Our mystery seeds from last week were from the sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus.
The sweet pea is a vining annual plant. Originally from Southern Italy, the wild plant has been transformed into numerous showy cultivars now grown throughout the world.
As the species name “odoratus” might imply, the flowers are quite fragrant.
Although the flowers of the plant resemble those of the garden pea…
and the seeds resemble peas, the sweet pea is simply an ornamental and is not edible.
The nectar of the flowers, however, is used by hummingbirds, butterflies and bigger bees, such as bumble and carpenter bees.
Encourage children to look closely at the flower structure of a sweet pea. Ask questions such as, “Do all the petals look alike?” (No, the upper petal is usually bigger and often more colorful). Do you see the same flower parts as a flat flower? (No, the main flower parts are enclosed by the petals). If possible, gently remove a flower and dissect it to look for the stamen, pistil, and possibly even the nectar glands.
Be sure to let us know what you find and if you have any questions.
Interestingly, only the more ‘wild’ varieties seem to have any fragrance these days in Australia. Most of the punneted varieties that we pick up in large nurseries etc are almost odourless.
That is a very good point. The fragrant ones are the heirloom or old-fashioned ones.