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Desert Rock Pea
Shrubby Deer Vetch

Lotus rigidus

Watercolor © by Michael Plagens

Watercolor llustration from a specimen found in flower and fruit at Superstition Mts., Pinal Co., Arizona. 29 Feb. 1992. Desert Rock Pea provides important forage for Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis).

PERENNIAL: The herbaceous growth reaches a height of 50± cm from a slightly woody crown. The twigs are somewhat succulent and brittle.

Yellow Pea flower of Lotus rigidus FLOWERS: This perennial produces lush growth and abundant yellow-orange pea flowers very early in the spring (Jan-Apr).

RANGE:In spring, Desert Rock Pea can be found on rocky slopes nearly throughout the Arizona Sonoran Desert. Also known as deer vetch, it is important forage for Desert Mule Deer and Bighorn Sheep.

LEAVES: Compound leaves have 3-5 leaflets.

FRUIT:The pods take on a bright reddish hue as they mature.


Cool moist winters favor the development of an abundance of Pea Aphids on desert rock pea which attract many Convergent Lady Beetles (Hippodamia convergens) whose larvae devoure the aphids.

Fabaceae -- Bean Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009