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Grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Fabeae
Genus: Lathyrus
L. (1753), nom. cons.[1]

181; see text

  • Anurus C.Presl (1837)
  • Aphaca Mill. (1754)
  • Astrophia Nutt. (1838)
  • Athyrus Neck. (1790), opus utique oppr.
  • Cicercula Medik. (1787)
  • Clymenum Mill. (1754)
  • Graphiosa Alef. (1861)
  • Konxikas Raf. (1840)
  • Lastila Alef. (1861)
  • Lathyroides Heist. (1759), nom. superfl.
  • Lathyros St.-Lag. (1880), orth. var.
  • Menkenia Bubani (1899)
  • Navidura Alef. (1861)
  • Nissolia Mill. (1754), nom. rej.
  • Ochrus Mill. (1754)
  • Orobus L. (1753)
  • Oxypogon Raf. (1819)
  • Pisum L. (1753)
  • Platystylis Sweet (1828)
  • Spatulima Raf. (1837)
  • Vavilovia Fed. (1939)

Lathyrus /ˈlæθɪrəs/[3] is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family Fabaceae, and contains approximately 160 species. Commonly known as peavines or vetchlings,[1] they are native to temperate areas, with a breakdown of 52 species in Europe, 30 species in North America, 78 in Asia, 24 in tropical East Africa, and 24 in temperate South America.[4] There are annual and perennial species which may be climbing or bushy. This genus has numerous sections, including Orobus, which was once a separate genus.[5] The genus has numerous synonyms, including Pisum, the ancient Latin name for the pea.[6]


Several species are grown for food, including the pea (Lathyrus oleraceus), Indian pea (L. sativus), and the red pea (L. cicera), and less commonly cyprus-vetch (L. ochrus) and Spanish vetchling (L. clymenum). The tuberous pea (L. tuberosus) is grown as a root vegetable for its starchy edible tuber. The seeds of some Lathyrus species contain the toxic amino acid oxalyldiaminopropionic acid and if eaten in large quantities can cause lathyrism, a serious disease.[7]

Many species are cultivated as garden plants. The genus includes the garden sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) and the perennial everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius). Flowers on these cultivated species may be rose, red, maroon, pink, white, yellow, purple or blue, and some are bicolored. They are also grown for their fragrance. Cultivated species are susceptible to fungal infections including downy and powdery mildew.


Harvest of Lathyrus aphaca crop
Lathyrus aureus
Lathyrus clymenum
Lathyrus davidii
Lathyrus latifolius 'Pink Pearl'
Lathyrus nevadensis ssp. nevadensis
Lathyrus odoratus, sweet pea mixture
Lathyrus vernus, spring pea

181 species are currently accepted.[2][8]


Lathyrus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the grey chi (Antitype chi) and the latticed heath (Chiasmia clathrata), both recorded on meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), and Chionodes braunella. Lathyrus growth abundance and size both decrease in response to increased temperatures in montane meadows.[10]


  1. ^ a b "genus Lathyrus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) online database. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Lathyrus L. Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 9 August 2023.
  3. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  4. ^ Asmussen, C. B; A. Liston. (March 1998). "Chloroplast DNA characters, phylogeny, and classification of Lathyrus (Fabaceae)". American Journal of Botany. 85 (3): 387–401. doi:10.2307/2446332. JSTOR 2446332. PMID 21684923.
  5. ^ Fred, Edwin Broun; Baldwin, Ira Lawrence; McCoy, Elizabeth (1932). Root Nodule Bacteria and Leguminous Plants. UW-Madison Libraries Parallel Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-893311-28-2.
  6. ^ Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 304
  7. ^ Barrow, M. V.; et al. (1974). "Lathyrism: A Review". The Quarterly Review of Biology. 49 (2): 101–128. doi:10.1086/408017. JSTOR 2820941. PMID 4601279. S2CID 33451792.
  8. ^ GRIN Species Records of Lathyrus. Archived 2008-10-14 at the Wayback Machine Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  9. ^ English Names for Korean Native Plants (PDF). Pocheon: Korea National Arboretum. 2015. p. 511. ISBN 978-89-97450-98-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2017. Retrieved 22 December 2016 – via Korea Forest Service.
  10. ^ de Valpine, Perry; Harte, John (1 March 2001). "Plant Responses to Experimental Warming in a Montane Meadow". Ecology. 82 (3): 637–648. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2001)082[0637:PRTEWI]2.0.CO;2.

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