most tussocky tropical grasses.  Because of its twining growth habit, it may not be appropriate as a ground cover in plantation crops.  Its most likely use is in short term pasture and green manure situations where compatibility is not critical.

Companion species

Grasses:  Setaria sphacelata, S. splendida, Paspalum plicatulum , Panicum maximum , Brachiaria decumbens , Chloris gayana .
Legumes:  Aeschynomene americana .

Pests and diseases

Like many Vigna species, V. luteola is susceptible to insect damage, particularly from caterpillars (eg. Prodenia spp.) and jassids (Cicadellidae: Homoptera).  There do not appear to be any major disease problems, although it is recorded as being susceptible to “witches’ broom” phytoplasma disease and is listed as a host of bean golden mosaic bigeminivirus and cowpea severe mosaic Comovirus in Brazil, and peanut mottle virus in Australia.

Ability to spread

Although there is the potential for spread through pod dehiscence and high seed yields, spread is usually restricted under grazing because of its high palatability .  Further, it tends to grow over pods, burying them in foliage if not grazed, thus reducing dehiscence.  It can be spread by seed in dung under favourable conditions of warmth and moisture, but not readily.

Weed potential

While it is recorded as causing some problems in rice crops, there are no records of this species becoming a major weed.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

17% protein has been recorded at flowering.  P levels in the dry matter have been measured at 0.15% in low P soils and up to 0.34% at luxury P levels.


Extremely palatable and selectively grazed.


None recorded.

Production potential

Dry matter

V. luteola has produced >4 t/ha DM when grown in a pure sward on clay soil under good growing conditions.  In a comparison of a wide range of legumes in the humid subtropics of Australia, V. luteola was amongst the highest yielding species.  Under shade in coconut plantations in Indonesia, annual yields ranged from 1–2.5 t/ha.

Animal production

No information available.


2n = 22;  self-pollinating.

Seed production

Vigna luteola seed is readily produced in areas with a wet summer, followed by a dry season, although flowering is likely to be interrupted in frost-prone areas.  The need for weed control is minimal due to rapid crop development and canopy closure.  The use of pre-emergence herbicides may still help ensure a “clean” crop.  Crops establish rapidly under irrigation and with warm soil conditions (±24ºC at 10 cm depth) with canopy closure achieved about 4 weeks after sowing.  Inflorescences tend to be overgrown by the canopy, particularly when produced early in the season, so pods often mature within the canopy.  Crops need to be sprayed from flowering to minimise insect damage.  Few pods set on racemes formed in the canopy.  The crop reaches a height of about 30 cm.  Owing to its indeterminate flowering habit , seed harvest is difficult.  Exposed pods shatter, but not as readily as those of Macroptilium atropurpureum .  Care is required during threshing to avoid damage to the seed.  For mechanical harvesting, high capacity combine harvesters are required to manipulate the bulk of leafy material.  This could be aided by desiccating the crop prior to harvest.

Herbicide effects

Imazethapyr can be used as pre- sowing/pre-emergent, post- sowing/pre-emergent or post-emergent herbicide (first or second trifoliate leaf).  Pre-emergent application may have some effect on germination and post-emergent application may have some slight effect on seedlings, although this is often short-term.
Metolachlor and trifluralin can also be used as pre-emergent applications, but not atrazine or metribuzin.  Acifluorfen, bentazone and flumetsulam appear safe as post-emergent sprays, but not 2,4-D, 2,4-DB, picloram,  fluroxypur (fluroxypyr ), or chlorsulfuron.  Glyphosate can be used post- sowing/pre-emergent to control weeds at planting.  It has also been used at low application rate on mature plants to control emerging weeds.



Selected references

Andrew, C.S. and Robins, M.F. (1969) The effect of phosphorus on the growth and chemical composition of some tropical pasture legumes I. Growth and critical percentages of phosphorus Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 20, 665–674.
Barnard, C. (1969) ‘Herbage Plant Species’, Division of Plant Industry, CSIRO, Canberra.
Bogdan, A.V. (1977) Tropical Pasture and Fodder Plants (Grasses and Legumes). pp 420–421. (Longman: London and New York).
Gillett, J.B., Polhill, R.M. and Verdcourt, B. (1971) ‘Papilionoideae (2)’ In: Milne-Redhead, E. and Polhill, R.M. (eds) Flora of Tropical East Africa, Leguminosae (Part 4). pp. 625–626. (Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations: London.).
Hacker, J.B., Williams, R.J. and Pengelly, B.C. (1996) A characterisation study of the genus Vigna with regards to potential as forage . Genetic Resources Communication No 22. CSIRO Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures.
Kaligas, D.A. and Sumolang, C. (1991) Forages species for coconut plantations in North Sulawesi. In: Shelton, H.M. and Stur, W.W. (eds) Forages for Plantation Crops. Proceedings of a workshop, Sanur Beach, Bali, Indonesia. 27-29 June 1990. ACIAR Proceedings No. 32 .
Ng, K.F., Stür, W.W. and Shelton, H.M. (1997) New forage species for integtaion of sheep in rubber plantations. Journal of Agricultural Science, 128, 347–355.
Rika, I.K., Mendra, I.K, Oka Nurjaya, M.G. and Gusti Oka, M. (1991) New forage species for coconut plantations in Bali. In: Shelton, H.M. and Stur, W.W. (eds) Forages for Plantation Crops. Proceedings of a workshop, Sanur Beach, Bali, Indonesia. 27-29 June 1990. ACIAR Proceedings No. 32 .
Stur, W.W. (1991) Screening forage species for shade tolerance – a preliminary report. In: Shelton, H.M. and Stur, W.W. (eds) Forages for Plantation Crops. Proceedings of a workshop, Sanur Beach, Bali, Indonesia. 27-29 June 1990. ACIAR Proceedings No. 32 .
Verdcourt, B. (1979) A Manual of New Guinea Legumes.  Botany Bulletin no 11. p. 518. (Office of Forests Division of Botany, Lae, Papua New Guinea).

Internet links



Country/date released


(CPI 21347)
Australia (1965) Institutional collection introduced from Costa Rica as Vigna marina.  It is the only accession that has been widely tested.  ‘Dalrymple’ was initially released as a forage for the wet tropics, but has subsequently shown potential as a green manure in this and less tropical, even sub-humid environments.

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CPI 60428 Australia Appeared to have some jassid resistance in humid, subtropical Australia.