Lessertia frutescens is sometimes referred to as a balloon pea. The aptness of the analogy is strikingly displayed by this industrious young plant carrying a rather large crop for its size. It was photographed in October in the southern Cape near Van Wyksdorp.
The large inflated, but indehiscent pods are membranous, showing a pink, beige or greenish translucence. A ripe pod breaking off from the plant may be blown away by the wind, depositing its seeds in a new spot where no particular soil type is required for them to grow, once there is moisture. The small black seeds are flattish, about 3 mm in diameter. They have rough surfaces.
Although L. frutescens belongs to the Fabaceae family, its flowers are not typically pea-like. Still, it is leguminous, depositing nitrogen into the soil; a function performed in nature by lightning, benefiting the many plants that can’t do this for themselves (Manning, 2009; www.plantzafrica.com).