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    Linnaeus named the Lathyrus genus in 1753.  "Lathyrus" is, according to William Weber, Greek for "very passionate" and refers to the ancient belief in the plantís supposed aphrodisiacal powers.  

Lathyrus pauciflorus

Lathyrus pauciflorus and Amelanchier utahensis intertwine at Mesa Verde National Park.

Lathyrus pauciflorus

Lathyrus pauciflorus

Lathyrus pauciflorus (Utah Sweetpea)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Grandstaff Canyon, Utah, April 10, 2007 and Mesa Verde National Park, May 29, 2013.

Lathyrus pauciflorus flowers are a soft pink, fading (as shown in the third photograph) to inky blues.  The plant, typical of members of its genus, often grows in extensive patches, commonly around and under Oaks and Ponderosas.  Tendrils at the leaf tips are tenacious.  Individual leaves are longer than broad, pointed, and widely spaced.  This is a very handsome plant that grabs your attention when it is in flower.

"Pauciflorus" is Latin for "few flowers".

The plant was first collected by Thomas Howell in 1887 in Washington and is found in a band from Washington and Oregon through southern Idaho to Utah and southwest Colorado.

Lathyrus pauciflorus
Lathyrus pauciflorus (Utah Sweetpea)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area, Utah, April 24, 2006.

Lathyrus pauciflorus

Lathyrus pauciflorus (Utah Sweetpea)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Mesa Verde National Park, May 18, 2009. 

In the lower left and right corners of the photograph, under the large upright pink banners you can see the light-colored tip of the flower keel tucked into the pink/white wings of the flower.  The short keel is one of the diagnostic characteristics of this species.  In the upper right corner you can see the deeply cut calyx.  

Lathyrus pauciflorus

Lathyrus pauciflorus (Utah Sweetpea)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Mesa Verde National Park, May 18, 2009.

Stems are often slightly winged, stipules (folded, leaf-like appendages at the center of the photograph) are noticeable, and leaves vary from about twice as long as wide (as shown at left) to about four times as long as wide (as shown in the first picture on this page).

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Lathyrus pauciflorus