Common Name: Flat Pea
Lathyrus sylvestris is a herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 2 metres tall. The stems scramble over the ground or climb into the surrounding vegetation, where they attach themselves by means of tendrils[
The plant can be used as a green manure and ground cover to prevent erosion and restore fertility. It is grown as an ornamental in gardens, there are some named varieties.
All parts of the plant, but especially the seed, 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 through Britain to Spain, east to Western Siberia, the Caucasus and Greece
Thickets and woods[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Lathyrus sylvestris is a moderately cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -20°c when fully dormant[
Grows well in full sun and in light, dappled shade, succeeding in most moderately fertile, well-drained 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 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.