Golden Pea

There are several species of golden pea, also commonly called golden banner or thermopsis. This very attractive plant has bright yellow, pealike flowers in elongated clusters (racemes). The leaves are tri-foliate (three-lobed). All the different species look very similar and are basically distinguished, at least to the novice, by the seed pod characteristics. All golden peas belong to the genus Thermopsis. Because T. californica is found in our area, that is what I am assuming it is since I currently do not have a seed pod. I will need to go back later in the season to find some seed pods.

The golden pea is a native plant and is found throughout the West Coast as far as Colorado. A creeping perennial, it spreads by rhizomes. It is found in meadows, often in dense populations. Because golden pea is unpalatable (some species are poisonous to livestock) and competes with other native vegetation, it is often considered a noxious weed. I find it difficult to see a bright yellow field of golden pea and think badly of such a pretty sight.

The golden pea was thought to look like a lupine. Thus the genus name is derived from the Greek “thermos” meaning lupine and “opsis” meaning resembles.  

These golden peas are growing on a meadow overlooking Lower Hat Creek (Shasta County CA) . My spirits soar when I walk through this field of yellow.

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