Ireland

Tufted vetch (Cow vetch, Bird vetch)

Vicia cracca

Description

Cow Vetch is similar to a pea in growth habit, sending out noose-like branched tendrils from the tips of its leaves when it contacts another plant and securely fastens itself. This can cause "strangling" of smaller plants. An individual plant may reach a length (or height) of 2 m and its taproot may extend up to 1 m. The leaves are 3–8 cm long, pinnate, with 8–12 pairs of leaflets, each leaflet 5–10 mm long.

The plant is fast-growing and flowers prolifically, sending out 10 to 40 flowered one-sided racemes cascading pea-flower shaped purple to violet flowers from the leaf axil during its late spring to late summer flowering period. The flowers drop off and tiny bright green seed pods 10 - 20mm long,start to form. Cow Vetch is very similar to Hairy Vetch (V. villosa), but is distinguished from the latter by its smooth stem.