The pea family Fabaceae would be the beans, which comprise over 18,000 species of flowering plants. Members of the family have been located in every continent worldwide except for Antarctica. The main identification for pea family members is the frequent appearance to the seed pod, which is altered in various ways to allow the seeds to disperse. A number of these plants enrich the earth around their roots with the addition of nitrogen to the soil. Members of the plant family produce a variety of showy blossoms which range from butterfly-shaped into puffballs.
The pea family contains some very big plants reaching tree-like proportions. 1 example is the purple orchid tree (Bauhinia purpurea) using exotic orchid-like purple flowers blooming from the start of summer to the winter in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. This plant remains evergreen unless exposed to freezing temperatures, reaching 20 feet high with branches spreading 25 feet and covered in light green leaves. Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) is a deciduous tree using reddish-pink blossoms in the spring before the circular green leaves appear. In USDA zones 7 through 10, this redbud tree reaches up to 16 feet tall and wide, attracting butterflies and birds into the yard. The leaves turn red in the autumn and reddish-purple seed pods develop after the flowers die back.
Shrubs are usually more compact than trees, but a few can achieve tree height. Several pea family member with showy flowers grow as shrubs. African scurf pea (Psoralea pinnata), in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, create green feathery leaves using lavender-violet and white flowers covering the bush in late spring. This 6- to 10-foot-tall shrub emits a grape soda aroma while in bloom. “Petite Butterflies” sweet pea shrubs (Polygala fruticosa “Petite Butterflies”) develop evergreen in USDA zones 9 through 10, reaching 3 feet tall and wide covered using gray-green leaves. The purplish-pink butterfly-shaped flowers last from spring through summer.
Pea family perennials climb during the warmer months before entering a period of dormancy during the winter. Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) grows blue-green leaves and spikes of indigo-blue pea-shaped flowers from late spring through the first of summer. In USDA zones 3 through 9, this North American indigenous reaches 4 feet tall and wide. Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) sprawls along the ground reaching 12 inches tall and creeping 15 feet wide with feathery leaves 12 inches long composed of little leaflets. This summer bloomer is available in white, purple or pink in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9.
Yearly members of the pea family behave enjoy the garden pea, completing their life cycle in one summer before dying. Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) develop in USDA zones 2 through 11, reaching 3 to 8 feet tall and spreading 2 to 3 feet with colorful flowers blooming from spring through summer. The highly aromatic flowers are available in blue, orange, pink, purple, red, purple and white. This yearly enjoys cooler weather and also creates ornamental seed pods. Tangier pea plants (Lathyrus tingitanus) use tendrils to climb up to 10 feet tall with stems covered with lacy green leaves and reddish-purple pea-like blooms during the summer. This heat-tolerant pea plant grows in USDA zones 2 through 11.