Fabaceae (Legume Family)

Beans & Peas. But also some trees, hedges, clovers, & vetches. Almost all have the distinctive "pea-like" flower, so often referred to in nature guides: 5 sepals, 5 petals, 10 stamens, and a single compartment pistil that developes a single row of seeds. The two lower petals are fused along their edges, to form the "keel", the two lateral or side petals often stand out from the keel to form the "wings", and the upper petal, usually the largest, forms the banner.

The fruit, when dry, usually splits open forcefully, effectively scattering the seeds. I have heard stories of walking along the trails on Montara Mountain while the Lupine are popping, but have yet to experience this. (Lupines, both annual and perennial variety, make wonderful garden plants, and can easily be propagated from seed.)

Many of the species found in the Bay Area are introduced aliens; some on purpose, some accidentally. On Montara Mountain, particularly bothersome invasives include Bird's Foot Lotus and the infamous French Broom, species that are so aggressive they inhibit any native vegetation from re-establishing in disturbed areas. Elimination is advised.

 Fabaceae is well represented on Montara Mountain. Members include:

French Broom
Genista monspessulana

Wild Sweet (Everlasting) Pea
Lathyrus latifolius

Pacific Pea
Lathyrus vestitus

Bird's Foot Lotus
Lotus corniculatus

Mat Forming Lotus
Lotus heermannii
var. orbicularis

Deer Weed
Lotus scoparius

Yellow Bush Lupine
Lupinus arboreus

Montara Mtn Blue Bush Lupine
Lupinus eximus

Varicolored Lupine
Lupinus variicolor

Bur Clover
Medicago polymorpha

Indian Meliot (Sour Clover)
Melilotus indica

Hop Clover
Trifolium campestre

Little Hop Clover
Trifolium dubium

Rose Clover
Trifolium hirtum

Giant Vetch
Vicia gigantea



Genista monspessulana:
French Broom

Fabaceae (Legume Family)

Flowers: Yellow, pea like, along ends of branches.

Blooms: January - May

Leaves: Small, with fine hairs on edge, in groups of three leaflets dirctly off the stems.

Fruit/Seeds: Pea-like pods, often forming while flowers still bloom.

Location: Disturbed areas, along trails and roads.

Status: Alien - Invasive - Common: Problem.

Further description & Comment: Bush-ish, can grow up to 7 feet tall, from spindly to hedge-like. Kill this plant. Seriously. French broom is extremely invasive, and is one of the most threatening to the natural habitat of Montara Mountain.

Genista monspessulana
600x450 JPEG - 76K


An unfortunately healthy bush at the old quarry habitat restoration site in McNee Ranch State Park. This plant has since been "restored" away.

French Broom is sometimes mistaken for Yellow Bush Lupine from a distance; The Lupine has leaves of 5 or more leaflets radiating out from a common center on a stem while the Broom has sets of three attached to the branch. The Lupine is usually much more branched and has larger flowers.

450x600 JPEG - 40K

French Broom is one of the four most bothersome invasive plant species on the San Mateo Coast. The other three are Pampas Grass, Poison Hemlock, and Cape (German) Ivy. All four have the tendency to take over disturbed areas, create monocultures, crowd out similar native plants, and destroy native habitat. The young seedling shown above right can still be pulled out by hand, but as the plant matures, it develops a tap root that is as deep as the plant is tall.



Lathyrus latifolius:
Wild Sweet (Everlasting) Pea

Fabaceae (Legume) Family

Flowers: Bright rose-pink, pea-like, no fragrance; in clusters on erect six to twelve inch flower stems.

Blooms: May - September

Leaves: Two to four inches long, slim, in pairs, like wings on each stem.

Fruit/Seeds: Pea-like pods.

Location: Sunny, bushy trails.

Status: Alien - Invasive - Common

Further description & Comment: Sprawling vine with tendrils at end of flat, winged stems.

Lathyrus latifolius
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A healthy bloom along the Pacifica side of San Pedro Mtn Road. Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf



Lathyrus vestitus:
Pacific (Hillside) Pea

Fabaceae (Legume) Family

Flowers: Pea-like, Red-purple banners with white wings, 5 - 20 flowers to a raceme.

Blooms: April - June

Leaves: Lance-like, minutely gray-haired in opposite pairs (usually 10).

Fruit/Seeds: Pea pods, 1 - 2 inches, green and fuzzy, aging to brown and brittle.

Location: Disturbed areas, along trails and roads.

Status: Native - Common.

Lathyrus vestitus
600x450 JPEG - 32K


Further description & Comment: Climbing, sprawling vine, 1 - 3 ft long.

 One of the native peas holding it's own against the garden escapees; identifiable by its flower colorings and the lance-like leaves as shown above.


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