Vicia cracca (Tufted Vetch)
|Also known as:||Bird Vetch, Cow Vetch|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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.
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:
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.
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.
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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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Tufted Vetch plants
- Tufted Vetch plants
- roadside Tufted Vetch
- Tufted Vetch in a field
- leaf underside
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?