Lathyrus, also known as Sweet Pea, is a genus of about 150 species in the family Fabaceae, mostly native to the mediterranean region.
The flowers of the plant are unique, usually with 5 petals that form a butterfly-shaped structure – one large banner petal, two horizontal petals and two lower petals. They are often fragrant and come in a rainbow of colors and patterns.
The genus name was derived from the Greek word “lathyros”, meaning “pulse” or “pea”.
Lathyrus is a symbol of gratitude and happiness.
Interesting facts about Lathyrus:
History of Lathyrus
The history of the plant started in the 17th century, when a Sicilian monk, Franciscus Cupani, sent its seeds to various institutions and plant collectors. Since then, genetic modification and cross breeding have resulted in many variations of flowers. The original plants were small and insignificant, and bore little resemblance to the flower we know today.
Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884), who is known as the “father of modern genetics” conducted many genetic experiments using the Sweet Pea. Through his work, he discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance.
In the 19th century, a Scots horticulturist and master gardener Henry Eckford (1823 – 1905) perfected the breeding of the Sweet Peas. Eckford obtained the best varieties of both edible and ornamental Sweet Peas and developed new Sweet Pea varieties with stronger and longer stalks, multiple flower heads, sweeter fragrance and in a various colors. He is the creator of many Sweet Peas we grow today.
In 1911, Tom Jones of Ruabon developed the cordon system of growing sweet peas. He discovered that by restricting a sweet pea plant to a single stem and removing all the side shoots, the high quality flowers can emerge. To this day, this technique is used to produce blooms of the highest quality,
Is Lathyrus poisonous?
The seeds of the plant are poisonous and should not be consumed raw. They contain a toxic amino-acid known as ODAP, which can cause a serious neurological disease known as “lathyrism”. The symptoms include unbearable cramps and walking difficulties. This can even lead to total paralysis and brain damage.
Benefits and Uses
Despite serious safety concerns, the seeds are considered edible and can be eaten in a wide variety of ways. However, they must be boiled and soaked in several changes of water to remove the toxic compounds.
The seeds of the plant are used as animal fodder. This therefore creates a need for detoxification of the seeds before using in livestock feeds.
Annuals, Climbers, Perennials
The flowers come in a wide variety of colors, including white, cream, yellow, red, scarlet, pink, salmon, magenta, purple, lavender and blue.
Spring, Autumn, Summer
The species range from 30 cm (1 ft) to 280 cm (9 ft) tall, depending on variety.
The plant grows in moist and well drained soil and will survive in acid, alkaline and neutral soil.