Vicia cracca L.
Cow Vetch, Blue Vetch, Bird Vetch, Tufted Vetch
Cow vetch is native to Europe and Asia. It was introduced to North America and other parts of the world as a forage crop. Like other legumes, its roots trap nitrogen, allowing it to grow in poor soils. The trapped nitrogen enriches meadows for foraging. It has become naturalized and is now a common sight in meadows and disturbed soils. In some areas it is an invasive.
Identification: Plants can reach up to 6½' (2 m), clambering vinelike over other plants, though they are usually lower. Small tendrils wrap themselves around available supports, sometimes choking other plants. Stems are smooth (vs. hairy vetch). Leaves are 1-3" (3-8 cm) long, pinnate, with 5-12 pairs of leaflets. Leaflets are linear, with needlelike tips, ⅛-⅜" (5-10 mm) long. Flowers are one-sided racemes with curled tips and densely spaced purple-blue flowers. They appear from May to August. Seedpods look like miniature pea pods, about ¾" (2 cm) long.
Vicia on www.jeffpippen.com
Vicia cracca on Wikipedia
Vicia cracca on Discover Life (photos)
Vicia cracca on Wikimedia Commons (photos)
Vicia cracca on luirig.altervista.org
Vicia cracca on the Ecology of Commanster
Vicia cracca on Invasive.org, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health
Vicia cracca description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 6 Nov 2013.