Common Name(s): Bluebell
Scientific Name: Clitoria ternatea
Medicinal Uses: None in local tradition. In Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used for centuries as a memory enhancer, nootropic, antistress, anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, tranquilizing and sedative agent (Journal of Ethnopharmacology).
When “butterfly pea tea” started popping up all over Instagram, I immediately wanted to know what flowers could produce such a mesmerising blue colour… and was shocked to discover that the plant being revered by foodie influencers is the same one that grows as a rambling weed in almost every Cayman cow field.
While bluebell is not a medicinal plant in Caymanian tradition, it has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to improve cognitive function, lower stress, and reduce depression.
The peas and flowers are edible straight off the vine (for humans and blue iguanas, who also love them) but the flowers can also be brewed to make a bright blue tea. Adding acid to the tea, such as lemon juice, will turn the brew purple!
Although this plant is known locally as bluebell, it may also have pure white flowers. A similar-looking purple flower is actually the unrelated Centrosema virginianum.
The genus name, Clitoria, is a reference to the appearance of the flowers and means exactly what you think it means. The species name, ternatea, could be derived from ternatanus indicating its origin as Ternate, Indonesia, or from ternatus meaning “with parts in threes”.
Gledhill, D. (2008) The Names of Plants. Cambridge University Press.