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Tuberous Pea

Lathyrus tuberosus

  • Name also: Earthnut Pea, Aardaker, Tuberous Sweetpea
  • Family: Pea Family – Fabaceae (Leguminosae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock with nut-sized tubers.
  • Height: 30–80 cm (12–32 in.). Stem limp, sometimes climbing, bristly, wingless, glabrous.
  • Flower: Corolla zygomorphic, rose red, 12–20 mm (0.48–0.8 in.) long. Petals 5; the upstanding the ‘standard’, the lateral two the ‘wings’, the lower two united to form the ‘keel’, overall shape of corolla being butterfly-like. Calyx 5-lobed. Stamens 10. A single carpel. Inflorescence long-stalked, 2–7-flowered raceme, flowers with strong fragrance.
  • Leaves: Alternate, stalked, stipulate. Stalk wingless. Blade pinnate, 1 pair, terminal leaflet modified into a tendril. Leaflets elliptic–lanceolate, blunt, with entire margins, bluish green. Stipules narrow.
  • Fruit: 20–40 mm (0.8–1.6 in.) long, flat, brown, 3–6-seeded pod (legume).
  • Habitat: Rich forests, hedgerow, roadside embankments, railway yards, wasteland, parks. Ornamental, sometimes wild.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Tuberous pea grows ferally in most of Europe and western Asia. The species is an old food plant which has been cultivated since the 17th century. Tuberous pea grows a 3–5 cm (1.2–2 in.) long root tuber, which is both nutritional and good-tasting. The tubers are gathered in spring or autumn and eaten as they are, boiled or fried. As it gives a poor yield the species has been cultivated more as a delicacy than a real staple food.

Tuberous pea is grown in Finland mainly in the flower bed, although it is not a basic perennial. Sometimes its seeds or tubers jump the fence, in which case it grows with a limp stem close to the ground or competing amongst other vegetation. The species’ large, red, fragrant flowers, which also attract bees, are very attention-grabbing. Several other of the same kind of pea plant can also be spotted in Finnish flower beds, most notably perennial peavine (L. latifolius) and sweet pea (L. odoratus).

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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