Tag Archives: legumes

Sensitive Pea Blooming

Barely six inches tall, sensitive pea plants are easy to miss. They are noticeable along the creek because of their numbers.

When I first saw these tiny plants, I kept waiting for them to get bigger and bloom. One day I stooped down to find they were blooming.

sensitive pea plant
Sensitive pea plants prefer moister areas as along the creek banks. They do not grow in the water. The leaves are easily seen and recognizable. The small flowers, in spite of being bright yellow, are hidden along the stem.

Sensitive pea flowers have the typical bean and pea shape. There is the tall petal behind, the flat petals reaching out and the two curled around in the center. These yellow flowers are barely half an inch tall.

sensitive pea flower
Small flowers are often as exquisite as larger ones and very detailed. Sensitive pea flowers are barely half an inch long yet show precise details.

Sensitive peas are small versions of the partridge peas now blooming along the highways. Partridge peas have strong stalks up to two feet tall lined with bright yellow pea flowers often with a red center. Both are legumes. Both are native wildflowers.

The leaves are a central stalk with rows of long, elliptical leaflets. The name sensitive is from these leaves. If you touch the leaflets, they fold up along the stem.

sensitive pea side flower
From the side the sensitive flower hangs from the end of a short stalk coming from a leaf axil.

A number of plants have these fold up leaves. The one commonly seen in garden catalogs is the sensitive briar with its pink pom pom flowers.

This is a small version of the mimosa tree which has fold up leaves too. It grows along the road on top of the hill where the ground is drier. Mimosa trees are not native, but have adapted to the area and grow wild now, mostly along highways.

In more tropical areas the jacaranda tree is much like the mimosa, but has long strings of blue flowers. Its leaves fold up too.

sensitive pea leaf
A sensitive pea leaf has numerous pairs of leaflets. Normally these are spread out. When touched, the leaflets slowly fold up.

Pollinated flowers become pods of seeds. Those of partridge peas are popular with larger birds like quail. The smaller seeds of sensitive pea disappear down other bird gullets.

For now the small, yellow flowers peek out from under the fans of leaves. But you have to get down to ground level to really see and admire them.

Find out more about these little plants and sensitive brier in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Not All Groundnuts Are Peanuts

Peanuts have long been called groundnuts because, after a flower is pollinated, it sends a tube down into the ground. The tube grows into a peanut which must be dug up and dried.

A pretty wildflower here in the Ozarks is also called a groundnut. In this case a small underground series of tubers are the groundnuts.

This wildflower doesn’t make it into the guidebooks. It is not common where most people would notice it.

groundnuts flower pyramid

Apios americana plants are commonly called groundnuts. Their flowers are pinkish brown and form little pyramids on the ends of the branches of this vine.

I found it a few years ago while wading around taking pictures of some rose mallows. The area is a wetland often six or eight inches deep in water plus some mud. Boots are advised.

It is a fun place to visit and I have plans to do so after this batch of rain goes by. It’s one thing to go wading. It is another to go wading in the rain trying to keep a digital camera from getting wet.

Rose mallows look like white hibiscus flowers. In this wetland they have the company of seed box, wild bean, winged loosestrife, blue vervain and groundnuts.

rose mallow flower

Rose mallow has huge flowers on plants four to five feet tall. They are hard to miss along ditches or in wetland areas.

This wildflower is a legume and has the typical legume shape. It’s a pinkish brown. A bunch of them form a little pyramid on vine tips. The plant is a vine.

Most legume flowers take a little work by bees or other pollinators to burrow into. Several pollinators can visit the same flower.

Groundnuts are different. A visiting bee steps on the flower opening it up to deposit pollen on the bee and accept any pollen she may carry. After that, bees can still get nectar but the flower will not open again.

groundnuts are legumes

A groundnut flower looks like a shortened bean flower and is a legume like a bean or pea.

The groundnuts part is a series of edible tubers that form on the plant’s rhizome running along in the mud. It takes a few years for the tubers to reach three inches long and fat enough to eat.

My Wild Edibles of Missouri guidebook recommends boiling then roasting these tubers. Raw ones have a sticky sap that sticks to teeth. I don’t think I will try them out. I may try a bean or two once the seed pods develop.

Mostly I will enjoy looking at these wildflowers as some have moved into a spring branch next to our yard. Perhaps I can try adding some mallow seeds later on.