Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)

Vicia cracca -  commonly known as Tufted Vetch may also be referred to as Cow Vetch or Bird Vetch, possibly because the seeds are used as a highly nutritious bird feed and also because it is grown by farmers as a feed for grazing cattle. Tufted vetch is a member of the pea family and although we wouldn’t recommend eating it, parts of the plant are edible. As well as being edible and nice to look at, it is also used as a soil improver and commercially it can be grown to enrich the soil, as it has nitrogen fixing properties which help improve poor soil conditions.

Photo credit: Aaron Matchett, Flora Street Walkway

As well as having so many uses we think you’lll agree that this plant really contributes to our beautiful mix of Greenway wildflowers. It is a scrambling plant with limp hairy stems which, aided by its numerous branched tendrils, climbs toward the light by relying on entangled support from surrounding vegetation. Although this may seem a lazy way to grow, it means that they do not require energy to produce a thick stem to support it. Instead they use the valuable energy to grow fast and flower profusely. While most Vetches have 2-5 flowers, Tufted Vetch has up to 40 flowers which make it a bees favourite.

Photo credit: Jonathan Clark, Victoria Park

Tufted Vetch produces a mass of flowers and they look intriguing. When you look closely, they have long delicate tube shaped petals which turn up into a hood at the end. The flowering clusters grow along one side of a drooping spike called a raceme.

Where to find it??

On your next visit to the Greenway, we’re sure you will notice the bees busy amongst the flowers but suggest you keep an eye on the plant. Once the bees have finished pollinating and the flowers have dropped, the seed pods will appear. These are tiny bright green pods about 10-20mm long which you’ll find 6-8 seeds growing inside.

We are aware of tufted vetch currently thriving on Marsh-wiggle Way, Dixon Playing Fields and Victoria Park but as it’s a native plant keep an eye out for it in woodland edges, scrubland, riversides and grassland-  seen climbing over hedges and banks. It will grow on most soils but has preference for reasonably fertile damp soils, it will not grow in constantly wet site.  

Be Part of it..

When you are next out on the Greenway see if you as intrigued by these wildflowers as we are. As always we would encourage you to take some images and send them in! Email your best photos to laura@eastsidepartnership.com