Yellow Pea Flowers

The family Fabaceae is one of our larger plant families, containing the peas, beans, vetches, clovers and other, closely-related groups. The family is readily distinguished by its unique flower shape, well-known to anyone who has grown peas or beans as vegetables or enjoyed the fragrant flowers of Sweet Peas. There are many woody members of the family, too, such as Wisteria, Black Locust, Laburnum, Gorse and Broom. The flowers have five petals, but they are of unequal size and shape and form what is known as a zygomorphic flower. This is a flower that is symmetrical through just one plane (and therefore appears to have a 'right way up'), rather than an actinomorphic flower which is symmetrical through many planes - such as daisies, buttercups and many other flowers. The uppermost petal of a pea flower is usually the largest and often referred to as the 'standard'. The flower then has two, smaller petals either side of the standard, which are known as the 'wings'. Below the wings are two petals that are fused together to form a boat-shaped structure whch is known as the 'keel'. The keel is often hidden beneath the wings and may not always be obvious without investigation.

The structure of pea flowers varies little - although some tend to be broad-petalled, very showy flowers that are carried singly or in elongate spikes while others are small, narrow and almost tubular in appearance. In the latter case, the flowers are often carried in larger quantity and clustered into a head (e.g. clovers). Because the flower structure varies little, identification from this page on is based mainly on leaf detail (pinnate, trifoliate etc.) and growth type (creeping, woody-stemmed, etc.). As this is such a large group, this page will help narrow your search, once you have arrived here from the flower colour pages.

The main purpose of this page is to attempt to break this family up into bite-sized chunks, so that the pages you are led to do not get too big by containing a large number of species. At worst, if you follow a link from here and do not see your plant, return to this page and try another link. Note that some species may come in a variety of flower colours; in such cases, the species is shown on more than one page, so you should still find it.

At this stage, be sure to read the texts below carefully, as they contain identification information that may not be visible in the photographs; clicking to the next stage will help you get to the exact species.


Use the photos below to narrow your search to a group, then click on the picture to go to the next stage.

Bushy Sennas Bushy Sennas
Multistemmed bushes to three metres in height with pinnate leaves. Flowers relatively large with prominent standards, either plain yellow or yellow with darker markings. Seed pods may be rounded and inflated or long and narrow like bean pods.
Gorses, Brooms & Allies Gorses, Brooms & Allies
Multistemmed bushes to three metres in height. Leaves may be trifoliate or simple and often drop early, leaving leafless stems that may be slender and spikey or spiny. Flowers relatively large with prominent standards, either plain yellow or yellow and red. Seed pods variable, but usually elongate like bean pods, hairy or smooth.
Laburnums Laburnums
Small to medium-sized trees with yellow pea flowers that are arranged in elongated, hanging clusters. The leaves are typically trifoliate and the seed pods are elongate, splitting open to reveal black seeds inside. Branches usually green in colour.
Melilots & Allies Melilots & Allies
Variable plants that may be low growing and creeping, or taller, to two metres in height. Showy flowers appear singly or arranged openly in an upright spike. Leaves composed of three leaflets, usually with rather small stipules (paired, leafy structures at the base of the leaf stalk). Seed variable in appearance and useful for identification.
Trefoils, Medicks & Allies Trefoils, Medicks & Allies
Usually low growing, spreading plants or small annuals, but some of these species may reach a metre in height amongst taller vegetation. Showy flowers appear in small clusters, usually all emerging from a single point on the stem; yellow, or tinted with red or orange. Leaves composed of three leaflets, though the large stipules (paired, leafy structures at the base of the leaf stalk) can make it look like there are five leaflets. Seed pods very variable in appearance and useful for identification.
Trefoils, Medicks & Allies Trefoils, Medicks & Allies
Usually low growing, spreading plants or small annuals, but some of these species may reach a metre in height amongst taller vegetation. Tiny flowers appear in small, tight clusters, forming a rounded head. Leaves composed of three leaflets, similar to clover leaves. Seed pods very variable in appearance and useful for identification.
Yellow vetches with pinnate leaves Yellow vetches with pinnate leaves
Scrambling plants that may sprawl on the ground or clamber over other vegetation. Relatively large flowers are usually carried singly in the leaf axils. Leaves composed of paired leaflets, from one pair to six or more pairs, with the leaf usually tipped with a twining tendril. Seed pods are typically elongate like narrow pea pods.
Yellow vetches with pinnate leaves Yellow vetches with pinnate leaves
Low-growing plants to 30cm in height. Showy flowers are carried in clusters above the leaves. Leaves composed of paired leaflets, each leaf with several pairs of leaflets, but without tendrils. Seed pods variable in appearance and useful for identification.
Yellow vetches with other leaves Yellow vetches with other leaves
Small, low-growing plants to 30cm in height. This group contains a small number of oddball members of the pea family that do not have the usual pinnate or trifoliate leaves that are typical of the family. Leaves are often a single, simple blade, but they may also have a tendril. Conversely, they may have a tendril and no blade! Flowers may be bright yellow, or creamy yellow, almost white. If you have a pea plant with leaves that are anything other than pinnate or trifoliate, try this group.