Crown Vetch

Poisonous Poisonous Spring Spring Summer Summer

A striking and beautiful plant, crown vetch is poisonous. Introduced and planted as a fodder crop for ruminants it has escaped and is found in the wild. In the USA it is also planted for erosion control and a garden flower. Not common in the UK but one worth knowing about as a ‘purple’ vetch to avoid. Thankfully it is easily identified with its flowers held up some 5-10cm above the stems on straight stalks, with its pink and white flowers arranged in a neat circle or crown. Growing in straggly ‘bushes’ it can grow over a metre tall and can reach metres in diameter where abundant.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Crown Vetch, Crown Vetch, Purple crown vetch
Scientific Name Securigera varia
Season Start May
Season End Jul
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.

Leaves

Typical vetch leaves, 5 -10 opposed pairs slightly tapering towards the tip, 2 – 5cm in length.

Flowers

Dramatic pink and white pom-poms held up above the vegetative stems. Each flower head consists of 10 to 20 pale pink to white pea style flowers.

Seed Pods

The seed pods start off short and axe like before extending into the more characteristic long pea shape.

Stem

Simple stems, grooved along length, but no terminal tendrils.

Habitat

Rough grassy places, sides of fields, meadows.

Other Facts

Native to Europe and Asia it is naturalised in the UK but only an occasional find. It is edible for cows and sheep i.e ruminants who can break down the toxic nitroglycosides, but not for non-ruminants in substantial amounts such as horses and humans so best avoided. As well as fodder it has been utilised as erosion control in the USA as its ground covering nature and deep roots bind the soil. Alas this also means it crowds out other species and is now listed as an invasive species in some states. Varieties have been bred specifically for gardens to show off the mass of bright flowers. In the UK it is rarely planted as a fodder and is only seldom seen in the wild.

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