cream pea

(Lathyrus ochroleucus)

Conservation Status
cream pea
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Cream pea is a perennial forb that rises from a horizontal, underground, creeping stem (rhizome) and a fibrous root system.

The stems are slender, hairless, up to 32 long, and trail on the ground or climb over adjacent vegetation. They may be angled or round; green or purplish-brown; and covered with a whitish waxy bloom (glaucous)… or not. They are not winged.

The leaves are alternate and compound. They are on to 1¼ long leaf stalks (petioles) and are divided into 3 to 5 widely-spaced pairs of large leaflets. At the end of each leaf there is a slender tendril. At the base of each leaf there is a pair of small, leaf-like appendages (stipules). The stipules are to 1¼ long and asymmetrical. They are rounded at the base and sharply pointed at the tip, appearing half heart-shaped. They are often irregularly toothed. The shape of the stipules is distinctive, and can be used to identify the plant when no inflorescence is present.

The leaflets are opposite, thin, ellipse-shaped to lance egg-shaped, 1 to 2 long, and ½ to 1¼ wide. The upper surface is hairless and green. The lower surface is hairless and pale green. The margins are untoothed.

The inflorescence is an unbranched cluster (raceme) of 5 to 10 flowers rising on a long stalk (peduncle) from some of the leaf axils. The raceme and peduncle together are 2½ to 5 long, shorter than the subtending leaf.

The individual flowers are ½ to ¾ long and pea-like. They have 5 sepals, 5 petals, 10 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals are united into a long bell-shaped tube at the base then separated into 5 unequal lobes. The upper two lobes are short and triangular, the lowest one long and narrowly lance-shaped, the lateral two intermediate in both size and shape. The 5 petals are white or yellowish-white and are organized into a broad banner at the top, 2 wings, and a keel in the center formed by two petals fused together at the tip. The banner is egg-shaped to nearly circular and is strongly bent backward. The wings are broadly egg-shaped and are curved around and over the keel. The keel is boat-shaped, shorter than the wings, and curved upward. The stamens have ½ to 9 16 long filaments. Nine of the filaments are fused to above the base, the tenth is free nearly to the base. The flowers turn orange before wilting.

The fruit is a hairless, cylinder-shaped, flattened, 1½ to 2½ long, to ¼ in diameter seed pod.




Trailing or climbing: up to 32 long


Flower Color


White or yellowish-white


Similar Species

  Veiny pea (Lathyrus venosus var. intonsus) stems are hairy. The stipules are narrower, 1 32 to wide, and are half arrow-shaped, with only one sharp basal lobe. The leaves have 4 to 7 pairs of leaflets. The racemes have 8 to 20 flowers. The corollas are pinkish-purple to lavender.  

Dry. Open, upland woodlands; woodland openings; thickets, bluffs; riverbanks, trailsides. Partial sun.




May to July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.








Common in Minnesota except in the southwest quarter of the state.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Fabales (legumes, milkworts, and allies)  


Fabaceae (legumes)  
  Subfamily Faboideae  
  Tribe Fabeae (peas, vetches, and allies)  
  Genus Lathyrus (sweet peas and vetchlings)  



Common Names


cream pea

cream peavine

pale vetchling

white pea

yellow vetchling


The specific epithet ochroleucus means “yellowish-white”, and accurately describes the color of the corolla.










On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



In angiosperms, the stalk of a single flower or a flower cluster; in club mosses, the stalk of a strobilus or a group of strobili.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



A small, leaf-like, scale-like, glandular, or rarely spiny appendage found at the base of a leaf stalk, usually occurring in pairs and usually dropping soon.



A thin, flat, membranous, usually transparent appendage on the margin of a structure.

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Location: Fairview Township, Cass County

cream pea  




Created: 6/24/2019

Last Updated:

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