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What Is the Meaning of the Sweet Pea Flower?

By Cindi Pearce
Sweet pea flowers are fragrant.

The sweet pea flower is an annual, which means it blooms for one season only. It is a member of the pea family and boasts fragrant, colorful, butterfly shaped flowers. The sweat pea is a climbing herb with the official name of Lathyrus odoratus. It is native to Italy. The name "sweet pea" comes from "lathyros," which is the Greek term for "pea," and from "odoratus," which is Latin for "fragrant."

Features

The sweat pea can grow up to 8 feet; patio varieties only climb up to 3 feet. The fragrance of a sweet pea can vary greatly, notes The Flower Expert. How the flowers smell depends on time of day, the age of the flower, how much rain it has received and high temperature. The leaves on the sweet pea consist of a terminal tendril and pinnate with two leaflets. Although a member of the pea family, the sweet pea is not edible; sweet pea seeds and flowers are poisonous.

History

The history of the sweet pea maintains that a Sicilian monk named Franciscus Cupani sent the sweet pea seeds to England in the 17th century. The current day sweet pea does not look like the original. A Scottish man named Harry Eckford crossbred the original, which resulted in the ornamental, sweetly scented and colorful plant that exists today, according to Teleflora. Sweet peas are considered the mark of Edwardian England. These flowers were quite popular in the late 1800s.

Nickname

Some gardeners refer to the sweet pea as the "queen of annuals." Sweet peas are treasured because they are long lasting, colorful and fragrant.

Symbolism

The sweet pea stands for blissful pleasure, according to Pinkie D'Cruz of Pinkie's Parlour, including pleasurable departure after having a good time. The sweet pea is the flower for the month of April. Some flower historians believe that the poet Keats was the first to use the name "sweet pea."

Legend

Legend has it that sowing sweet pea seeds before sunrise on St. Patrick's Day (March 17) will result in more fragrant and larger flowers. Another legend is that sweat pea seeds should be sown between March 1 and March 2, which are the Feasts of Saints David and Chad, and March 21, which is the feast of Saint Benedict.

Growing Sweet Peas

Grow sweet peas in full sun in well-drained, rich soil. Ideally, soak the seeds overnight before planting. Do not plant them deeply; 1 inch is enough. The seeds should be planted 3 to 4 inches apart. After the sweet pea has grown, deadhead the flowers on occasion to grow better. Leave a few flowers on the plant at the end of the growing season so the plant will reseed for the next year.

 

About the Author

 

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.