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Sweet peas belong to the legumes and have butterfly flowers. Well-known representatives in the garden are the broad bean or the field bean, which is used as animal feed. Sweet peas, on the other hand, do not belong to the genus of sweet peas. They belong to the vetchling family (Lathyrus). Sweet peas are used in the garden as ornamental plants and are also suitable as cut flowers. As with other garden plants, the question arises as to whether vetch or vetchling are poisonous.

Are vetches poisonous?

For all legumes that are classified as toxic, the toxic effect is caused by proteins. Sweet peas are derivatives of propionitrite. Field beans, which also belong to the vetches genus, even contain two toxic proteins from the lectin group. In addition, this bean is dangerous for people with a certain genetic defect.
Because proteins are heat unstable, most toxins in legumes can be destroyed by heating.

Genus Vicia

These include bindweed, field beans, black lentils, common vetch and many other species that grow wild here or are cultivated as green fodder or green manure.


Not all types of vetch are poisonous, and if they are, it mainly affects the seeds. Common vetches do not contain any toxins, but they do contain bitter substances that make them unsuitable for human consumption.
Parts of the plants that can be poisonous in vetch:

  • leaves
  • shoots
  • blossoms
  • fruit

However, children, cats or dogs are unlikely to be poisoned by vetch because they do not see them as food. Cats and dogs prefer grass and the plant is unattractive to children.
It is more dangerous when they are used as animal feed. Symptoms of poisoning can occur in cattle, pigs or horses. You should therefore never give vetches as sole food. This also applies to small animals, which should get green fodder from the garden.
Broad beans, broad beans or broad beans that are intended for human consumption should always be thoroughly cooked. In doing so, you successfully destroy the poison and the beans are also easier to digest.


Since human poisoning is unlikely, observations of symptoms are mainly due to animal poisoning. Poisoning from legumes is manifested by:

  • sweats
  • excitement or weakness
  • throat whistles
  • Gait problems, signs of paralysis
  • skin rashes
  • Gastrointestinal problems

However, the latter in particular can also be observed in humans and are associated with severe vomiting. However, a correspondingly high amount of plants must be consumed for this.

First aid

If an animal is suspected of being poisoned by vetch, you should take it to a veterinarian. It makes sense if one of the plants in question is taken with you to the vet visit.
If it is a child or an adult, you should consult a doctor if the symptoms are severe.


Bridle vetch (Vicia sepium) is cultivated as a forage plant and is also suitable for human consumption, whereby one should limit oneself to the young shoot tips and the flowers. Under no circumstances should you eat the seeds, and it's important not to confuse bindweed with other types of legumes.

Genus Lathyrus

In addition to sweet pea, there are various species that are cultivated for animal feed, green manure or human food.

Sweet Vetch, Lathyrus latifolius


There are also species of vetchling that are poisonous and some that are not. As with vetch, the highest concentration of toxins is in the seeds. The sweet pea as a typical garden plant is considered to be slightly poisonous. In order to minimize the dangers it poses, you can regularly remove faded flowers, since the highest concentration of poison is found in the seeds. The resulting seed pods are also cut out. This pruning also benefits the plant as it becomes more flowering.
Vetch peas are not really dangerous for children, dogs or cats, as it is unlikely that they will eat large amounts of them.


Vetch peas can develop a condition called lathyrism with excessive or repeated consumption. This is a chronic neurological condition. In history, this disease appeared epidemically when, due to long periods of drought, the drought-resistant vetchling became man's staple food and flour was also made from it.

First aid

If you notice the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor:

  • edema
  • tingling and aching legs
  • movement disorders
  • Increased urination

If you eat it once or only eat a few seeds, drinking plenty of water is enough to flush out the poison.

tip: Regardless of the plant eaten, a doctor should always be consulted if poisoning is suspected. The poison control center is also a good place to go.

Safe to touch

Touching legumes is not considered problematic. The poison of the vetch cannot penetrate the skin and only develops its effect in the gastrointestinal tract. That is why it is possible to cut sweet peas for a bouquet without gloves. You can also remove vetch peas or vetches that have spread as weeds in the garden bed with your bare hands.


With all legumes or legumes, the following measures help to avoid poisoning:

  • Teaching children not to eat ornamental plants
  • Explain which plants are edible raw and which are not
  • do not leave small children unattended in the garden
  • Do not feed small animals with ornamental plants, it is best to only use wild herbs that are known to be non-toxic
  • Always cook beans

notice: Please note that this article is by no means a substitute for a doctor's visit. There is no guarantee of the correctness of medical statements.
Detailed information on first aid in the event of poisoning and important information on the poison control centers can be found here.

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