Hairy Vetch

Common Name: Hairy Vetch.

Scientific Name: Vicia Villosa.

What to look for?  An intriguing array of bluish-purple flowers! Hairy Vetch may be an annual or biennial plant that tends to sprawl. The round stems have alternate, elongated compound leaves with a terminal tendril that clings (think “Little Shop of Horrors”) to adjacent vegetation for support. Slender racemes of flowers develop from the axils of the compound leaves. The one-sided racemes (clusters) consist of numerous pairs of nodding flowers. These flowers vary in color from pink to blue-violet, depending on the strain – blue-violet is or strain. Each tubular flower consists of 5 petals and a hairy calyx that is united at the base. Each flower can produce a flat-sided seedpod with several round seeds. The root system produces rhizomes, enabling this plant to form vegetative colonies.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? This colony of Hairy Vetch was found in the prairie around the APD pond, which is a mile walk west of us (Note: this pond and prairie has an interesting variety of birds, wildlife, and plants).

How big are they? Hairy Vetch is typically one (1) to three (3) feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately twelve (12) inches long and two (2) inches across.

Where do they grow and thrive? Hairy Vetch was introduced from Europe, escaped from cultivation, and now is naturalized. It is found across the U.S., except some areas of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. Habitats include prairies, grassy meadows along rivers or in woodlands, banks of ponds and rivers, areas along roads, edges of cropland, and abandoned fields.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Hairy Vetch usually occurs from early to mid-summer and lasts about 1-2 months.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The nectar of the flowers of the Hairy Vetch attracts bumblebees and other long-tongued bees as well as some butterflies and skippers.

Interesting Facts About Hairy Vetch:

  • Hairy Vetch is a legume.

  • Hairy Vetch was introduced into the United States from Europe as a forage crop for livestock, although the seeds are said to be upsetting to certain types of cattle.

  • While Hairy Vetch forms colonies, they are not dense enough to exclude other species of plants; rather they cling and float among these other species.

For more information on the Hairy Vetch and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, and Kansas Wildflowers.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!