Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Lathyrus Vernus

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Lathyrus vernus (21/04/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Lathyrus vernus (21/04/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to dappled shade

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 45cm

Eventual Spread: 45cm

Hardiness: 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a

Family: Fabaceae

Lathyrus vernus is a deciduous clump forming herbaceous perennial. Its dark green leaves are pinnate with entire margins, with the individual leaflets being up to 5cm long and 2cm broad. Its purple/ pink flowers are up to 2cm long and appear in racemes at the end of stems above the foliage. Its fruit are green seed pods which mature to black purple. This perennial dies down after flowering, usually after mid summer.

Lathyrus vernus, commonly known as Spring Vetching or Spring Pea, is native to east Europe and Russia. In its native habitat it grows in forest glades and open grassland. Lathyrus vernus is synonymous with Orobus vernus.

The etymological root of the binomial name Lathyrus is derived from the Greek lathyros meaning ‘pea’ or ‘pulse’. Vernus is from the Latin meaning ‘of spring’.

The landscape architect may find Lathyrus vernus useful as part of woodland planting scheme.

Ecologically, Lathyrus vernus flowers are attractive to pollinating insects.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given Lathyrus vernus their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Lathyrus vernus Flower (21/04/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Lathyrus vernus Flower (21/04/2013, Kew Gardens, London)

Lathyrus vernus prefers moist, fertile, humus rich, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

Lathyrus vernus requires little maintenance. Large clumps may be divided in spring.

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