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Silky Beach Pea Lathyrus littoralis


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Silky Beach Pea - flower
credit: Gordon Leppig & Andrea J. Pickart, "A Photographic Guide to Plants of Humboldt Bay Dunes and Wetlands"

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Alternate name: Silky Beach Vetchling

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description This silky-hairy, gray-green plant grows in low patches, with pink and white "pea flowers" in dense racemes among pinnately compound leaves.
Habit: native perennial vine or herb; prostrate to upright, with angled stems; clump-forming.
Height: 8-24 in (20-60 cm).
Leaf: alternate, silver-hairy, evenly pinnate; leaflets oval to round, overlapping, 0.5-0.75 in (12-19 mm) long, in 2-5 pairs; with a bristly tendril in place of terminal leaflet.
Flower: bi-colored, white and pink to violet, finely veined; in dense cluster of 3-5 flowerheads.
Fruit: pod, oval, hairy, 1.25 in (3 cm) long.

Warning Plants in the genus Lathyrus, particularly the seeds, can be toxic to humans and animals if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower April to June.

Habitat Coastal beaches and dunes.

Range Native to Pacific Coast, from British Columbia to California.

Discussion Also called gray beach pea, beach pea. This beautifully colored plant forms dense patches among yellow and pink sand verbenas and beach morning glories, adding to the spectacular natural garden of coastal dunes.

A relative, Beach Pea or Sand Pea (L. japonicus), differs in having smooth stems and leaves, 2-8 flowers, each 0.75-1.25 in (2-3.1 cm) long, with reddish-purple petals; its range includes sand dunes from northern California to Alaska.