Clitoria fragrans - Small
Sweet-scented Pigeonwings
Other English Common Names: Pigeonwings
Other Common Names: sweetscented pigeonwings
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Clitoria fragrans Small (TSN 26541)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.141904
Element Code: PDFAB0Z010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Pea Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Fabales Fabaceae Clitoria
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Clitoria fragrans
Taxonomic Comments: Distinct species. One of two members of its genus in the state of Florida.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G3
Global Status Last Reviewed: 17Jul1995
Global Status Last Changed: 17Jul1995
Rounded Global Status: G3 - Vulnerable
Reasons: A Florida endemic with only a small number of extant records in a restricted range. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory currently contains 62 occurrence records; many of the occurrences are located on Avon Park Air Force Range and The Nature Conservancy's Tiger Creek Preserve, Florida. Some of the reported occurrences have likely been destroyed. Encroaching development from agriculture and urban sprawl pose a threat to the species.
Nation: United States
National Status: N3

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Florida (S3)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LT: Listed threatened (27Apr1993)
Comments on USESA: Clitoria fragrans was listed threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on April 27, 1993.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R4 - Southeast

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Clitoria fragrans is an endemic in central Florida, growing very locally in Polk, Highlands, Lake, and Orange Counties, and possibly in Osceola County.

Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Number of Occurrences Comments: Fifty nine Element Occurrences recorded by FNAI as per July 1995 (Gary Knight, pers. comm., July 17, 1995).

Population Size Comments: Never abundant at a given site

Overall Threat Impact Comments: The well drained upland soils that pigeon wings requires are rapidly being developed for residential use, golf courses and related commercial developments. Much of this land is also being or already has been converted to citrus groves.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Short-term Trend Comments: The population trends of this species seem to be on the decline due to site developments and lack of burning.

Intrinsic Vulnerability Comments: Requires undisturbed soils and fire. Doesn't seem to return quickly to abandoned farmland or neglected orange groves.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Clitoria fragrans is an endemic in central Florida, growing very locally in Polk, Highlands, Lake, and Orange Counties, and possibly in Osceola County.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States FL

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
FL Highlands (12055), Lake (12069), Marion (12083), Polk (12105)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Upper St. Johns (03080101)+, Oklawaha (03080102)+, Kissimmee (03090101)+, Western Okeechobee Inflow (03090103)+, Peace (03100101)+, Withlacoochee (03100208)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A subshrubby, perennial, smoothish herb, growing 1-5 dm tall, from a stout, woody taproot. Stems are solitary to several, slender, subwiry, unbranched, and purple-tinged. Flowers are pale purple, borne on twisted stalks.
Technical Description: Perennial, suffrutescent herb, erect, non-twining, 15-50 cm tall. Stems one to several from a woody, thickened base, erect, 1 - 2 mm thick, purplish, slightly glaucous, usually unbranched, weakly ziz-zag above, nearly straight below. Taproot 0.5-2 M long. Leaves alternate, pinnately trifoliolate, petioles 1-3 cm long. Leaflets oblong to oblong lanceolate, lamina 2-4.5 cm by 0.5-1.5 cm, upper surface dark green, reticulate, lower surface paler, glaucous, petiolules 2 mm long. Stipules and stipels conspicuous and persistent. Inflorescence axillary, solitary, bearing 1-2 (Fantz 1977) papilionaceous, resupinate, chasmogamous or cleistogamous flowers on peduncles shorter than subtending petioles. Chasmogamous flowers large (4.5- 5 cm), showy, fragrant. **Racemes peduncled 2-3 cm with 1-2 flowers at apex; bracteoles lanceolate, ca 5mm long.** Calyx funnelform, purplish near base, 12-16 mm long (standard 4.5-5 cm long, the small keel white), with 5 triangular teeth. Standard petal lavender with prominent purplish veins and a white basal spot. Wing petals shorter, concealing the small keels. Staminal tube cylindric enclosing the pubescent, striped ovary and the long, incurved, bearded style. Cleistogamous flowers smaller and generally inconspicuous as corolla lacking or minute. Ovary stalked, bent backwards (180 degrees) alongside ovary and in contact with the anthers. Legume long-stipitate, glaucous, oblong, 3-5.5 cm long (2-4 cm from cleistogamous flowers), 6-8 mm wide; stipe extended well beyond calyx; beak 2-4 mm; dehiscence along both sutures and causing valves to twist about a half turn. Seeds 2-9 per legume, 3-4 mm long and wide, reddish-brown, smooth and viscid (Fantz 1977; Kral 1983; Ward 1979).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Clitoria fragrans is easily distinguished from C. mariana by its erect herbaceous habit; purplish, glaucous stems; narrow (about 1cm) oblong leaflets; axillary lavender, resupinate flowers of two types; and the very long stipe of the fruit (Fantz 1977).

The flowers of Centrosema differ from those of Clitoria by having shorter calyx tubes. Centrosema arenicola is restricted to much the same habitats as Clitoria fragrans, but has a somewhat larger range (Martin 1993).

Reproduction Comments: The extreme localization and widely scattered nature of Clitoria's populations make it very inconspicuous so it is not usually collected by botanists unless it is bearing chasmogamous flowers. Pigeon wings is one of the relatively few species of plants with cleistogamous flowers. Seed production is assured by these self-fertilizing flowers even if cross-pollination of the showy chasmogamous flowers has not taken place. This mechanism insures both outbreeding and inbreeding as a normal part of each reproductive cycle and could help insure the rapid production of numerous offspring adapted to new environmental conditions resulting from a fire (Radford 1974). Seeds are transported on the outside of animals; a viscid exudate helps with dispersal (Pijl 1982).
Ecology Comments: Clitoria's long taproot enables it to survive fires that burn (formerly, at least) the sandhill and scrub communities. These fires reduce the woody plant competition that would eventually shade out Clitoria. The sandy clearings favored by Clitoria could also be created by erosional forces such as wind (Kral 1983). Clitoria is also unique as one of only two Fabaceae genera with resupinate or inverted flowers (Fantz 1977). The flowers are inverted so that the anthers and stigma touch the backs of visiting insects (Martin 1993). It has been reported that beetle larvae often damage maturing fruit (unpublished FNAI).
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Sand/dune, Shrubland/chaparral
Habitat Comments: SUMMARY: Widely scattered in undisturbed clearings of xeric sandhill and scrub communities on well-drained upland soils. END SUMMARY. Suzanne Cooper of the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (unpublished FNAI data) reports that C. fragrans is more commonly found in the sandhill or sandhill/scrub ecotones than in the scrub proper, which is contrary to published reports. Sandhill typically occurs on rolling hills of yellowish sand with a longleaf pine/turkey oak overstory (bluejack and/or sand live oak may also be dominant) and a ground cover of numerous herbs dominated by wiregrass. The white sand scrub is generally found with an overstory of scattered pines (sand, slash or longleaf), a middle layer of scrub oaks, several ericaceous shrub species and saw palmetto, and a thin layer of many herbaceous or dwarf shrub species (Duever 1983). Clitoria is typically found in undisturbed clearings in the scrub but also occurs in very open scrub as well (Kral 1983).
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: Clitoria fragrans favors very open sandy scrubland, such as that produced by natural wood fires and erosional forces (particularly wind), both which tend to reduce woody plant competition. Thus, occasional prescribed burnings may be a necessary part of a management regime for the species (Kral 1983).

Other recommendations for management include: 1) Preservation of existing populations of Clitoria fragrans in areas currently unprotected.

2) Implement a program of different prescribed burning schedules at Tiger Creek Preserve.

3) Monitor results.

4) Further study on Clitoria fragrans distribution and abundance in Central Florida.

5) Research on its life history and propagation.

Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Forty acres should be considered a minimum size for a good sandhill or scrub site, but a smaller size could be considered for an exemplary population of Clitoria (Cooper, FNAI pers. comm.). The canopy should not be so dense as to shade or crowd out the herbaceous ground cover. The area should have a large enough buffer from development to allow periodic burning.
Management Requirements: Active management is needed to prevent woody plant growth from shading or crowding out Clitoria. This could be done by burning or thinning the overstory (Kral, 1983).

Most of Florida's natural fires occur from June to September when lightning from thunderstorms is most abundant (Abrahamson, 1984a). Ridge sandhills burn frequently (about every 3-5 years) with low intensity to remove undergrowth below the pine canopy (Abrahamson, 1984a; Duever, 1983). Dr. Ron Myers (ABS, pers. comm. on June 20, 1984) wrote that scrub naturally burned every 20-80 years in a high intensity canopy fire that opens areas for understory species. He recommended managing for the habitat system until more is learned about individual species' requirements. He suggested varying fires both temporally and spatially rather than sticking to one set fire frequency for a particular site, as natural burning occurred whenever sufficient fuel coincided with optimum weather conditions and an ignition source. Dr. Jack Stout (UCF, pers. comm. on July 31, 1984) wrote that he thought scrub historically burned in late spring or during the winter when conditions were most dry. He felt scrub would be hard to burn during the summer rainy season. He advised having many 25 to 100 acre units of scrub at different stages in which the various scrub plants and animals could populate and reproduce.

Proper schedules for burning scrub and sandhills have not yet been developed, and certain species may have their own specific preferred fire regime. In areas where burning is not feasible, thinning or cutting of the overstory could be tried (Kral, 1983).

Monitoring Requirements: Clitoria fragrans needs to be more closely monitored on and off TNC's Tiger Creek Preserve. The population trends of this species seem to be on the decline due to site developments and lack of burning. The effects of burning should be monitored. An annual field survey of known habitats of C. fragrans would be appropriate.
Monitoring Programs: FNAI has done some field surveys on this species. Gary Schultz and John Beckner searched for it in the Central Florida area. The FNAI office should be contacted for further information.
Management Research Programs: Abrahamson (1984a) recently published some data on the results of fire on Lake Wales Ridge vegetation at Archbold Biological Station (ABS). He found that ridge species' populations are revitalized by fire but do not require fire in the sense of maintaining a fire subclimax. He gives data on the recovery of dominant species of 4 major vegetation associations but does not include any of the rare species (Abrahamson, 1984b). He was unsuccessful in burning sand pine or rosemary scrub in these studies.

Other knowledgeable individuals on scrub and sandhill vegetation include Dr. Jack Stout, Dr. Ron Myers, and Don Richardson. Stout is working on scrub preservation strategies in east-central Florida. Myers is studying the ecological effects of fire on Florida's sand ridges. Richardson is currently a graduate student at USF in Tampa exploring the effects of allelopathy in the Florida scrub. (FNAI is the most informed on occurrences and distribution of rare plant species in Florida.)

Management Research Needs: Research needs to be done on the ideal habitat and management requirements of Clitoria. The results of different prescribed burning schedules needs to be monitored - how does fire effect reproduction from seed, and will its taproot allow it to survive the intense heat of a mature scrub fire?
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 03Nov1994
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: G. Schultz (2/86), rev. A. Wildman, TNC-HO (11/94).
Management Information Edition Date: 17Feb1986
Management Information Edition Author: GARY SCHULTZ (2/86).
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 03Nov1994
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): G. SCHULTZ (2/86), REV. A. WILDMAN, THC-HO (11/94).

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Abrahamson, W.G. 1984a. Post-fire recovery of Florida Lake Wales Ridge vegetation. American J. Botany 71(1): 9-21.

  • Abrahamson, W.G. 1984b. Species response to fire on the Florida Lake Wales Ridge. American J. Botany 71(1): 35-43.

  • Cronquist, A. 1981. An integrated system of classification of flowering plants. Columbia Univ. Press, New York. 1262 pp.

  • Duever, L.C. 1983. Natural communities of Florida's inland sand ridges. Palmetto 3(3): 1-3.

  • Fantz, P.R. 1977. A Monograph of the genus Clitoria (Leguminosae Glycineae) [Ph.D. dissertation]. Univ. Florida. pp. 696-705.

  • Hall, D.W. 1993. Illustrated plants of Florida and the Coastal Plain. Maupin House, Gainesville, Florida. 431 pp.

  • Hall, David W. 1993. Illustrated plants of Florida and the coastal plain. Maupin House, Gainesville, FL. pp. 431.


  • Kartesz, J. T. 1987. Unpublished plant characterization database information on vascular plant species of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kral, R. 1983c. A report on some rare, threatened, or endangered forest-related vascular plants of the South. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service Technical Publication R8-TP2, Athens, GA. 1305 pp.

  • Pijl, L. van der. 1982. Principles of dispersal in higher plants. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 214 pp.

  • Prance, G.T., ed. 1977. Extinction is forever. New York Botanical Garden, New York.


  • Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles, and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC. 1183 pp.

  • Radford, A.E., W.C. Dickison, J.R. Massey, and C.R. Bell. 1974. Vascular plant systematics. Harper and Row, New York. 891 pp.

  • Schultz, G. 1986. Element stewardship abstract for Clitoria fragrans. The Nature Conservancy, Winter Park, Florida.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1993. Endangered or threatened status for seven central Florida plants. Federal Register 58(79): 25746-25755.



  • Ward, D.B., ed. 1979. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. 5: Plants. Univ. Presses of Florida, Gainesville.

  • Wunderlin, R.P. 1982. Guide to the vascular plants of central Florida. Univ. Presses Florida, Gainesville. 472 pp.

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