Fabaceae: Pea Family — Acmispon (native 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.

Spanish Lotus – Acmispon americanus varamericanus

Blooms:

May–Oct

Plant Height:

5–60 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Disturbed areas

Notes:

This lotus (a California native despite its common name) has distinctive cream-white to pale pink or red flowers, delicate and borne singly. Each stem has 3 leaflets and often a pair of leaf-like bracts as well. The plant is usually covered in long pale gray hairs.

Short-podded Lotus – Acmispon brachycarpus

Blooms:

May–July

Plant Height:

5–40 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry sandy or gravelly ridges or slopes

Notes:

This has ashy-green leaves with soft spreading hairs. Leaflets are 4–12 mm long and come in 4s.  Flowers are borne singly in the leaf axils and are more or less sessile, also surrounded by soft, spreading hairs.  Fruits are short (6–12 mm) and almost hidden by the calyx lobes (see photo on right).

Bentham’s Lotus – Acmispon cytisoides

Blooms:

Mar–July

Plant Height:

10–80 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Sandy or gravelly soils

Notes:

A low-growing and often mat-forming plant.  Easily distinguished by its pink and white flowers, 3–10 in each inflorescence, on 2–12 mm peduncles. Leaves have 3–5 smooth, elliptic to obovate leaflets.

Deerweed – Acmispon glaber varglaber

Blooms:

Mar–Aug

Plant Height:

0.5–2 m

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Chaparral, roadsides, coastal sands

Notes:

A common perennial, often shrubby.  It comes in two rather different forms.  Away from the immediate coast, it usually has numerous long stout stems, both erect and branching.  In shady places it may be trailing rather than erect, and on beaches it can be mat-forming.  In all forms, it has sessile clusters of 2–7 yellow flowers, arranged in umbels and turning reddish with age.

 

Large-flowered Lotus – Acmispon grandiflorus vargrandiflorus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

5–15 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry, open, disturbed areas in chaparral or yellow pine forest above 300 m

Notes:

The flowers are distinctive, creamy-yellow to a deep pinkish-red and almost 2.5 cm long. They are arranged in a tight cluster of 3–9 flowers at the tip of a peduncle that can be more than 5 cm long. Each leaf has 7–9 pointed leaflets. Fruits can be as much as 6 cm long.

Woolly Lotus – Acmispon heermannii var. orbicularis

Blooms:

Mar–Oct

Plant Height:

30–100 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Coastal scrub & chaparral

Notes:

A woolly, prostrate, mat-forming plant.  It has yellow to red-tinged flowers, in 3–8 flowered umbels with bracted 1–5 mm pedicels.  There are two varieties. Woolly Lotus has 5–6 mm flowers, with ovaries that  generally have soft, spreading hairs.  The plant persistently remains densely white-hairy.  The other kind is Heermann’s Lotus (var. heermannii), not pictured.  This has 4–5 mm flowers, with ovaries that are finely strigose, and is found in moist areas away from the coast.  It is hairy when young, but becomes less so as it ages.

Bioletti’s Rush Lotus – Acmispon junceus var. biolettii

Blooms:

Apr–July

Plant Height:

Stem 10–80 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Coastal sand & chaparral

Notes:

A prostrate plant, finely strigose with wiry, decumbent stems and yellow, red-tinged flowers in 2–8-flowered umbels.  Calyx lobes are broad with acute tips.  The inflorescences are borne on long, 8–25 mm peduncles.

Rush Lotus – Acmispon junceus var. junceus

Blooms:

Apr–July

Plant Height:

Stem 10–80 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Chaparral, occasionally serpentine

Notes:

Very similar to Bioletti’s Rush Lotus (var. biolettii, see above) except that the inflorescences are almost sessile, on peduncles that are less than 5 mm long.

Coast Lotus – Acmispon maritimus var. maritimus

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

5–15 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Coastal, rocky slopes & clay soils

Notes:

Rather uncommon in Monterey County, generally found close to the coast.  This is a more or less prostrate plant with oval to roundish, rather succulent leaves. Flowers are 2–4 per peduncle.  They have an unusual appearance, with a keel that is about as long as the wings, and wings that appear curved round, almost cupping the keel.

Small-flowered Lotus – Acmispon parviflorus

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

5–40 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Grassy slopes

Notes:

A low growing, spreading plant with small (4–6 mm) creamy-white to pink flowers, one per peduncle. Calyx lobes are about the same length as the tube. Leaflets are glabrous to sparsely hairy, 4–12 mm long and in groups of 3–5.

Bishop’s Lotus – Acmispon strigosus

Blooms:

Feb–July

Plant Height:

5–15 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Dry sandy or gravelly flats & slopes

Notes:

Common in open, sunny areas, this has slender, stiff-haired leaves and yellow flowers with red veins. The back of the banner is generally reddish-orange and flowers turn reddish in age. Leaves have 4–9 leaflets, narrowly oblanceolate to obovate. Despite its name, the plant is not necessarily strigose. The fruit is a reddish pod up to 35 mm long.

Chile Lotus – Acmispon wrangelianus

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

5–15 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Grassy slopes

Notes:

The flower is similar to Bishop’s Lotus (Acmispon strigosus, see above) but the leaves are quite different.  There are 3–5 leaflets, elliptic to ovate with fine hairs, either strigose or soft and spreading.  Flowers are sessile,  solitary and remain pure yellow.