Friday, 7 June 2013

Peas

The pea family or Fabaceae as it is correctly known, is a vast one, in fact the third largest after orchids and daisies.  Originally the family was known as Leguminosae and we still refer to many members of the family as 'legumes'.
In the wild, we have a number of species of legume and here are just a few from our recent walks around the area.  The first is a very common one called Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium).  scrabbling among other flowers and grasses along the pathways, the purple/blue flowers are beginning to open now.  Very common in almost the whole of Britain, it grows up to an altitude of about 2,700ft, but mostly in lowland, un-grazed grasslands.
A smaller and lower-growing pea is the Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).  Sometimes called 'Eggs and Bacon' because of it's flowers which start in bud form, a red or orange colour before opening to a bright yellow.  This plant prefers to keep close to the ground and rarely reaches more than just a few inches tall.  Even more common than the Bush Vetch, this little plant is known to grow in all but the most acidic places and up to about 3,000ft in Britain.
Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) was originally grown in Britain as a fodder crop and the species is split into three sub-species in this country, of which only the sub-species 'nigra' is a true native.  Again, common, it is found in dry and sandy conditions as in the case of this individual - complete with attendant ants.
Lastly, the smallest of my selection, the Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre) is a ground-hugging, diminutive plant and carries it's flowers in small 'balls' of 20 -30 individual flowers at the end of its scrambling shoots.  This little pea grows to an altitude of a little over 1,000ft in parts of Derbyshire, funnily enough, not too far from where we live!
Where would we be without peas?
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