poetry and prose about place

Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus Willd.)

with 12 comments

During our vacation to Nova Scotia, we stopped at several places along St. Margaret’s Bay.  All along the beaches, tucked just out of reach of the highest tides, were crowds of Beach Pea.   Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicus Willd.) is a common plant of the coast, growing on sandy and gravelly shorelines and beaches.

This plant resembles the garden pea.  It has vine-like, trailing, compound leaves, each composed of 6-8 leaflets.  At the base of each leaf is a clasping stipule; at the leaf’s tip is a curling tendril.  The flowers are showy, pink and blueish-purple, blooming from June to August.

The seeds of the Beach Pea are podded peas, from 1 to 2 inches long.  They are greyish-green and ripen in August.

Some sources, including Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants (1977), say that Beach Peas can be collected, boiled and eaten when they are young and tender.  Other sources, more up to date, say they are not edible because they contain a toxic substance that effects the nervous system.  In my next post, I’ll talk a bit about being cautious before eating wild plants.


Beach Pea

Lathyrus japonicus Willd.


she feints on the rocks

sighs on the sand

beckons with the tendrils

of her feathery hand


ruffles her skirts

in the salted breeze

and squanders her love

on indifferent seas



©  Jane Tims  2012

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.

Written by jane tims

August 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

12 Responses

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  1. Lovely photos, Jane. I think I took some photos of the Beach Pea either on PEI or Nova Scotia. It’s a pretty plant. Good advice about collecting and eating wild plants. 🙂



    August 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    • Hi. Thanks. Still out of focus. Good thing I don’t make my living on phtography!!! Jane


      jane tims

      August 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

  2. I really like the way the photo shows the beauty of these small flowers that are growing in a rugged place.



    August 1, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    • Hi Sheryl. It is true… they are as beautiful and delicate as any wildflower, but between salt and wind and waves, they have a very harsh environment to withstand. Jane


      jane tims

      August 2, 2012 at 8:29 am

    • Hi Sheryl. Just a short note to let you know I have found out that many species of the pea (Lathyrus) are poisonous, so to be safe, don’t collect and eat the Beach Pea! Jane


      jane tims

      August 2, 2012 at 9:55 am

  3. The thought occurs to me that perhaps it is planted for soil erosion? The other thought I had was wondering what wildlife might live off this plant… It appears to be quite nutrient rich?


    Merrill Gonzales

    August 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    • Hi. I don’t think these were planted. As for wildlife, I have done some more reading and the seeds may contain a toxin, so wild animals may avoid them. Apparently the seeds can remain viable floating around in seawater for years, and sprout when the hard seed coats are scoured by pebbles and the action of the sea! Thank you for asking your question… it made me uncover additional infromation about the toxicity of many pea species. Jane


      jane tims

      August 2, 2012 at 9:43 am

  4. What a gorgeous flowering plant… I love the tempo of your poem. It is very well written.


    Merrill Gonzales

    August 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

  5. Impressive pictures and poetry, Jane.



    August 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    • Hi. Thanks… Jane


      jane tims

      August 1, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    • Hi David. As I have told others, if you live near the sea, don’t collect and eat the Beach Pea as many peas contain toxins! Jane


      jane tims

      August 2, 2012 at 9:56 am

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