This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The recent distribution, which is all we have knowledge of so far of Meadow Vetchling, shows that it is confined to the Northern Temperate and Arctic Zones in Arctic Europe, N. and W. Asia as far as the Himalayas, and it has been introduced into North America. In Great Britain it is common everywhere as far north as Shetland, and ascends in the Highlands to a height of over 1500 ft. It is a native of Ireland and the Channel Islands.
The common yellow Meadow Vetchling is, like the violet Tufted Vetch, a common associate of the hedgerow alliance, but whilst the latter is especially fond of growing in the hedge itself, the former may be found usually with small stunted bushes which grow between the road and ditch. It is fonder of moist ground, and may be found with rushes on the sides of ponds and marshes.
Photo Flatters & Garnett - Meadow Vetchling (lathyrus Pratensis, L.)
The stem, while not essentially that of a climber, is slender and needs supporting, and is provided with simple, 2-leaved tendrils. It is angular, slightly downy, and branched. The leaflets are in pairs, lance-shaped, 3-nerved, finely hairy beneath. The stipules or leaflike organs, as wide as the leaves, are broadly lance-shaped and arrow-shaped, the petals round. The flowers are yellow with darker veins, borne on many-flowered flower-stalks, in racemes, drooping, turned all one way, the flower-stalks as long as the calyx, which has awl-shaped teeth. The pod is stalkless, with a long tapered point, containing numerous seeds, and flattened at the sides. The seeds have a small hilum.
The plant grows to a height of 3 ft. It is in flower in June, July, August. It is perennial, and propagated by means of the roots.
When the keel is depressed the tip of the style emerges, and the brush of hairs sweeps the pollen out of the apex of the keel, coming in contact with the bee's abdomen, and recoils again when the bee goes away. The vertical style is incurved, and expands below the oval stigma into an elliptic lamina or plate, and is covered with oblique hairs, and lies in the apex of the keel. Its hairy surface is turned to the bottom, facing the free edges of the tip of the keel. There is a pouch between the sides with a fold between to which entrance can be had only at the tip. Its anthers lie in the pouch, ripen when it is in bud, and pollen falls on the stigma. When the keel is depressed the latter emerges and pollen is swept out. Pollen in the pouches is also forced up. The wings and keel are closely locked, and it requires a good deal of pressure from an insect to exsert the style and stigma. In spite of pollen being pushed up close to the stigma, insects probably cross-pollinate the flower, rubbing off its own pollen and applying fresh.
The visitors are all bees, Eucera, Bombus, Diphysis, and Megachile.
The pod, which contains many seeds, contracts when dry, and the seeds are thus expelled to a distance by a catapult arrangement.
Meadow Vetchling is a humus-loving plant, which grows on humus soil, or even sand soil where the ground is moist and damp.
The larvae of Cecidomyia lathyri cause the terminal expanded leaves to meet and enclose the young leaves, on which they feed. The fungi Uromyces pisi and U. fabce both grow upon it. The beetles Bruchus loti, Phyllobius uniformi, Apion subulatum, the Thysanop-terous Thrips phalerata, the Lepidoptera Wood White (Leucophasia sinapis), Botys fuscalis, Cemiostoma wailesella feed upon it.
Lathyrus, Theophrastus, is Greek for a kind of pulse, and the specific name refers to the meadow habitat.
Meadow Vetchling is also called Angleberries, Craw-peas, Fitch, Yellow Tar, Yellow Fitchling, Lady's Fingers, Mouse Pea, Crawpea, Tom Thumb Vetchling.
Essential Specific Characters: 90. Lathyrus pratensis, L. - Stem climbing, angled, not winged, tendrils small, leaflets 2, narrow, lanceolate, stipules sagittate, as long as leaflets; flowers yellow, veined, flower-stalk many-flowered, in raceme, secund, hile small.