Saturday, June 17, 2006

I call it "curly vetch"

In an addendum to my last post I reported my discovery that I'm apparently in a very small group of people that refers to a vetch as "curly vetch." Troutgrrrl of Science and Sarcasm stepped up and left a comment suggesting that it may be a plant she knows as "hairy vetch," (Vicia villosa--according to a Google search) a legume planted as a cover crop, and asked for pictures. Will the pictures reveal the identity of this plant?

This vetch is curly--it insinuates itself in between the grasses when it has to, supporting itself by curling tendrils around whatever it can. The pictures are of plants in the tall grass in the yard. It is just coming into bloom now.

The flower is actually a little more purple than it photographs

Leaves of vetch

Stalk of vetch


So, what do you think?


John B. said...

Well, it looks pretty close to the (poor) illustration of hairy vetch in the NAS guide to Eastern Wildflowers. I guess the question is whether the stems are hairy. That is given as the field mark to distinguish between hairy and cow vetch.

Pamela Martin said...

I did searches for both hairy and cow vetch images on the web, couldn't find anything very clear. Given its messy form, it's kind of hard to get a nice portrait of the plant (of either, I guess--they're apparently very similar).

TroutGrrrl said...

It looks like hairy vetch to me! It does have a messy form - very indeterminate, uses other plants to crawl up, and there's a wide range of leaflet sizes, hairiness, flower colors, etc. since its insect-pollinated.

Pamela Martin said...

Thanks Troutgrrrl! An interesting plant--from the way it took over some areas last year, it seems to be able to find its way where grass is already dominant--unlike crown vetch, which prefers to be a first colonist, at least around here. Now all I want to know is where the name "curly vetch" came from. A common name that's apparently not very common at all!

TroutGrrrl said...

Yes, it seems that hairy vetch prefers to grow with a grass - as sort of a 'nurse crop'. It can use the grass for support and the grass gets some nitrogen in return.