Vigna parkeri

Click on images to enlarge

Flowers and leaf of Vigna parkeri (left) and Vigna hosei (right).

Vigna parkeri cv. Shaw.

Yellow flowered form of Vigna parkeri.

Foliage and flowers of cv. Shaw.

Seeds - Vigna parkeri (left) and Vigna hosei (right).

Vigna parkeri cv. Shaw with Brachiaria decumbens cv. Basilisk in northern Australia.

Vigna hosei with Stenotaphrum secundatum on Vanuatu.

From:‘t Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (1992) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands). © Prosea Foundation.

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Scientific name

Vigna parkeri Baker

Subordinate taxa:
Vigna parkeri Baker subsp. maranguensis (Taub.) Verdc.
Vigna parkeri Baker subsp. parkeri
Vigna parkeri Baker subsp. acutifoliola Verdc. (Recognised by some authorities as another subspecies.)


Dolichos maranguensis Taub.
Vigna gracilis auct., non (Guill. and Perr.) Hook.
Vigna maranguënsis (Taub.) Harms.
Vigna hosei (Craib) Backer (synonymous with Dolichos hosei Craib) is similar to, and possibly comprises Vigna parkeri Baker subsp. acutifoliola Verdc., and part of Vigna parkeri Baker subsp. maranguënsis (Taubert) Verdc.(ILDIS).


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

Common names

creeping vigna (Australia);  sarawak bean (V. hosei) (south-east Asia);  vigna menjalar (Indonesia).

Morphological description

A perennial herb, with climbing and prostrate stems, the latter usually developing nodal roots and forming dense mats.  Young stems are slender and sparsely to densely covered with mostly spreading hairs.  Leaves trifoliolate, with leaflets round, ovate or ovate lanceolate, 1-9 cm long and 1-5.5 cm wide, rounded to acuminate at the apex and rounded to subacute at the base, pubescent on both faces, margins lightly to densely ciliate;  sometimes pale crescent on leaflets of subsp. maranguënsis.  Inflorescences are axillary racemes, with 2-5 (-10) flowers per raceme;  flowers occurring in alternate pairs, inserted either side of a glandular node;  peduncle 2-13 cm long;  calyx sparsely pubescent, tube 1.5-2 mm long, lobes deltoid, ovate or lanceolate, 1-1.5 mm long, the upper pair joined to form a more-or-less rounded lobe;  standard oblate, 5-8.5 (-12) long and 5-8 (-10) mm wide, glabrous.  Pods pubescent/glabrescent, linear-oblong, compressed, (9-) 13-20 (-30) mm long and 4.5-5.5 mm wide, containing 1-5 seeds.  Seeds oblong-ovoid, 3-5 mm long, 2-3.5 mm wide, grey to brown with black mottling, sometimes entirely black (pale testa in white flowered variant);  variable aril development.

Subsp. maranguënsis:  smaller more rounded leaflets;  blue, yellow or white flowers;  only above-ground pods;  seed with well developed aril ;  43,000-96,000 seeds/kg.
Subsp. parkeri:  mostly acute leaflets;  blue flowers.
Subsp. acutifoliola:  larger acute or acuminate leaflets;  yellow flowers, amphicarpic fruiting;  seeds mostly with less aril development;  28,000 seeds/kg.


Native to:
V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis:  Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.
V. parkeri subsp. parkeri:  Madagascar.
V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola (V. hosei):  Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique.
Occurs in grasslands, grasslands with scattered trees, thickets, forests and sometimes as a weed of cultivation.  Often forms a natural mixture with grasses such as kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum ) on moist ground in East Africa, producing excellent grazing.

Naturalised in:
V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis:  Papua New Guinea and the subtropics of Queensland, Australia.
V. hosei (V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola):  Malaysia, Indonesia and the wet tropics of Queensland.


It is a useful legume in intensively grazed pastures, and forms a good ground cover in lightly shaded areas.


Soil requirements

In native and naturalised situations, occurs on soils with textures ranging from sands to medium clays with pH from (4-) 4.5-6.0, and in the case of subsp. maranguënsis, up to pH 7.  These soils often have at least moderate levels of soluble aluminium.  It has spread on infertile soils in the absence of additional nutrient, but appears responsive to applications of phosphorus and molybdenum in farm situations.


V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis originates from the upland tropics, mostly from areas with rainfall >1,000 mm/yr, and has become naturalised in areas with rainfall to >2,500 mm.  V. hosei and V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola occur in the low to middle altitude tropics, mostly in areas with >2,000 mm rainfall , and rarely as low as 1,000 mm.  All require good soil moisture for performance, but can survive up to a few months of dry conditions.  Subsp. maranguënsis can tolerate waterlogged soils, but is intolerant of flooding.  Where flooding or drought occurs infrequently, stands regenerate readily from soil seed.  V. hosei is tolerant of flooding but may be even less tolerant of drought than subsp. maranguënsis.


V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis is found from 1,000-2,500 (-2,700) m asl and is best adapted to areas in the upland tropics and lowland subtropics with an average annual temperature between 17 and 21ºC.  Growth slows during the heat of summer in the subtropics, the best growth being produced during moist periods in spring and autumn.  Top growth is killed, even by light frosts, but stands regenerate readily from surviving root-stocks and stolons with the onset of warm conditions.
V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola and V. hosei are found from sea level to 1,000 m asl and are best adapted to areas in the low- and mid-altitude tropics with an average annual temperature between 23 and 27ºC.  However, V. hosei has persisted in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia (1,400 m asl, average annual temperature 18.5ºC), which also receives very high rainfall .  It appears to be more summer-active and frost sensitive than subsp. maranguënsis, and is best used in only the humid tropics.


Adapted to full sun or lightly shaded areas.

Reproductive development

Flowering response varies with genotype.  Some, including yellow flowering maranguënsis and V. hosei types, flower throughout the growing season in the low altitude subtropics, while many of the blue-flowering maranguënsis types commence flowering later in the season, with a peak in May.  This may not be a simple difference in daylength response, since one genotype that conforms to the latter pattern in the subtropics, flowers throughout the year in the high altitude tropics, suggesting a low temperature influence.


Being strongly stoloniferous , both types can tolerate heavy grazing.  Subsp. maranguënsis is adapted to both heavy and more lenient grazing by virtue of its stolons for heavy grazing and twining laterals for lenient management.


Fire is rarely an issue in areas where V. parkeri / hosei are used.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Both types can be established vegetatively or from seed.  Pieces of stolon with root primordia establish readily in moist soil.  Hand-harvested seed may need scarification prior to planting due to high levels of hardseedness frequently encountered.  This can be achieved using mild abrasion with sandpaper, or hot water treatment (10-20 minutes at 70ºC).  Radical scarification methods should be avoided since seed is fragile.  Although V. parkeri / hosei is promiscuous in its rhizobial relationships, it is best to inoculate seed with cowpea inoculum such as CB 1015 or CB 756 prior to planting.  Seed is broadcast on the surface or shallowly sown into a well-prepared seedbed at 2-3 kg/ha seed, followed by heavy rolling.  Establishment is often slow, depending on moisture conditions after sowing, and stands may not be fully productive for up to 2 years.  It may not flower in the year of sowing unless conditions are favourable following early sowing.  There may therefore be no seed bank development until 15-18 months after sowing, and soil seed is essential for regeneration following loss of stand from flood, drought , insect attack or disease.


A planting dressing of 20 kg/ha P and 100 g/ha Mo would be beneficial on more acid infertile soils, with follow-up dressings from time to time.

Compatibility (with other species)

V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis and V. hosei (V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola) combine well with various sward-forming grasses, and tussock grasses in intensively managed pastures.  While the main stolons of subsp. maranguënsis stay close to the ground, secondary branches from the leaf axils can twine up to the light through taller-growing species to 1-1.5 m.  V. hosei can twine to a greater height in lax grazing systems.

Companion species

V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis
Grasses:  Axonopus fissifolius , Chloris gayana , Digitaria eriantha (pangola), Paspalum dilatatum , P. mandiocanum, P. notatum , Pennisetum clandestinum , Setaria sphacelata var. anceps.
Legumes:  Desmodium heterocarpon subsp. heterocarpon, D. intortum , Lotus uliginosus , Trifolium repens, T. semipilosum .

V. hosei
(V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola)
Grasses:  Ischaemum ciliare (aristatum), Paspalum conjugatum, Stenotaphrum secundatum , Brachiaria brizantha , B. decumbens , B. humidicola .
Legumes:  Alysicarpus vaginalis , Desmodium heterocarpon subsp. ovalifolium, D. incanum , D. triflorum .

Pests and diseases

V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis
Although susceptible to a number of diseases, including root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne javanica and possibly other Meloidogyne spp.), stem blight (Sclerotium rolfsii), and leafspot (Stemphylium sp., Cercospora sp.), disease is rarely a problem in well-grazed pastures.  Damage from a leaf miner (Acrocercops sp.) and leaf eating beetles (Rhyparida sp.) have been noted but rarely cause severe damage.  Leaf blight (Rhizoctonia solani) and stem rot (Colletotrichum truncatum) can cause problems in seed crops, where there is an accumulation of mature material.

V. hosei
(V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola)
Leptosphaerulina sp. has been recorded causing large leaf spots.

Ability to spread

Both types have become naturalised in a range of new environments.  They spread locally by virtue of stolons, and greater distances through natural dissemination of seed.  V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis is readily spread through ingestion of seed by grazing livestock, re-establishing at times in dense grass swards.

Weed potential

Neither has shown any real tendency to become weedy.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

In a sample of subsp. maranguënsis comprising 79% leaf, the leaf analysis was 24% CP, 0.23% P, and 27% ADF (acid detergent fibre), and the stem 12% CP, 0.24 % P and 43% ADF.  In another, with leaf comprising 65% of the sample, leaf CP level was 26% and IVDMD 61%, and stem 12.5% CP and 55% IVDMD .


Both types are extremely palatable.


None recorded.

Production potential

Dry matter

No information available, but probably of the order of 1-4 t/ha DM.

Animal production

No information available.


V. parkeri subsp. maranguënsis:  2n = 22.
V. hosei (V. parkeri subsp. acutifoliola) 2n = 20.
No data available on breeding mechanism, but the absence of variability within nursery produced lines suggests that this is a closely selfing species like many other Vigna spp.

Seed production

Harvest methodology has been developed for subsp. maranguënsis in the humid subtropics.  Because of the late flowering, crops ripen during winter and should be sited in frost-free areas.  Crops are best grown with less competitive grasses such as Axonopus affinis to suppress weeds and to raise the crop to header height.  With late-flowering types in the southern hemisphere, paddocks are grazed until February/March, and then de-stocked to allow crop development during May/June flowering.  Ripe pods generally hold within the canopy , but will shatter under hot, dry conditions.  This is rarely a problem with late-flowering types, but could be an issue with early flowering types.  Crops are usually ready for harvest in late July.  The cutter-bar of the harvester is set low and the machine must travel slowly.  Thresher settings should be such as not to damage the fragile seed (e.g. drum speed 500-600 rpm, concave quarter open, fair wind over partly closed adjustable sieves).  Crops are often windrowed to facilitate gentler threshing.  Seed yields of above 400 kg/ha have been obtained from a single harvest of a small plot under good conditions.  Commercial yields are more often of the order of 100 kg/ha.
No commercial system has been developed for V. hosei.  Few flowers are observed above the canopy, and the majority of the seed appears to form in the litter on the soil surface.  Seed is therefore best hand-harvested, paying special attention to geocarpic seed.

Herbicide effects

Trifluralin can be used for pre-emergent, and bentazone (at 2-4 leaf stage), the imidizolinones (imazethapyr, imazaquin), and flumetsulam for post-emergent broadleaf weed control, but there is the risk of some stunting of V. parkeri seedlings.  Fluazifop and sethoxydim can be used for selective grass control in seed crops.  Seedlings are susceptible to acifluorfen, 2,4-D and 2,4-DB.



Other comments

Soil seed levels ranging from 50 to over 1,000 seeds/m² (mean 450) have been measured in subsp. maranguënsis.

Selected references

Bogdan, A.V. (1977). Tropical Pasture and Forage Plants . p. 422.  (Longman: London and New York).

Cook, B.G. and Benjamin, A.K. (1992) Vigna parkeri Baker. In: 't Mannetje, L. and Jones, R.M. (eds) Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 4. Forages . pp. 232-234. (Pudoc Scientific Publishers, Wageningen, the Netherlands).
Cook, B.G. and Jones, R.M. (1987) Persistent new legumes for intensive grazing. 1. Shaw creeping vigna. Queensland Agricultural Journal, 113, 89-91.
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. 635-637. (Crown Agents for Overseas Governments and Administrations: London.).
Jones, R.M. (1984) Appendix. The agronomic potential of Vigna parkeri . To "White clover (Trifolium repens) in subtropical south-east Queensland. III. Increasing clover and animal production by use of lime and flexible stocking rates". Tropical Grasslands, 18, 186-194.
Jones, R.M., Bishop, H.G., Clem, R.L., Conway, M.J., Cook, B.G., Moore, K. and Pengelly, B.C. (2000) Measurements of nutritive value of a range of tropical legumes and their use in legume evaluation. Tropical Grasslands, 34, 78-90.
Loch, D.S. and Ferguson, J.E. (1999) (eds) Forage seed production. Volume 2: Tropical and subtropical species. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxon, UK.
O'Donnell, J.J., Rechcigl, J.E., Pitman, W.D. and Sylvia, D.M. (1991) Establishment and growth of Vigna parkeri on an acid Florida spodosol in response to lime and phosphorus. In: Wright, R.J., et al. (eds) Plant-Soil Interactions at Low pH . pp. 491-500. (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston).
O'Donnell, J.J., Sylvia, D.M., Pitman, W.D. and Rechcigl, J.E. (1992) Inoculation of Vigna parkeri with mycorrhizal fungi in an acid Florida spodosol. Tropical Grasslands, 26, 120-129.
Pentney, C.J., Whiteman, P.C. and Sivasupiramaniam, S. (1984) Studies on the germination , phenology and Rhizobium requirements of Vigna parkeri . Tropical Grasslands, 18, 66-74.
Pritchard, A.J. and Gould, K.F. (1964) Chromosome numbers in some introduced and indigenous legumes and grasses. CSIRO Aust. Div. Trop. Past. Tech. Pap. No. 2.
Verdcourt, B. (1970) Studies in the Leguminosae - Papilionoideae for the Flora of Tropical East Africa: IV. Kew Bulletin, 24, 507-569.
Whiteman, P.C., Seitlheko, M., Siregar, M.E., Chudasama, A.K. and Javier, R.R. (1984) Short term flooding tolerance of seventeen commercial tropical pasture legumes. Tropical Grasslands, 18, 91-95.

Internet links



Country/date released


(CQ1374, CPI 25378)
Queensland, Australia (1984) From Entebbe, Uganda (0º, rainfall, 1,200 m asl, 1,550 mm).  More vigorous stolon development and less pronounced twining habit than most other accessions, climbing to about 50 cm.  Late flowering, with blue flowers changing to mauve or purple;  leaflets darker green than in most accessions, and frequently with a pale green crescent;  small seeded (ca. 75,000 seeds/kg).  Well adapted to former rainforest areas in the subtropics and upland tropics, carrying Pennisetum clandestinum and Paspalum dilatatum .  Tolerant of very heavy grazing.

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



CPI 28281, CPI 37952 Queensland, Australia From Uganda.  Early, yellow flowering accessions with ability to set seed before onset of frost.  Agronomically less successful than 'Shaw'.
CPI 100846 Queensland, Australia From naturalised stands at Tambul RS, PNG (6ºS, 2,300 m asl, rainfall 2,600 mm).  Extensively naturalised in the PNG uplands.  Blue flowers.  Stronger twining ability, and with slightly thicker stems than 'Shaw', climbing to over 1 m.  Leaflets somewhat larger and with more strongly ciliate margins than 'Shaw'.