Silky beach pea is a perennial rhizomatous member of the pea family (Fabaceae) that is found in North America in coastal dunes and beaches only along the Pacific Coast (British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California) (USDA 2011). In British Columbia, this is a red-listed species that is found in only a few locations on Vancouver Island (Saanich Peninsula) and the adjacent Gulf Islands (Sidney Spit), and on Haidai Gwaii. There is one report from Swishwash Island in the mouth of the Fraser River. Plants are prostrate to erect, flowers are a striking combination of purple and white, and leaves are alternate and pinnately compound with 4-8 leaflets. The plant is densely silky-grey, with silky-grey pods.
Although rare in British Columbia, this is a salt-tolerant species that is used in revegetating shoreline areas in the U.S. In BC, it has now been reported from the following BEC zones: CDFmm, CWHvh, CWHwh, CWHxm (BCCDC 2012).
Perennial herb from a wide-spreading rhizome; stems prostrate to erect, 10-60 cm long, angled but not winged, densely grey-silky.
Alternate, pinnately compound with 4 to 8 leaflets; leaflets oblong-lanceolate, 1-2 cm long, grey-silky, the axis 1.5-3 cm long, flattened and prolonged as a broad bristle but not tendril-like; stipules egg- to arrowhead-shaped, equal to or larger than the leaflets, sometimes constricted into upper and lower lobes.
Inflorescence a loose, long-stalked, axillary cluster of 2 to 6 pea-like flowers; corollas 12-18 mm long, the banner pink or red to purple (rarely white), 14-18 mm long, the banner-claw 2/3 as long as the blade, the wings and keel usually white, shorter than the banner; calyces 8-11 mm long, the lanceolate teeth nearly equal in size and about as long as the tube.
Pods, 3 cm long, 1 cm wide, grey silky-hairy; seeds 1 to 5.
If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.
Illustration Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia
Present from Spring to Summer
Source: The USDA
||Value / Class
Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
of field plots
species was recorded in:
BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in
Source: Klinkenberg 2013