Lathyrus Odoratus vs. Pisum Sativum

What's the Difference?

Lathyrus odoratus, commonly known as sweet pea, and Pisum sativum, commonly known as garden pea, are both flowering plants that belong to the Fabaceae family. However, they differ in various aspects. Sweet pea is a climbing plant that produces fragrant flowers in a wide range of colors, while garden pea is a bushy plant that produces edible pods containing round seeds. Sweet pea is primarily grown for its ornamental value in gardens and is not typically consumed, whereas garden pea is cultivated for its nutritious seeds that are commonly used in cooking. Additionally, sweet pea flowers have a strong and pleasant fragrance, while garden pea flowers are not known for their scent. Overall, these two plants have distinct characteristics and purposes in horticulture and agriculture.


AttributeLathyrus OdoratusPisum Sativum
Scientific NameLathyrus OdoratusPisum Sativum
Common NameSweet PeaPea
Flower ColorVarious colorsWhite, pink, purple
Plant HeightUp to 6 feetUp to 3 feet
Leaf TypePinnateCompound
UsesOrnamentalFood, ornamental

Further Detail


Lathyrus odoratus, commonly known as sweet pea, and Pisum sativum, commonly known as garden pea or green pea, are two popular flowering plants that belong to the Fabaceae family. While both plants share certain similarities, they also possess distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore and compare the various characteristics of Lathyrus odoratus and Pisum sativum, including their appearance, growth habits, cultivation requirements, and uses.


Lathyrus odoratus is a climbing annual plant that can reach heights of up to 6 feet. It features delicate, fragrant flowers that come in a wide range of colors, including pink, purple, red, white, and various shades of blue. The flowers are typically arranged in clusters and have a distinct shape with a banner, wings, and a keel. The foliage consists of compound leaves with two leaflets and a tendril at the end, which helps the plant climb and support itself.

Pisum sativum, on the other hand, is a bushy annual plant that grows to a height of about 3 feet. It produces small, white flowers that are not particularly showy or fragrant. The flowers give way to elongated pods, each containing several round or wrinkled peas. The leaves of Pisum sativum are compound and consist of several pairs of leaflets, with a tendril at the end of each leaf.

Growth Habits

Lathyrus odoratus is a vining plant that requires support to climb. It can be trained to grow on trellises, fences, or other structures. The tendrils of sweet peas wrap around the support, allowing the plant to climb and reach for sunlight. This climbing habit makes Lathyrus odoratus an excellent choice for vertical gardening or adding height to flower beds. Additionally, sweet peas are known for their ability to attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, due to their vibrant flowers and sweet fragrance.

Pisum sativum, on the other hand, is a self-supporting plant that grows in a bushy manner. It does not require any external support to stay upright. The plant forms a compact bush with multiple stems, which makes it suitable for growing in containers or as a border plant. While Pisum sativum may not attract pollinators as effectively as Lathyrus odoratus, it still plays a vital role in the garden ecosystem by fixing nitrogen in the soil through its symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Cultivation Requirements

Lathyrus odoratus prefers cool climates and thrives in full sun or partial shade. It requires well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Sweet peas should be sown directly in the ground or started indoors before transplanting. They benefit from regular watering, especially during dry periods, and the removal of faded flowers to encourage continuous blooming. In terms of hardiness, Lathyrus odoratus is typically grown as an annual in colder regions, while it may behave as a perennial in milder climates.

Pisum sativum, on the other hand, is more adaptable to a wide range of climates and can tolerate both cool and warm temperatures. It prefers full sun but can tolerate some shade. Garden peas require well-drained soil with good fertility. They are usually sown directly in the ground, as they do not transplant well. Regular watering is essential for proper growth and pod development. Additionally, Pisum sativum benefits from the use of trellises or stakes to keep the plants off the ground, reducing the risk of disease and making harvesting easier.


Lathyrus odoratus is primarily grown for its ornamental value. The beautiful and fragrant flowers of sweet peas make them a popular choice for cut flower arrangements and garden displays. The wide variety of colors available allows for creative and stunning floral designs. Additionally, the flowers of Lathyrus odoratus are edible and can be used to add a touch of color and flavor to salads or desserts.

Pisum sativum, on the other hand, is primarily cultivated for its edible pods and peas. Green peas are a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, or canned. They are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Garden peas are commonly used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, stir-fries, and salads. Furthermore, Pisum sativum is also used in crop rotation practices to improve soil fertility and break pest and disease cycles.


In conclusion, Lathyrus odoratus and Pisum sativum are two distinct plants with their own unique attributes. While Lathyrus odoratus captivates with its climbing habit, vibrant flowers, and sweet fragrance, Pisum sativum impresses with its bushy growth, edible pods, and nutritious peas. Both plants have their place in the garden, whether it be for ornamental purposes or as a valuable food source. Understanding the characteristics and cultivation requirements of Lathyrus odoratus and Pisum sativum allows gardeners to make informed decisions when selecting plants for their landscapes or vegetable gardens.

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