Scientific Name: Psoralea pinnata
Common Names: Blue Pea, African Scurfpea
Plant Type: Evergreen shrubs or small trees
Environment: Flowers best in full sun coastside, filtered shade inland. Will not survive prolonged exposure to temperatures below freezing. Prune out interior branches to keep it looking its best.
Bloom: Clusters of lilac blue "pea" flowers on soft, needle-like branches. The fragrance reminds some of grape soda. Each pod produces only one seed.
Uses: Beautiful evergreen shrub for planting under large trees or near paths where its scent can be enjoyed. Good bee forage plant.
Psoralea Pinnatas can be found in the South Africa Garden (Beds 26a, 26b and 26d).
Psoralea pinnata is a South African shrub which, at a distance, seems covered with dainty blue moths. Its flower structure is described as, "papillonaceous" or butterfly-like, and is similar to that of a sweet pea: five fused petals, the tiny blue banner standing vertically with two side wings; the keel, two fused pale white petals, lying horizontally. If you part the keel with your finger, you will find the stigma and ten stamens with their golden pollen concealed inside. Nature reveals in these flowers one of its many intricate ways of attracting pollinators, making sure they carry pollen away with them to other Psoraleas.
The leaves are narrow and needle-like, very green and slightly aromatic, and the blossoms give off a sweet cloying fragrance. Psoralea needs full sun, well-drained soil, and little water. It grows thick and bushy and can reach 12 feet in height. It was introduced to England from South Africa as early as 1600.
Three-fourths of the plants in the Cape Province of South Africa are endemic, meaning they occur nowhere else. More than 8,550 species have been counted, twice as many as in California, which is four times larger. Its climate is mediterranean like our own, permitting many South African plants to prosper here.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor; text by Kathy McNeil; profile by Fred Bové