Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Wednesday wildflower: Tangier pea

Lathyrus tingitanus is a common legume throughout New Zealand.  Its compound leaves are modified so that the first pair of leaflets are normal, but the others are adapted as tendrils, which help the plant climb on other plants.  At the base of the leaf are a pair of stipules that clasp the stem.  Sweet pea is another common species of LathyrusL. odoratus.  
A leaf, buds, and flowers (seen from the front at left and the back at right) of Tangier pea, Lathyrus tingitanus.

Lathyrus sativus is grown as a food crop in South and South-west Asia and East Africa, known as grass pea or Indian pea.  Along with some other species of Lathyrus, it contains oxalyldiaminopropionic acid, which can lead to lathyrism if people are too reliant on these peas, or their flour, in their diet. Oxalyldiaminopropionic acid is a non-protein amino acid, which causes paralysis of the lower limbs and wasting of the buttocks, symptoms commonly seen in Africa during famines.
If this isn't Lathyrus tingitanus, it's a very similar species.  Roca Grosso, Catalonia.

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