Plant Guide > Grasses > Flat Pea

Flat Pea

FLAT PEA (Lathyrus silvestris L.)

Botanical description:

Flat Pea is perennial -with a vigorous root system consisting of a strong rootstock which sends out numerous side branches and secondary roots. The stems, which reach a height of from two to six feet, are decumbent or ascending, climbing and winding in all directions. They are much branched, angular, and provided with two broad wings. Each leaf consists of one pair of leaflets and a group of tendrils at the end of the elongated midrib of the leaf. The flowers are showy, dark rose-coloured and a trifle smaller than those of ordinary peas.
Geographical distribution: Flat Pea is indigenous to Europe. It grows naturally in woodlands, on stony hillsides, among shrubs, at the borders of woods, in thickets, etc.

Cultural conditions:

It does not require particularly good soil but can be successfully grown on poor land. Sandy loam will produce the heaviest crop but good returns can be obtained from stiff clay or sand. As the roots go deep, the character of the subsoil is more important than that of the surface. AŤ-ell drained subsoil is necessary for the proper development of the plant and stagnant water has always an injurious effect. The roots penetrate so far that the Flat Pea is very resistant to drought.

Agricultural value:

The wild plant has a bitter taste and is not liked by stock. It is also claimed that it is apt to cause serious illness. The cultivated variety has no bitter taste; it is richer in nutritive constituents and its feeding value is much greater.

The agricultural value of Flat Pea is somewhat disputed. It is claimed that it is a valuable forage plant, especially when used as hay in mixtures, but the results obtained from experiments do not encourage its being grown on a large scale. It cannot be recommended for short rotations.


When grown for hay it should be cut as soon as the flowers begin to appear or the stems begin to lodge. As growth starts early in spring and continues during the whole season, two or three cuttings can be taken from the second year on.

Flat Pea seed