Nature Notes - Mallorca 2005
Leguminosae - The Pea family
Once again I only saw Vicia sativa out of Mallorca's 12 true vetch (Vicia) species, but I managed another two Lathyrus species (vetchlings) to take my total to 4 out of 9 for that genus. One was Lathyrus ochrus, on the left, a picture taken in dim light of a plant that only offered a faded flower and emerging pod, but you can see the distinctive leaves with their thick midrib, broad wings, and bunch of tendrils at the end. The stem too has wide wings, as seen where it enters the picture from the right. These characters are enough to identify the species. The flowers are creamy-white
Yellow Vetchling (Lathyrus aphaca), on the right, has the leaf reduced to a single tendril, and has unwinged stems, but has a huge arrow-shaped stipule at the base of each "leaf". This too is enough for identification without the flower. These attractive little plants were growing in a forest clearing on high ground, with nothing to twine their tendrils around, just a few small rocks to lean on. It certainly wasn't in those conditions that they evolved their tendril-only leaves! They were accompanied by very small specimens of Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) in a similar plight.
Ononis species are low annual or shrubby plants known as Rest-harrows in Britain. The one with pink flowers is Small Rest-harrow (Ononis reclinata), an annual, and the yellow one is Ononis minutissima, a woody shrublet.
On the left is a small procumbent shrub closely related to Broom, called Argyrolobium zanonii. On the right is Black Medick (Medicago lupulina), which happens to be the commonest Medick in Britain, though it is just one of many in Mallorca.
The other two Medicks I found were seaside ones: the woolly Sea Medick (Medicago marina), which is confined to sand dunes, and the more tolerant Shore Medick (Medicago littoralis), which likes any kind of bare ground on the coast and can also occur inland. It is shown here with its spiky coiled fruit which is actually the best identifying feature on a Medick. Its flowers are normally in groups of 1 to 3, in contrast to a species such as Black Medick which can have up to 50 flowers in a head. M marina is in between with about 8-10 to a head.
Trifolium species now - Clovers and Trefoils. These woolly balls covering patches of ground among gravel chippings the same size as themselves were a striking sight. Identification was helped considerably by the clover-like leaves, and sure enough the plant is called Woolly Clover or Trifolium tomentosum.
The yellow one is Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre) which is common in Mallorca and in much of Britain though only a rare casual in Skye (the same can be said of Black Medick). It can be recognised by the way the top petal of each flower is rolled down over the developing fruit instead of being folded lengthwise.
Star Clover (Trifolium stellatum) has several notable features: the large veined stipules, the fact that red and white flowers can occur in the same flowerhead, and the way the calyces spread out to form stars in fruit. When young the short straight stems on the bare gravel form a strong contrast with more horizontal species such as T tomentosum.
Quite a common small roadside shrub is Dorycnium pentaphyllum, recognisable by its leaves divided completely to the base into 5 leaflets, and its clusters of white flowers. The leaves of Southern Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus cytisoides, right) are somewhat similar but here there is a short stalk between the lower 2 and the upper 3 leaflets. It's a common seaside plant of both sandy and stony shores, with a bluish tinge to the leaves due to their dense covering of hairs.
Two more views of Lotus cytisoides.
Last year I found 2 of Mallorca's 3 Anthyllis species, and said that next time I hoped to find the third, which is a pink-flowered version of our own Kidney Vetch (A vulneraria). I did find it, but there was only one flower left! This is ssp gandongeri; Mallorca also has ssp balearica which is also pink-flowered but does not have spreading hairs around the calyx (I think). Britain has 3 native subspecies of Kidney Vetch and 2 introduced ones, all of which normally have yellow flowers.
Caterpillar Plant (Scorpiurus muricatus) has typical yellow pea-flowers, but has undivided leaves, which mark it out from most other low-growing species of this family. The pods are hairy and contorted, supposedly resembling caterpillars, but the plants I found had not reached the fruiting stage.
Narrow-leaved Scorpion-vetch (Coronilla juncea) was difficult to photograph as I only found it in one place where it was high up on rocks, or in crevices between them. It has about 7-10 peaflowers in a head, and the lower leaves have 7 narrow leaflets. It is very straggly with long distances between the leaves.
March 2004 Leguminosae
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer