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Invasive Cow Vetch

Invasive cow vetch plant send up cascading pea-flower shaped purple and violet flowers that bloom from late spring to late summer.

Invasive Cow vetch is widely used as a forage crop for cattle, and is beneficial to other plants because, like other leguminous plants, it enriches the soil in which it grows by its nitrogen-fixing properties. Although, it is considered an invasive plant in many areas.

Cow Vetch Description

Invasive Introduced Weed: Cow vetch is native to Europe and Asia It occurs on other continents as an introduced species, including North America, where it is a common weed. 

Flowers: The plant send up cascading pea-flower shaped purple and violet, with some shades of blue depending on the soil condition and flowers that bloom from late spring to late summer.

Cow vetch in full bloom
Cow vetch in full bloom

Invasive Cow Vetch Does Have Benefits

  • Cow vetch is much appreciated by bees and butterflies as a source of nectar.
  • The plant may be used to curb erosion.
  • Used as a food source for roaming cattle.

The Downside of the Plant

  • It can be a potentially detrimental species in areas where it is not native. The vetch may crowd out native plants, especially in areas of disturbed soil where the vetch may dominate native plants.
  • The seed pods produce plenty of seeds to keep the plant growing strong year after year.

Common Names Vetch Goes By

The flowering plant is known by the names:

  • Vicia cracca
  • Tufted vetch
  • Cow vetch
  • Bird vetch
  • Blue vetch
  • Boreal vetch

Parts of The Common Weed

Seed pods, leaves and flowers of cow vetch.
Seed pods, leaves and flowers of cow vetch.

Above are all the parts of the cow vetch plant. Some of the seed pods are starting to ripen so I picked the seed and pulled the plant, this way it would not spread.

Ripe & Green Seed Pods

Unripened seeds from cow vetch are swollen and have a green tint to them, but they unswell when they become ripe. The seed pods vary from light brown to dark brown with black spots.

Unripened seeds are swollen and have a green tint to them, but they unswell when they become ripe. The seed pods vary from light brown to dark brown with black spots.

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Seed Pods on Plant in Fall

The seed pods of cow vetch are 2 cm long and contain 6 to 8 seeds. They resemble those of a very small pea. The tiny seeds within are ripe when the pods have turned a dark brown or black.
Ripe seeds on cow vetch plant in fall.

The seed pods are 2 cm long and contain 6 to 8 seeds. They resemble those of a very small pea. The tiny seeds within are ripe when the pods have turned a dark brown or black.

Soon the seed pods will break open and spread the seed for next years plants. If you want to stop the seed from spreading, pick the seed pods and pull the plants.

Leaves of Cow Vetch Plant

Leaves of cow vetch.
Leaves of the cow vetch plant.

The leaves of cow vetch are long and oval in shape and face opposite of one another on a full stem. As the season grows on the plant sends out noose-like branched from the tips of its leaves.

When the nooses of cow vetch contact another plant it will securely fastens itself to it. This can cause the strangling and choking out of smaller plants.
Noose-like tendril are starting to branch out from the tips of its leaves. They will continue to grow and latch onto any plant or tree they can.

When the tendril contact another plant it will securely fasten themselves by twining around suitable hosts. It is amazing that host plants are found by only point of contact touching. The bad news, is this can cause the strangling and choking out of smaller plants.

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Yellow Bell Wildflower Bittersweet Nightshade Wildflower Eastern Columbine Wildflower
     

 

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