Common Name: Cyprus Vetch
Lathyrus ochrus is an annual plant growing 30 - 60cm tall. The stems can scramble over the ground, clinging to nearby vegetation by means of tendrils[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food. It is grown as a green namure and soil stabilizer.
Although no specific records of toxicity have been found for this species, the seed and other parts of many Lathyrus species contain a toxic amino acid. It is produced in the plant at about the same time that the seed starts to develop. In small quantities the amino acid is innocuous, and the seeds of several Lathyrus species are eaten as a nutritious part of the diet. However, in larger quantities (the seed should form less than 30% of a balanced diet), it can cause a very serious disease of the nervous system known as 'lathyrism'. Symptoms appear as a paralysis of the muscles below the knees, pains in the back, followed by weakness and stiffness of the legs and progressive locomotive incoordination[
Mediterranean region - Portugal to Greece and Turkey; Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia; Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel.
Cornfields and dry places[
]. Hills, open places, among crops[
|Other Uses Rating||
An easily grown plant, succeeding in any moderately good garden soil but preferring a position in full sun[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.
Seed - cooked[
]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
Root - cooked[
]. This plant is an annual, an edible root has not as yet been noticed.
The plant is used as a green manure and soil cover for preventing erosion and for rehabilitating degraded land[
Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in early spring in a cold frame[
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer.
If you have sufficient seed, then it can also be sown in situ in mid spring[