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Sweet Peas Blossom – Spring Backyard Flower Garden Project

Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) is a flowering plant in the genus Lathyrus in the family Fabaceae (legumes), native to the Sicily, southern Italy and the Aegean Islands.

It is an annual climbing plant, growing to a height of 1–2 meters (nearly six feet and six inches), where suitable support is available. The leaves are pinnate with two leaflets and a terminal tendril, which twines around supporting plants and structures helping the sweet pea to climb. The flowers are purple, 2-3.5 centimeters broad, in the wild plant, larger and very variable in color in the many cultivars.

The sweet pea plant does suffer from some pests, the most common being aphids. These insects suck the sap out of the plants, reducing growth. Mosaic virus is spread by greenfly, causing yellowing of leaves, distortion of new shoots, and inhibited flowering.

A pest called the pollen beetle which is small, shiny and black, eats the pollen and disfigures the flowers. Other pests include caterpillars, thrips, slugs and snails. Another problem is mildew; this is a white powdery coating that covers the leaves and slows down growth.

The sweet pea is also susceptible to ehtylene in quantities produced by senescing plants. Because of this, growers are encouraged to plant sweet peas away from fruit trees among other plants prone to early dieback or senescence.

Unlike the edible pea, there is evidence that seeds of members of the genus Lathyrus are toxic if ingested in quantity. A related species, Lathyrus sativus, is grown for human consumption but when it forms a major part of the diet it causes symptoms of toxicity called lathyrism.

In studies of rats, animals fed a diet of 50% sweet pea seeds developed enlarged adrenals relative to control animals fed on edible peas. The main effect is thought to be on the formation of collagen. Symptoms are similar to those of scurvy and copper deficiency, which share the common feature of inhibiting proper formation of collagen fibrils. Seeds of the sweet pea contain beta-aminopropionitrile that prevents the cross-linking of collagen by inhibiting lysyl oxidase, leading to loose skin. Recent experiments have attempted to develop this chemical as a treatment to avoid disfiguring skin contractions after skin grafting.


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