Monday, May 25, 2009


This Lathyrus specimen grows on the corner of Wertland Street and 12th Street. I think it is most likely Lathyrus latifolius but I'm not sure. The Audubon field guide states there are 20 Lathyrus spp. in our range. This plant will produce peas which are either edible or may cause neurological disease depending on the source. It seems that in small amounts the peas are safe, but if they are eaten in large quantities, a toxic amino acid contained in the peas causes neuronal damage. This has been the source of epidemic lathyrism in places worldwide when populations resort to eating the wild pea during food shortages. The word lathyrus is derived from Greek, 'la' meaning very and thyrus meaning passionate, since the plant was considered an aphrodisiac.

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