New Mexico Wildflowers: Pea Family



Flowers are organized alphabetically by genus and species. Hover over a photo series to control the images.

False Indigo-Bush (Amorpha fruticosa)


Beakpod Milkvetch (Astragalus lentiginosus)

Be warned: there are dozens of species of Astragalus in New Mexico, and dozens of varieties subsumed by this species. Any ID based solely on pictures, such as this one, should be considered very tentative.


Foxtail Prairie Clover (Dalea leporina)

My tentative identification of these plants as Dalea leporina is based in part on known distributions. The similar-looking D. albiflora doesn't extend into the Albuquerque area. 


Woolly Prairie Clover (Dalea Lanata)


Prairie Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis)

In September 2021 I encountered a new plant with fine, acacia-like leaves and odd rounded balls of seeds. When I plucked off a seed ball and rubbed it apart, it turned out to consist of tiny curved seed pods. According to the research I did that evening, the flowers are small white puffs. 


As the scientific and common name suggest, this plant is more common in the Midwest than it is in New Mexico. Still, you can find it up and down the local stretch of the Rio Grande. According to the SEINET web page for this species, "The seed pods are perhaps the most distinctive part of this plant, as they are in such dense rounded clusters near the tops of the stems. There are several other species of Desmanthus in the Southwest, but this is the only one with crescent-shaped seed pods; the other species have straight, linear seed pods."


Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

The signature feature of this tree is the wicked-looking thorns. Sometimes the thorns have thorns. My series includes a photo with bicolor (yellow and brown) seed pods. I've only seen that color pattern a couple of times, however; I suspect it can happen as the pods dry out.


American Licorice, Wild Licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)

American licorice flowers are often described as white but as one of my photos shows, they can have traces of purple. Look for pea-like flowers that form long points and for "pinnate" leaves. The root of this plant is used by herbalists.


Camote de Ratón, Hog Potato (Hoffmannseggia glauca)

Other English names for this species include Indian rushpea, waxy rushpea, pignut, and shoestring weed. The tubers can be eaten but often were fed to pigs.


Everlasting Pea, Perennial Peavine (Lathyrus latifolius)

Everlasting pea blooms range from bright purple to white. The best hotspot I know for this glamorous introduced species is Carlito Springs Open Space, at the south end of the Sandias. Unfortunately, the open space is closed for rebuilding. In June 2021 I encountered a few everlasting pea vines along a shady drainage ditch at the end of a large, heavily watered commercial lawn.


White Peavine (Lathyrus leucanthus)


Lupine (Lupinus)


Black Medic (Medicago lupulina)

An introduced species, and in lawns easily mistaken for clover. Look for the small balls of tiny yellow flowers.


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

In July 2020 I was walking on a mowed lawn in a city park when I noticed "clover" plants, but with flowers that were too big to be clover flowers—tiny as they were—and the wrong color. Normally alfalfa grows to a height of a foot or more, but apparently it can survive as a lawn weed. My ID is based on the purple pea-like flowers and the three-part leaves whose ends are slightly serrated and slightly blunted. The butterfly in one of the photos is a Marine Blue. 


Since then I've noticed alfalfa trying to establish itself in various spots around town. I figure that birds help spread the seeds from alfalfa fields. Usually the escapees struggle to make it, but I found a lush patch in the Bosque in June 2021. Because I'm holding a sprig, you can get a sense of how small the flowers are.


White Sweetclover (Melilotus albus)


Yellow Sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis)


Purple Locoweed (Oxytropis lambertii)


James' Rushpea (Pomaria Jamesii)


Broom Dalea (Psorothamnus scoparius)

Near the Sunport I came across low bushes that looked like nothing but stems. When I looked more closely, the bushes had clusters of small purple pea-like flowers, plus a few leaves that were usually three-lobed. The stems and leaves were dotted with glands. 


New Mexico locust (Robinia neomexicana)


Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

This non-native species is most easily distinguished from its New Mexico cousin by having white rather than pink flowers. It exists both as a planting and as an escapee (the latter sometimes in empty lots).


Alkali Swainsonpea (Sphaerophysa salsula)

This non-native species is often considered invasive. Like the Astragalus I show above, this species has inflated seed pods; unlike that Astragalus, the pods are rounded at the ends.


Golden Pea (Thermopsis montana)

A couple of the photos show the erect pea pods that result from these showy flowers. The pods start out bright green and turn dark.


White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Yes, the same stuff that's in lawns everywhere. But you might encounter it in the wild, so I've included it.


American Vetch (Vicia americana)

A clinging, climbing vine, with clusters of just a few purple flowers. On the closeup without my thumb and finger, you can see a tendril at the end of the leaf. The plant uses the tendrils to anchor itself.