Lathyrus latifolius-Everlasting Pea, Wild Sweet Peas

Lathyrus latifolius (Sweet Peas) on 6-24-17, #349-50.

Everlasting Pea, Wild Sweet Pea, Perennial Pea

Lathyrus latifolius

LAY-thy-russ  lat-ee-FOH-lee-us


Lathyrus latifolius L. is the correct and accepted scientific name for the Sweet Pea. It was named and described by Carl von Linnaeus in Species Plantarum in 1753.

Plants of the World Online lists 184 accepted species in the Lathyrus genus. I never expected so many! Species beginning with every letter of the alphabet except ‘Y”. They are members of the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) Family along with 682 other genera.

There are 30 species of Lathyrus that are native to North America but Lathyrus latifolius is native to parts of Europe and Northern Africa. This species made its way to American gardeners in the 1700’s and escaped. Now, they are a common wildflower throughout the country, even declared as an invasive species in some areas.


Lathyrus latifolius (Sweet Peas) on 6-24-17, #349-51.

I originally thought the “Sweet Peas” growing here were Lathyrus odoratus that my grandmother must have planted years ago that went wild. While she probably planted Sweet Peas since she planted just about everything else, I don’t remember them when I was a kid nor when I lived here for 6 years after my grandfather passed away. So, evidently, they arrived after that. I thought they were self-sowing every year but I thought something was kind of strange with that idea. Lathyrus odoratus is an annual while Lathyrus latifolius is perennial in USDA Zones 5a to 9b.

I never did much research about Sweet Peas, or the Lathyrus genus for that matter, until I started writing this page. Seeing Plants of the World Online listed 184 species and the Wikipedia said there were 30 species native to North America got me to wondering. The Missouri Department of Conservation lists Lathyrus latifolius which definitely sounds like the peas growing here but they are not originally native to the U.S.

I started going down the list of accepted species on Plants of the World Online to see what species are native to the U.S. I soon got bored of that by the time I was finished with the “d’s”. They have maps showing where plants are from and where they have been introduced. It isn’t 100% accurate because who really knows for sure. For example, the Lathyrus latifolius… The map says they are native to parts of Europe and Northern Africa and shows it was introduced in several other countries including 6 states in the U.S… Missouri is not on the list and they are growing in my backyard. As I mentioned earlier, they have been in this country since the 1700’s and are growing wild in almost every state. In fact, several websites list this species in 48 states plus most of Canada.

Over 50 Lathyrus species and cultivars have been given the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Family: Fabaceae
Origin: Parts of Europe and Northern Africa
Zones: USDA Zones 5a-9b (-20 to 25° F)
Size: 3-8’
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Average, well-drained soil
Water: Average water needs. Drought tolerant
Flowers: Shades of pink, magenta, white…
Propagation: Seeds, rhizomes

Flowers are NOT fragrant…


Sweet Peas (Lathyrus latifolius) gone wild. This photo was taken on 7-14-13, #162-52.

While I was reading the Wikipedia article about the Lathyrus odoratus, I learned that most of the initial genetic research on plants was accomplished with this species. So, we owe a lot about plant breeding to the Sweet Pea. Who would have thought that?

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. I will take a few more flowers as time goes by. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. There are MANY websites online including wildflower websites for many states.


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