Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Also known as "false lupine," golden pea is a western plant that has been collected as far east as Logan County, North Dakota. The plant is a true plains dweller, being found from Alberta to western Nebraska.
Plants are perennial and about 10 inches tall. Up to 6 stems grow from a slender taproot. Leaves are parted into three leaflets. Each stem may branch above and bear a half dozen golden-yellow flowers nearly an inch long. Long curved pods (legumes) with slender tips form at maturity.
Look for golden pea in clay soils. Plants seem to be mostly avoided by cattle. This could be due to untoward internal reaction because a closely-related species in the Ukraine is used medicinally as an expectorant. Golden pea has been reputed to be poisonous to humans and livestock on rather tenuous circumstantial grounds.
The plant is a member of the economically highly important bean family (Fabaceae). Fab means "bean" in Latin. The generic name is from the Greek thermos, "lupine," and opsis "appearance." The specific epithet rhombifolia means "rhombic-leaved" in botanical Latin, in reference to the shape of the leaflets. Golden pea was first described for science by Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859). Nuttall visited the Mandan villages along the Missouri River in 1810-1811.