Red Peas with Linear Leaves

Round-seeded Vetchling

What are they?

Members of the pea family are readily told by their distinctive flowers, but they are a very diverse group when it comes to their leaves and other features such as fruits. Most species have pinnate or trifoliate leaves, but the species here are unusual in having rather different leaves. Although these species have a type of pinnate leaf, their leaves have been reduced to just a single pair of leaflets, while these leaflets have been further reduced to narrow, linear, grass-like blades. In the most extreme case, the leaf is reduced to a single blade. The stems, too, have been modified and are typically broad and flattened - again resembling grass leaves. This all makes them rather hard to spot and these species are easily overlooked when not in flower.

Where are they found?

Quite a number of these species occur in southern Europe, but only a handful have been recorded in East Anglia, as occasional strays from spilt seed on rough ground or in disturbed areas. We do, however, also have one native species, which is scarce in grassy places.


Sorting out the members of this group can be tricky and attention needs to be paid to details of almost all parts of the plant. Check whether the stems are winged, the precise details of the leaves and details of the flowers - especially features such as the length of of the flower stalk.

Round-seeded Vetchling      Lathyrus sphaericus

A rare introduction from southern Europe, once recorded in Suffolk in the 19th Century, though there may be some doubt as to the identification. Flowers July to August. An annual plant with unwinged stems and with leaves reduced to a pair of linear leaflets. The flowers are a rich red, usually borne on rather short stalks.

Round-seeded Vetchling Round-seeded Vetchling Round-seeded Vetchling Round-seeded Vetchling
Flower & stipule