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Monday, July 6, 2009

Leguminosae... (ok Pea Family)


hillside with sweet pea, vetch and yarrow
At this time of year there are a lot of plants in the pea family blooming. I thought I'd show you three of them today. On the hillside above is the dark pink sweet or everlasting pea that I had a picture of yesterday. The dark purple flower you can also see is also a legume, and then I want to show you a less common one. (The white flowers are yarrow, maybe for another day)

sweet peas
For starters, I wanted to show you a more typical example of the sweet pea, Lathyrus latifolius, also called everlasting pea. If you compare it with yesterday's picture you will see the difference in the color. The ones on the hillside above are all that solid, deep pink that seems so unusual to me. Notice the leaves and stems of the sweet pea. To the right of the blossom cluster is a vertical stem. You can see how it is winged, with projections at the joint called stipules. It has tendrils that cling to every blade of grass or other twig, etc, that is nearby. This is a characteristic of many of the Leguminosae. Because of this, the growth habit tends to be "messy."

If you are thinking that you thought beans were legumes, you are right. These are all related, and so now you can guess that the seed pods are going to look similar to bean and pea pods, and you would be right.

hairy vetch blossoms
Here is the dark purple and white flower. The color is lovely, but the plant is a real nuisance. It grasps every stalk nearby it, and makes a maze of plant life that is very difficult to walk through without tripping. It is called Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa. This is another alien. Amazing how many really common plants don't really belong here, isn't it? Notice the bi-colored blossoms

hairy vetch blossoms
This one is still cow vetch, but here is a bud, and also some of the seed pods. You may be able to see that the there are many more sets of leaves than the sweet pea, and that they are narrower.

cow vetch blossoms

Finally, here is the nifty one, only because most people never notice it. It's Narrow-leaved Vetch, Vicia angustifolia, sadly also alien. This one is much smaller and will hide down in the grass rather than show off like the first two. The flower is not quite 1/2 inch wide. Notice how the flowers grow right out of the stem joints (axils). The leaves are narrow, the whole plant is much more delicate than either of the other ones.

narrow leaved vetch blossoms
And I included this picture so you can see the seed pod. It is sticking up tall on the left side of the shot. Now I know this was a lot of pictures, and information. But just think, there are over 12 wild pea family plants that look very similar, and others that don't look so much alike!

Don't worry, I don't have pictures of all of them!

See I Never Would Have Seen These If... for the dark pink pea
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Solomon said...

I have an Everlasting Pea in my garden. I know exactly what you mean about the growth habit being messy. :D

Joe Todd said...

Looks like a nice place to sit down and take a nap

Icy BC said...

I grow pea pods in my garden, and love watching the flowers from it.

Glynis Peters said...

That is interesting, because we have had all of these bloom in March/April. Pretty.

askcherlock said...

Truly lovely photos. I never knew peas bloomed!

WiseAcre said...

I haven't seen (at least been aware of) the narrow leaved so far. My eye passes over the vetch since it's so common around here.

I do like the Crown Vetch flowers. I have a page on my web site's wildflower section if you want to see.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi Solomon- Nice to see you. I have a place I'd like them to grow, but instead they keep climbing over my lilies.

Hi Joe- It's a freeway embankment. No legal resting there!

Icy- even the veggies flower, of course!

Hi Glynis- Yes, I think lots of the pea family grow all over the world

Cherlock- good to see you. All plants higher in the taxonomy than moss and ferns bloom... it's just that many of them have inconspicuous flowers.

HI WiseAcre- I don't like the Crown Vetch much. It just takes over everything. I'm not a fan of the Cow Vetch either, like you say it's so common and straggly it doesn't collect in one place enough to be pretty. I'll check your pix- they are always great!