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CAJANUS cajan

Image of Cajanus cajan

Carol Cloud Bailey

Family

Fabaceae

Botanical Name

CAJANUS cajan

Plant Common Name

Congo Pea, Gungo Pea

General Description

A plant of many uses, Congo pea is grown in developing countries as a source of food, fiber, animal forage and green manure. It’s a shrubby, short-lived perennial able to thrive in drier locations due to its extensive, deep taproot. Like many old crops, Congo pea no longer exists in the wild. It has been long-cultivated in Africa but is believed to have originated from India and introduced to Africa thousands of years ago via old trade routes.

The fast growing and free branching Congo pea has stems lined with compound leaves, each with three light green leaflets, which alternate along the stems. Seeds are usually sown in spring. Roughly ten months after sowing, when days grow shorter, sweet pea like blooms of yellow marked with red or purple appear along the branch tips. Elongated pods follow, each filled with around nine pea-like seeds. The pods are ready for harvest when they shrivel and turn brown.

Grow Congo pea in frost-free sites with full, hot sun. A wide range of poor soils are tolerated but plants grow best in well-drained, marginally fertile loam. Heavy loams are ideal. Congo pea is typically grown in regions of the tropics with distinct dry and rainy seasons. Most growth occurs in the rainy season, but flowering holds off until the cooler dry season. This is a highly drought tolerant crop ideal for growing conditions in many parts of Africa. Seed production is greatest after the first flush of blooms. Subsequent flowers and pods are produced, but after five years of production fruit set diminishes greatly.

Numerous cultivars of Congo pea exist. They vary in fruit production, vigor, height, flower color and fruit characteristics. Some demonstrate improved resistance to fungal diseases, pests, salt spray and wind.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Vegetable

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    3'-13' / 0.9m - 4.0m

  • Width

    4'-12' / 1.2m - 3.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Hybrid Origin, India

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow, Red, Purple

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor, Striped

  • Fruit Color

    Tan, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green, Light Green

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes