Tufted vetch

Perennial climbing plant with purple flowers. The tufted vetch is a universal species that copes well in most locations. It is an excellent nectar bee forage, especially for bumblebees.

Wild, non-cultivar seeds.

SKU: N068

18,00 78,00 

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About the species

Polish name: bird vetch

Latin Name: Vicia cracca L.

Family: legumes Fabaceae

Status in Poland: native

perennial plant
Flower color:
about 75 cm

The morphology of the tufted vetch

A perennial with a non-woody climbing stem that climbs other plants with its tendrils, formed from leaflets. It has an extensive, deep-growing root system with root nodules typical of the family. It develops underground shoots for vegetative reproduction, and above-ground, slender stems twisting around supports. Above-ground ones are characterized by an angular, thin cross-section, costal surface, as well as a delicate, close-fitting tomentose, often completely disappearing in old specimens.

Tufted vetch develops compound imparipinnate leaves usually composed of 6-12 leaflets, with stipules. A single trophophyll is hairy and slightly oblong. Stipules are characterized by a sagittate shape, and a entire-margined blade. Tendrils are formed from the top leaf and the first pair of leaflets of a compound leaf.

The flowers of the plant are clustered in one-sided racemes inflorescences, forming on the peduncles in the leaf axils. There are 15-40 flowers per one inflorescence. Single flowers are odorless, they grow directly from the stem of the inflorescence, or on a barely noticeable peduncle. They measure up to 12 mm in length. They have a pectinate structure, typical of a legumes, with a purple or navy blue-purple corolla, a spotted keel and darker spots on the banner, and the wings.

The fruits are gray-brown or sand-brown, pods with rostrum and a smooth and shiny inside, thin and slender seed coats, ripening from August to October. The seeds typical for the so-called small seed legumes, therefore inconspicuous, hard, deeply dormant, usually 2.5-3 mm in diameter, germinating hypogeically. The seeds of the bird vetch differs from other vetches by having a mark covering 1/3 of the circumference. They are spread by many factors, not only by birds, but also by wind, water of snowmelts, and as an admixture with the grains of other plants from the Fabaceae family.

Additional information


The tufted vetch will grow perfectly on very variable locations, from very shadowy to strongly sunlit, from very heavy soils, waterlogged, loamy-peaty to light, very dry sands.

Interesting facts

The economic importance of the tufted vetch has changed over the centuries, and it still arouses controversy among farmers. It can be a valuable forage in hay meadows if harvested before the seeds are ripe. Ripened seeds are strongly harmful for horses and less for cows because of the vicianin they contain. Proper sense of the time of the swath can be difficult because fruiting V. cracca extends over time, and on one and the same shoot can be spotted flower buds, flowers, green, or ripened pods.

The herb used to be used in quack medicine.

Tufted vetch in seed mixtures:

Use Value of the tufted vetch

One hectare of the tufted vetch can yield up to 80 kg of honey. Large bumblebee species are the only insects capable of pollinating vetch successfully (leading to the production of healthy seeds). Smaller bumblebees, and some solitary bees willingly rob vetch flowers by gnawing holes in the side of the flower. These holes are then used by honeybees that visit the vetch.

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