BITTER VETCHLING

BITTER VETCH

Lathyrus linifolius

Pea Family [Fabaceae]

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status
statusZnative
flower
flower8multicolour
flower
flower8red flower8pink
flower
flower8blue
flower
flower8indigo
inner
inner8green
morph
morph8zygo
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8angular
stem
stem8fluted
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6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
A branched erect perennial growing up to 40cm high. The leaves have between 2 to 4 opposite leaflets each. Flowers number between 2 to 6 on each branch. There are no tendrils on the ends of leaves of Bitter Vetch/Vetchling, they are replaced by a long point instead.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Flower colour varies from pink with red veins and turn blue. Flowers 10-16mm.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The sepal tube and teeth on this specimen are steel blue to purple.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The sepal teeth number 5, the longest underneath, two shorter ones on the side of the flower, and two very short ones at the top.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Like all members of the pea family, there are 5 petals. The larges is the banner, which is folded upwards and has visible net-veins.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
There are two wings each side of and cupping the two cupped keels, which in this case are still emerging.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
In this specimen the keel and wings are still positioning themselves.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
At the leaf junction to the stem a pair of smaller bracts straddle the stem. The leaflets are much larger and linear to elliptical (elliptical here for lower leaves). There are no tendrils.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The stem is angular in places, often triangular and feels fluted due to the presence of wings all the way down the stem (but which are interupted by the leaves).


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The winged nature of the stem is obvious on thate part far right.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The triangular winged fluted nature of the stems is more obvious on this view. Two short bracts straddle the junction. Each bract has a shorter backwardsly-directed point.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The two bracts straddling the junction. Winged stems in evidence.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The wings get narrower at junctions and wider in the middle.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The leaves have small points at their tips.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The seed pod extends from the toothed sepal tube.


6th July 2016, Waitby Greenriggs, Kirkby Stephen, Yorks/Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Seed pods are red-brown and are 25-45mm long.


Easily confused with :

  • Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) but that is much commoner and has larger and yellow flowers, seed pods which turn black as well as tendrils (either branched or not).
  • Yellow Vetchling (Lathyrus aphacea) but that has all-yellow flowers and leaves which are very wide at the stem end
  • Grass Vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia) but that has crimson-red flowers and grass-like leaves
  • Hairy Vetchling (Lathyrus hirsutus) but that has purple and pale-blue flowers and much wider seed pods
  • Meadow Vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) but that is much commoner and has larger and yellow flowers, seed pods which turn black as well as tendrils

Other similar peas with winged stems and opposite pairs of elliptical leaflets are much larger and more straggly plants:

  • Fyfield Pea (Lathyrus tuberosus) has larger bright-red flowers 12-20mm but oval leaves in pairs
  • Narrow-Leaved Everlasting-Pea (Lathyrus sylvestris) but that has yellowish or greenish-pink flowers 12-20mm and wings which are tipped violet in colour. It is much taller at 2m.
  • Broad-Leaved Everlasting-Pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is the largest at 3m and very sprawling. Large flowers bright magenta-pink 15-30mm, long and brown pods 50-100mm long and branched tendrils.

This plant is the earliest pea or vetch to flower, flowering April to July. It grows upright in heaths, the margins of woods and scrub on acidic soils.

It used to be called Tuberous Pea but its current official name is Bitter Vetch. Except, having winged stems, it is clearly not a vetch but instead a vetchling and so should be called Bitter Vetchling. Fyfield Pea (Lathyrus tuberosus) has changed its name to Tuberous Pea.


  Lathyrus linifolius  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Fabaceae  

Distribution
 family8Pea family8Fabaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Lathyrus
Lathyrus
(Peas)

BITTER VETCHLING

BITTER VETCH

Lathyrus linifolius

Pea Family [Fabaceae]