Plant of the day: sweet pea

These flashy pink flowers are everywhere right now. Like the Tangier pea that I wrote about a few weeks ago, the sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is an escaped garden plant. It has many sweet-smelling pink or purple flowers growing at the end of climbing stalks. The stem is dramatically flared, or winged, with a flat leaflike shelf projecting out from either side. The leaves are narrow and paired, like bunny ears.

As I mentioned in the last pea post, there are several different kinds of sweet peas growing in the area – I had always thought there was only one! Today’s post is about the true “sweet pea”, which is distinguished by the broad stem wings and by the fact that it’s a perennial, not an annual. You can tell the non-native sweet peas from the native species by looking at the leaves. All the non-natives have the paired “bunny ear” type of leaf, while the native species have many (more than five) leaflets on a stalk.

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