Fabaceae: Pea Family — Hosackia & Lotus

The pea family has 5-petaled flowers, consisting of a wide upper banner petal, two wing petals, plus two lower petals which are fused to form a boat-shaped keel.  Many genera have flowers in heads or spikes, comprising many individual flowers.  Examples are lupines and clovers.  The seed pod is generally a “legume”.  This is a long, flattish pod, swollen by the seeds, and splitting lengthwise along both the top and bottom.

Broad-leaved Lotus – Hosackia crassifolia var. crassifolia

Blooms:

May–Aug

Plant Height:

7–15 cm

Flower Size:

Small clusters

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry banks & flats

Notes:

This lotus has a sprawling to erect growth habit, with pendulous clusters of 12–20 flowers.  Sometimes described as greenish-yellow marked with red, they often take on an overall pinkish tinge when mature.  Leaves have 9–15 broad leaflets, 2–3 cm long.  Fruits are long (3.5–7 cm), slender and curved.

Harlequin Lotus / Witches’ Teeth – Hosackia gracilis

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

10–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Rare or Endangered?

Yes – 4.2

Habitat:

Moist places below 500 m

Notes:

Easily identified by its bicolored flowers, each with a bright yellow banner and pink-purple wings fading to white. The inflorescence is an umbel with 3–9 flowers. Leaves have 3–7 leaflets.

Stipulate Lotus – Hosackia stipularis var. stipularis

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

15–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small clusters

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Woods near coast, especially after burns

Notes:

This has spreading soft hairs and a vetch-like appearance.  Its long leaves comprise numerous (9–15) small leaflets, each less than 2 cm long.  Pale pink flowers are in clusters of 4–9.  Stipules are often wide and leaflet-like, reducing in size and becoming papery with age.

Bird’s-foot Trefoil – Lotus corniculatus

Blooms:

June–Sept

Plant Height:

10–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Eurasia

Habitat:

Open, disturbed  places

Notes:

The Lotus genus now includes only non-native plants; all of the native lotuses are now in either Acmispon or Hosackia.  This is a common lotus with decumbent to erect stems, and umbels of 3–7 bright yellow flowers, often with a reddish tinge.  Leaflets are slender and pointed, in groups of 5, but with the central three above the others and more prominent.