En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - October 29, 2011

From: Kalama , WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: User Comments, Seeds and Seeding, Poisonous Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Comment on poisonous sweet pea plant from Kalama WA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

No question, comment only. I am aware of the story of Christopher McCandless (Call of the Wild)and the belief that he was poisoned by ingesting part of the sweet pea plant; however I am curious what part of the plant.I have eaten the blossoms for years, enough at a time to make a salad. They are delicious and i have NEVER had any adverse health effects. I am very healthy and age 45. An old Asian lady showed me to gather them and eat the young blossoms before they open . .she said the are called "mountain vegetable" (loose translation). In the book by Marjorie Harris, Botanica North America, Page 269, it states that after the "Alaskan incident", Edward Treadwell, a graduate chemistry student from the Univ. of Alaska tested the seeds of both H. Mackenzii and H. Alpinium to see if the seeds were poisonous. Treadwell found no evidence of poison. I know many people who eat the wild sweet pea blossoms (mostly the pink-purple and white). The book states the jury is still out. Maybe further research is needed.

ANSWER:

While we appreciate your comments, we are not a forum, but are set up to answer questions and recommend native plants to gardeners. We did look into this a little, and found there are 16 members of the genus Lathyrus, with several variations of the common name "sweet pea." All are members of the Fabiaceae, or pea, family. Seven of these are native to Washington and the one we chose as an example is Lathyrus palustris (Marsh pea).

These comments are on the webpage you will reach by following the plant link:

"Use Food: EDIBLE PARTS: Peas and very young pods. Collect young pods in early summer and peas slightly later. Do not wash with detergent or sanitizer, only water. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Seeds. Toxic if ingested in large quantities. Symptoms include Lathyrism: paralysis, slow and weak pulse, shallow breathing, convulsions. Toxic Principle: Amine, phenol, and glycoside. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)"

This does not mention the flowers, but if you removed them from the plant and ate them before the seeds developed, there is no reason for them to be poisonous. Frankly, since childen are smaller and more susceptible to substances, we would not offer them to a child. And, if the gentleman you mentioned cooked up a large batch of the more mature seed pods and/or seeds, he very well could have suffered ill effects.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Marsh pea
Lathyrus palustris

Marsh pea
Lathyrus palustris

Marsh pea
Lathyrus palustris

More User Comments Questions

USDA hardiness Zones
May 10, 2009 - I love your site..I don't live in Texas and would like it very much if you would include the zone with plant listings. Thank you for all your hard work!
view the full question and answer

Correction of tree name from Bay Point CA
October 16, 2013 - The tree should of been Mulberry don't know how it was changed!! Tuesday - October 15, 2013 From: Bay Point, CA Region: California Topic: Non-Natives, Cacti and Succulents, Trees Title: Non-...
view the full question and answer

Why is Mr. Smarty Plants website so useless?
July 16, 2008 - Why is your site so useless?
view the full question and answer

Doggy berries
August 30, 2011 - I recently wrote to you regarding my Doggy ingesting some berries from a neighbors out of control fence line-falling onto our property. The answer you gave was 100 % correct! Despite my feeble attempt...
view the full question and answer

Sorting for Fabaceae family for Central Texas
July 21, 2009 - I can't seem to get the database to sort for: CenTX Fabacae Dry Part shade Perennials All habits Please tell me how
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center