Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Clitoria ternatea L.

Frost tender, slender, evergreen, short-lived perennial twiner with pinnate leaves composed of 5 leaflets, and usually solitary flowers, each 2.5cm long, clear blue in colour, marked on the standard with yellowish white.  The flowers are somewhat variable in markings and white and double-flowered forms are known.  To 4m.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Clitoria ternatea was probably first cultivated in Britain by Miller in 1739.  [JD].  ‘The Clitoria ternatea, from the size and brilliant colour of its flowers, is a very beautiful annual.  It is a native of the warm parts of the East-Indies, of Cochin-China, and Egypt, and will at no time bear exposure to the open air in our climate.  It has a climbing herbaceous (Lourero says shrubby) stem, like the kidney-bean, and requires the same support.  We are told by Miller, that the seeds were first brought to Europe from Ternate, one of the Molucca Islands, which induced Tournefort to give the name of Ternatea to this genus; which we wish that Linnaeus had thought fit to retain, though not constructed altogether upon scientific principles.  Propagated by seeds which come to maturity with us.  Miller says, that the double sorts, of which some have blue and others white flowers, have not ripened seed in this country and these must be therefore procured from the East-Indies.’  [BM t.1542/1813].

History at Camden Park

Probably short lived in the gardens as it is listed in the 1843 catalogue only.


Of particular interest to us is this reference to Clitorea ternatea L. major Pax.:  ‘Few gardens, we imagine, in which plants receive the commonest share of attention, will not at some period have possessed the singular and beautiful Clitorea ternatea, which is a native of India. […] Our present subject [Clitorea ternatea major] is from Sydney, New South Wales, whence seeds of it were received by the lady of B. Harrison Esq., a gentleman, neighbour to J. Cook, Esq., of Brooklands, Blackheath, Kent, and to whose successful gardener, Mr. W. P. Ayres, they were presented; and being raised, and flowering, proved to be a distinct and very superior variety, well deserving to be distinguished by the name now given it.  “The flowers,” states Mr. Ayres, in a communication he has favoured us with respecting the plant, “are both larger and deeper in colour than the C. ternatea, while the leaflest are more obtuse at the points, and are singularly marbled with yellowish-green ground colour; it also flowers much more freely than any of the varieties of C. ternatea which I have cultivated.”’  [MB p.79/1847].

At this date [16th December 2005] I am uncertain of the relationship of Clitorea ternatea L. major Pax. to C. ternatea L.  It is possible that the former was introduced to Australia directly from India and then to England.  It is also possible that the Camden Park plant is that described in the Magazine of Botany.

Published Feb 07, 2009 - 02:04 PM | Last updated Jul 18, 2010 - 05:02 PM

Pictured is a straggling shoot with compound leaves and deep blue and white flower.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.1542, 1813.

Clitoria ternatea L. | BM t.1542/1813 | BHL

Family Fabaceae
Region of origin


Common Name

Blue pea

Name in the Camden Park Record

Clitorea ternatea 

Confidence level high