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Snub Pea Lathyrus sulphureus


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Snub Pea - habit
credit: randomtruth/CCSA

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Alternate name: Snub Vetchling

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description Several sprawling or clambering, angular stems bearing pinnately compound leaves and yellowish to orange pea flowers turned to one side in racemes growing from leaf axils.
Habit: native perennial herb or vine; sprawling.
Height: 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) or more, may climb to 10 ft (3.3 m).
Leaf: alternate, pinnately compound; 6-12 leaflets, often alternate, elliptic to ovate, 0.5-2.5 in (1.5-4 cm) long; with coiling, branched tendril in place of terminal leaflet.
Flower: cream becoming yellow to tan, with purple or orange tint, 0.5 in (12 mm) long; in linear cluster of 10-15 flowerheads, on one side of stalk.
Fruit: slender pod, 1.5-3 in (4-7.5 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 Semi-shaded western slopes in chaparral and open forests; 180-760 ft (600-2500 m).

Range The Sierra Nevada, Klamath Ranges, and North Coast Ranges of southwestern Oregon and northern two-thirds of California.

Discussion Also called sulphur pea, brewer's pea, dubious pea, sweet pea. The unusually broad base and the barely upturned end of the banner produce a stubby flower, hence the common name. Three or more varieties or subspecies are recognized.

Del Norte Pea (L. delnorticus), which grows near the California-Oregon border, has wing-like ridges on the stem.