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Vigna unguiculata

Why are the seeds of this species difficult? The seeds present no inherent problems in storage or germination. However, if they have not been properly dried and stored under optimal conditions, storage life and viability will be reduced.

Vigna unguiculata (Image: S. Wood, RBG Kew)

Seed Storage

This species has Orthodox seeds - dry to 15-20% eRH and store at -20ºC, or as cool as possible.

Germination Requirements

Germinate on agar, germination paper or sand at constant temperatures of 20 or 25ºC, or using an alternating temperature regime of 30/20ºC.

Although the seeds of this species are not physically dormant, scarification of the seed coat can accelerate germination. Chip with a scalpel if necessary.

Seed Morphology

The pods (7.5-12 cm) are erect or ascending, linear, and contain 8-20 seeds. The seeds (3-6 mm) have a white hilum  surrounded by a dark ring. Seeds are variable in size and shape, globular to kidney-shaped, and in colour, including white, green, buff, red, brown or black, with various speckling, mottling or blotching.

See more images of this species at the Digital Atlas of Economic Plants.

Vigna unguiculata
(Image: S. Wood, RBG Kew)



Accepted nameVigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.

SynonymsVigna catjang Walp.

Common name: cowpea

References and Links

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (1994). Genebank Standards. FAO/IPGRI, Rome, Italy.
  • International Seed Testing Association (2010). International Rules for Seed Testing: edition 2010. ISTA, Bassersdorf, Switzerland.
  • Purseglove, J.W. (1968). Tropical Crops: dicotyledons. Longman Group Ltd., UK. 
  • Rao, N.K., Hanson, J., Dulloo, M.E., Ghosh, K., Nowell, D. and Larinde, M. (2006). Manual of seed handling in genebanks. Handbooks for Genebanks No. 8. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy.
  • AFPD (African Flowering Plants Database) - Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève, Switzerland, and South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, RSA: Vigna unguiculata.
  • PROTAbase (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) - Wageningen, Netherlands: Vigna unguiculata.
  • SID (Seed Information Database) - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK: Vigna unguiculata.
  • Tropical Forages - CSIRO, DPI&F(Qld), CIAT and ILRI, Brisbane, Australia: Vigna unguiculata.
  • Tropicos - Missouri Botanical Garden, USA: Vigna unguiculata.