It’s a Family Affair vol 2, Gimme a Pea

I challenge you to find a local plant family that has such diverse local representation as the peas.  From common scrubby weeds to beautiful small trees, common ornamentals and roadside scourges, pea family members are inescapable.

Only the Orchid and Aster families have more flowering species than the peas, known as Fabaceae, with more than 18,ooo species worldwide.  The fruit produced is called a legume which can be quite enormous, almost 5 feet in the case of Entada gigas, a central American vine.

Talk about big pod….

Numerous representatives of the species end up in your lunchbox each day, from peanuts, alfalfa, peas and licorice to edamame down at Sakura.  Many members are able to convert nitrogen from the air into usable nutrition, essentially feeding itself, making it simultaneously very valuable but often very pesky in the wild.  Let’s have a look to see what we are likely to run across around here:

Starting small and obvious, everyone has some form of clover growing in the garden or in cracks in the driveway.  I started with clover because they have the classic “trifoliate” arrangement of leaves that everyone is familiar with.

Tree clover (native)

Tree clover is a pretty native that I’ve seen up Gridley.  On the other hand bur clover is a naughty little weed that everyone will find in their yard, just look for the sticky little burs.

Getting a little bigger and vinier, we have numerous local peas, both native and non.  The native version is commonly found in part shade and blooms in late winter to early spring, pretty much gone by now.

Wild Sweet Pea

Instead we are currently inundated with the colorful but obnoxiously aggressive vetch.  Granted, they look pretty cool twisting their way through a field of yellow mustard, a botanical salute to our Lakers, (skin of their teeth).

Purple vetch

One of the more beautiful sights of spring in California is the omnipresent lupine.  From tiny little dove lupines, to the stinging version to the glorious silver bush.

Dove lupine

Stinging lupine

Silver bush lupine

On the other side of the ledger we have the brooms, aggressive, invasive yet beautiful, somewhat like Beyonce

French broom lines the hillsides as you ascend Sulfur Mountain.  Handy tip, these are easy to yank out by hand when young:

French broom

Spanish broom on the other hand is nasty, deep rooted, highly allelopathic (releases chemicals discouraging growth of other nearby plants) and slowly working it’s way into every trail and highway.  While they smell great they are literally impossible to get rid of, (like the Kardashians).

Spanish broom

Lotuses make up a large part of the Fabaceae family, and we have a few local representatives.  Astragalus is actually the most populous genus, we have the lovely Southern California Locoweed, currently blooming on trailsides, especially up Cozy Dell.


Deerweed, which got it’s very own article last month was recently renamed, and is now genus “Acmispon”, doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue as nicely as Lotus scoparius.

Don’t forget about last week’s mystery plant, yup you guessed it, tea is a pea.

California tea

Finally, please stop by Cluff Vista Park just as you are entering downtown Ojai.  Not only do they have a lovely collection of local California natives on display, but also two incredible Western Redbuds, not something you would usually find in the wild, but a great tree for a partially shaded home garden.  Quite a few of these also in Arroyo Verde park in Ventura.

Western redbud

Redbud in Red Rock Canyon

Thanks to everyone who showed up to the plant sale on Saturday, it was a great success.

This entry was posted in Family Affair, Native Plants, non-natives, Ojai and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to It’s a Family Affair vol 2, Gimme a Pea

  1. stermondt says:

    Ha, reading tabloids much? I did enjoy the beyonce cardashian reference.

    So what is scotch broom? What’s the difference from Spanish and French, besides the kilt? Do we have it around here?

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