Any of the cultivated forms of the annual legume Vigna unguiculata. The plants are believed to be native to India and the Middle East but in early times were cultivated in China. The compound leaves have three leaflets. The white, purple, or pale-yellow flowers usually grow in twos or threes at the ends of long stalks. The pods are long and cylindrical. In the southern U.S. the cowpea is grown extensively as a hay crop, as a cover or green-manure crop, or for the edible beans.
Learn more about cowpea with a free trial on Britannica.com.