I’ve just found one of my favourite plants on campus – and I missed it in flower! I’ve seen it on campus before during the Bioblitz in 2013. It was flowering amongst what appeared to be a planted wild flower mix behind Mackinder Hall. Now it’s turned up, self-seeded, in wasteground near the Agriculture Building on the other side of campus.
Grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia) is a member of the pea family (Fabaceae) but, until it flowers, the plant looks just like a grass. It has long, linear ‘leaves’ and tall stems, but it’s flowers are bright pink, miniature pea flowers. These are borne singly or in pairs. Later long, fine, typically pea-like pods develop.
There are five well-developed plants on the patch of wasteground. How did they get there? Did the seeds arrive in bird droppings? The seeds seem rather large to travel that way. They’re 3 mm long even in unripe pods. Did someone throw compost away here? Or could they have arrived on mowing equipment that had previously been used behind Mackinder Hall?