August 8th, 2010


50 More Urban Species #26: Perennial pea

Perennial (everlasting) pea Lathyrus latifolius

A little disclosure is needed here: the intent of this project was to find one 'new' (not on this list) urban species per week in 2010, photograph and post it in a timely manner, so that it would be timely and seasonally relevant. First, I knew I would be posting a majority of these in the summer, when I would be finding most of the new stuff. Second, my life got unexpectedly busy during this summer, pushing livejournal to the back burner. What's my point? This photograph was taken on June 26th, just barely at the beginning of the summer, technically. Probably it's not blooming in the Boston area any more, but maybe further north or in higher elevations.

The perennial pea is one of several Eurasian legume vines grown for its showy flowers. The sweet pea (L. odoratus, which should not be confused with the edible pea Pisum sativum which confusingly enough provides the food called "sweet peas") is a close relative. Sweet pea is usually an annual, and has fragrant blossoms; perennial pea has odorless blossoms, and develops a taproot and a rhizome which allow the plant to live for many years.

Perennial pea is both cultivated by gardeners for the cluster of beautiful flowers it exhibits, and excoriated by other gardeners for its tendency to overwhelm and kill neighboring plants. Many sources consider it a weed and/or an invasive species. It can be seen along urban roadsides clambering amongst other wildflowers that enjoy open sunlight and infrequent mowing. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees, and the fruit is dry and toxic to mammals.