Source: Magness et al. 1971
These species are grown as vegetables for food and are listed there. They are also important hay, pasture and soil improvement crops. The 3 species are very similar in growth habit and culture. Cowpea is the one mainly grown and all three are often termed cowpea in this country. All are annuals native to southern Asia that have been long grown under cultivation. Cowpeas were present in the Southeastem States as early as 1714. Formerly, cowpeas were much more grown in this country than at present. Near 5,000,000 acres were planted annually during the decade of the 1930's, while recent plantings are only about 10% of that figure.
The plants are generally near prostrate and vining although upright varieties are available. The trifoliate leaves are long stemmed. Leaflets are generally somewhat heai-t shaped, up to 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. Pods are long, slender and glabrous. Plants require a long, warm growing season, so cultivation is mainly in the "Cotton Belt." Cowpeas are palatable and nutritious both for pasture and hay. They also constitute an important soil improvement crop.