The pea, bean or legume family (Fabaceae) is one of the most economically important plant families in the world, with peas and beans being a staple source of protein since 6000 BCE in Asia, the Americas and Europe and its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, and so much more.
With trees, shrubs, herbaceous annuals and perennials growing in many countries and climates, many plants in this family are easily identified by the distinct pea flower, or legume that everybody loves. It’s the third-largest land plant family, just behind Orchidaceae (orchids) and Asteraceae (the daisy family) with about 20,000 known species.
The Pisum (peas) and Phaseolus (beans) we grow in the veg garden, the freshly scented Lathyrus (sweet peas) on our wigwams and apple arch and the two wonderful Wisteria sinensis that bloom so spectacularly between April and May, are all in this diverse family. And people can’t get enough of it.
Along with these members of Fabaceae we have growing in the veg garden, we also have a wonderful Cercis siliquastrum f. albican (Judas tree) growing next to the Wisteria in the Walled Garden, which you will see flowering in May, unusually producing its flowers and fruits from the trunk and branches, which is botanically called cauliflory. We also have a few species of Laburnum including L. anagyroides in the woodland and L. alpinum on the churchyard stretch. So keep your eyes peeled for this fab family, you can’t miss it at Fulham Palace, in the garden… and on the Barrow!
By Millie Woodley, garden apprentice