Common Name: Meadow Vetchling
Lathyrus pratensis is a herbaceous perennial plant with a decumbent or climbing stem that supports itself in nearby vegetation by means of tendrils. The plant can grow 30 - 120cm tall[
The plant is perhaps harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and mouse repellent.
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[
Eurasia - Norway to Britain and Portugal, through Russia to Russian Far East, China; through Turkey to the Himalayas; N. Africa - Morocco, Ethiopia
Grassland, scrub and hedgerows, avoiding acid soils[
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Lathyrus pratensis is a very cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -30°c when fully dormant[
An easily grown plant, succeeding in any moderately good garden soil but preferring a position in full sun[
]. Succeeds on wet soils.
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[
The seeds are used as a resolvent in Spain[
The plant is said to repel mice.
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[
Division in spring. It may not transplant well so care should be taken[