Vicia cracca (Tufted Vetch)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bird Vetch, Cow Vetch
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Europe, Asia
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, fields, waste areas
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Dense, 1-sided raceme of 10 to 50 elongated pea-shaped flowers. Flowers are about ½ inch long, the upper petal (standard) flaring upward, lateral wings below it oval, extending outward, as long as the standard is high. The standard is typically pink to blue-violet with lighter colored lateral wings though flowers in a cluster may all be the same color.

[photo of calyx and stem] The calyx holding the flower is hairless to minutely hairy, with 5 prong-like lobes, the upper lobes broadly triangular and shorter than the lower, and all shorter than the calyx tube. Flower stalks are minutely hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound with 5 to 12 pairs of leaflets, and a branched tendril at the end that entwines surrounding vegetation for support. Leaves can be up to 10 inches long and 2 inches wide but 6 inches or less is typical. Leaflets are about ¾ inch long and 1/8 inch wide, linear to oblong, toothless, with a tiny, abrupt point at the tip (mucronate). Both surfaces are covered in short appressed hairs.

[photo of stipule and stem] At the base of the leaf stalk is a pair of narrow, sharply pointed, leafy appendages (stipules) that are ¼ to 1/3 inch long and short hairy, particularly around the edges. Stems are vining, multi-branched and sprawling, 4-sided with distinct ridges and variously covered in very short hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a flattened pea pod up to 1 inch long, containing 2 to 8 round to oval seeds.


Tufted Vetch is most easily confused with Hairy Vetch (Vicia villosa), which has distinctly longer, spreading hairs on stems and stalks where Tufted Vetch is more sparsely and minutely hairy. Tufted Vetch is more common in northern Minnesota and Hairy Vetch is more common in the central and southern counties. Both are weedy.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Cook County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook and Kittson counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Nancy - Chisago County, North Branch
on: 2015-06-08 09:16:33

Found alongside a road near where a new culvert was put in last year.

Posted by: Ryan - Shakopee
on: 2015-06-12 21:28:19

Along the west fence line at the dog park off of hwy 169

Posted by: Marta - Coon Rapids
on: 2015-06-25 18:21:04

Around the border (fence) of our new truck terminal, Magnum Cos.

Posted by: Warren - Ham Lake
on: 2016-06-17 19:37:25

Found along roadside and fence lines.

Posted by: Adam V - Anoka
on: 2017-07-07 10:15:37

Growing on empty lot along second street south.

Posted by: Marian - Grand Portage
on: 2017-07-07 13:56:13

Found in a sunny prairie, just south of Canada, next to the Pigeon River between the Grand Portage falls and Lake Superior. Beautiful!

Posted by: Janet Van Sloun - Minnetonka
on: 2019-06-19 11:32:42

This plant is spreading at the Tower Hill Park prairie and the Lone Lake Park rain gardens. It grows over 5 feet tall, but mostly sprawls. Pulled it for a couple hours 6/18; the tap root doesn't come out easily.

Posted by: Janet Van Sloun - Henn. Co., Lone Lake Park, Minnetonka
on: 2020-06-09 01:20:15

This darn plant came in huge quantities in a contractor's seed mix used around the pickleball courts. What the heck! How is it getting into seed mixes? 55 hours pulling with paid contractors on 6/8/2020. Toil to make restoration specialist weary. Thanks for the great photos for positive ID.

Posted by: Baruch Bolinski - Albert Lea near Fountainlake and the dog park
on: 2020-06-09 15:38:12

There was a whole stand of them on the trail around fountain lake so I took a piece home to identify it.

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