Fave-rave spring plant, but what is it exactly?

lathyrus 5-1-2013 12-02-36 PM 4320x3240

Listen up, people! Queen Bee orders you to purchase this plant: Lathyrus. But even the Queen, in all her excellence, does not know exactly which Everlasting Pea she is recommending. It is not a fragrant Sweet Pea [Lathyrus odoratus], as alas, this flower has no fragrance. It is not Lathyrus latifolius, which has no fragrance but is a vine. It could be Lathyrus vernus, aka Spring Vetchling, but the garden center catalog I’m consulting says that Spring Vetchling blooms in June-July, and my Lathyrus definitely blooms in April-May. And it blooms its little head off for weeks. Which is why it’s a favorite plant and you MUST HAVE IT.

[This is where garden centers are supposed to comment that they not only know it but they stock it.]

So…a little botanical background. This plant is cool because it is a Lathyrus. Which means it is a Pea, which means it is a Legume, which means it fixes nitrogen in the soil which everyone knows is important but no one knows why. Lathyrus is in the Fabaceae family of plants, putting it with cousins like chick peas and soybeans and clover and redbud trees and wisteria. Which makes it WAY BETTER company than my cousins, except for the evil Crown Vetch which has the same disqualifiers as my cousin Peter who is a real overreaching hanger-onner too. But I digress. If you consult a botanical tome, you will find out something wonderfully arcane but useful on the garden tour: the leaflets of legumes open in the day and close at night, but this sleepytime movement is actually a circadian phenomenon not dependent on light or dark. OOOH, that’s cool, man, what’s it smokin’?!

To continue, this is one great plant. It is one of the first to bloom in my garden. It throws off seed out of its green, then brown, seed pods and little babies are born and they transplant really easy and then you have my really really favorite thing: a FREE PLANT! What is not to like here, folks? And did I mention the pollination aspects? Oh, well I don’t know what those are because it’s too early for butterflies but possibly bumblebees are gulping its nectar. [Readers, inform me!]

PS What is not to like? Well, I’ll name one thing…if you follow Internet links far enough you may, as I did, come across the caution, “The seeds…if eaten in large quantity, can cause lathyrism.” Oh, really? What the heck is lathyrism and do I have it? Search some more, and Queen Bee will find out that apparently she has been ingesting a few too many Lathyrus peas. Uh-huh, uh-huh, we know this because lathyrism is the “inability to move the lower limbs and the atrophy of the gluteal muscles”. OMG: that’s why Queen Bee wants to lie on a couch and she got a saggin’ ass! But isn’t it nice to know that it’s the plant’s fault?!##

Lathyrus plant 5-12-2013 4-00-31 PM 4320x3240

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Uncategorized

4 Responses to Fave-rave spring plant, but what is it exactly?

  1. Martha Drummond

    Thanks for the suggestion. I could use another plant that is easy to cultivate with purple blooms. My violets and ageratum are putting out purple colors all over the yard. Peonies will be out soon along with iris.. yipee. Will see if I can get lathyrus at the nursery. Am going to start collecting different types of ferns next week in the woodlands near my house. They make a nice pattern beneath evergreens in front of house. Enjoy the Spring. Martha

  2. Priscilla

    It is definitely Lathyrus vernus, and also comes in pink and white (‘Rose Elf’) whose seedlings are occasionally pure white. Gorgeous little plant, long lived, neat and tidy.

    • weedpatchgazette

      Ah-ha! So the garden center catalog was wrong. It says Lathyrus vernus blooms in summer. Nay, nay, it blooms in spring! Thanks, Priscilla!

  3. Nancy Stevenson

    I am so happy you have reopened your newsletter. I missed it the first time around, so this is a special treat.

    I’ll look for Lathyrus vernus with delight.

    Note: back in the late 60s, the State conservationists encouraged planting Crown Vetch for hillsides and other difficult places. Woe. We did. The constant pulling and swearing at the creeping devil has ruled ever since.

    Beware invasive wonder plants.

    Cheers to Weed Patch.


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