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Plant of the Week: Lathyrus japonicus

Plant of the Week! Summertime beach days are waning, but it’s not too late to get out and explore some Great Lakes dune plant communities! Here is an early successional plant commonly found on the foredune (see the Indiana Dunes diagram shown here). Lathyrus japonicus, Beach Pea, is a native legume, although its species name, ‘japonicus’ might make you think otherwise. Beach Pea is a circumboreal species, meaning it exists around the northern hemisphere, not only in North America, but in Europe and Asia as well. It produces magenta flowers from June through August, followed by smooth flat pods. Beach Pea’s main method of reproduction is vegetative, through rhizomes. Despite the fact that it produces many seeds, only those that happen upon ideal conditions will germinate. The plant is native throughout the Midwest, although it is endangered in Indiana, and extirpated in Illinois. Here’s an interesting article about the experimental reintroduction of Beach Pea to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: https://www.nps.gov/articles/parkscience34-1_47-53_dollard_3878.htm

 

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