Lathyrus palustris sericea Franch.
Vicia quinquenervia Miq.
Lathyrus quinquenervius is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant growing 20 - 80cm tall. The rarely-branched stems can be erect or clambering, attaching themselves to nearby vegetation by means of tendrils[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
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[
E. Asia - Russia (eastern Siberia, Far East), Mongolia, northern and central China, Japan, Korea
Wet grassy places and thickets by rivers in lowland C. and S. Japan[
]. Hill slopes, forest and road sides; at elevations up to 2,500 metres in northern China[
Species in this genus generally grow well when given a position in full sun in most, moderately fertile, well-drained soils[
This species is often confused with Lathyrus palustris but can be distinguished by the five strong, parallel veins in long, slender leaflets. The linear, acute stipules with a reflexed basal spur, the strong wings on the stems, and the simple tendrils also aid in identification[
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[
Seed - cooked[
]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.
Leaves and young stems - cooked[
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[