Plant of the week- Lathyrus vernus

At this time of year, the whole garden is coming to life and there are indeed many plants I could feature but I do have a little soft spot for this little spring pea. As the name suggests, it is in the same family as sweet peas and perennial sweet pea but you would hardly think so, with the other members climbing their way to freedom, this little treasure stays with its feet firmly on the ground, reaching no more than 30cm tall.

The flowers of Lathyrus Vernus themselves are so noticeable as to belonging in the pea family, these small purple delights open from early April and flower until May. It is indeed a native of Europe from France to the Caucasus and from Turkey to Siberia. In this areas it grows on dry slopes, thickets and light wooded areas on the chalky areas within those countries. In our gardens, it does seem to thrive in most soils from thin chalky soils to heavy acidic clay ones. Lathyrus vernus does indeed make a great garden plant. Once it is flowered, the plant remains green for the rest of the summer and doesn’t die down, unlike the majority of the spring flowering plants. The black seeds are poisonous, causing upset stomachs.

Lathyrus vernus takes a little time to bulk up into a clump and it doesn’t like to be disturbed whilst growing so it ideal if it’s planted somewhere it can be left alone for a while. It requires very little food as like all in the legume family, it provides its own nitrogen from the bacteria that live on the root nodes

kThe names Lathyrus comes from the Greek word meaning lathyros meaning pea or pulse while vernus means spring as it flowers in the spring

It is pretty easy to propagate, either by dividing it up in the spring or by sowing seed. It can be found for sale in any good nursery

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    I would not have recognized that as a pea! It looks almost like a penstemon!

    1. thomashort says:

      It’s so unusual isn’t, some great other forms becoming more available now

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