Vicia sativa (Common Vetch)

Plant Info
Also known as: Spring Vetch, Garden Vetch
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:annual
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; fields, meadows, waste areas, roadsides, gardens
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular

[photo of flowers] 1 or 2 nearly stalkless pea-shaped flowers in the upper leaf axils. Flowers are ¾ to 1¼ inch long, pink to purple, the upper petal (standard) is broad, flaring up and notched in the center, the two lateral wings below it are oval shaped and often darker colored than the standard; they flank and obscure the lower keel underneath. The calyx holding the flower is usually minutely hairy with prong-like teeth about as long as the tube (see fruit photo below).

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are compound in 4 to 8 pairs with a branched tendril at the tip to clasp surrounding vegetation for support. Leaflets are oval elliptic to nearly linear, ¾ to 1¼ inches long, 1/6 to 1/3 inch wide, sparsely hairy on the underside, often flattened or indented at the tip, with a small spine-like projection. A pair of leafy appendages (stipules) at the leaf joint are small and somewhat variable, with 2 or more sharp teeth, often with a small dark gland spot underneath. The slender stems are viney, branched and ascending or climbing and hairy to varying degrees, sometimes minutely so. 

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of friut] Fruit is a flat pea pod up to 2 inches long, producing 4 to 12 round beans. Pods ripen to light brown.


Considered a crop and garden weed, Common Vetch has also been used as a green manure crop and for forage. It escaped cultivation. Ants seem to have a particular fondness for this plant, as it is common to find them nectaring at the gland on the stipule. There are 2 subspecies, subsp. sativa (described above) and subsp. nigra (formerly called Vicia angustifolia), both of which may be found in Minnesota. Subsp. nigra flowers are usually less than ¾-inch, its calyx teeth are shorter than the tube, pods ripen to black, and is usually hairless.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Dave - Mille Lacs Co.
on: 2014-07-07 21:34:19

We have a lot of this on our property

Posted by: Diana C - Hennepin County
on: 2018-06-01 14:56:37

This has planted itself on my front slope amidst all sorts of perennials - and a creeping juniper. Third year for it. I’m at it, but not daily.

Posted by: Rick A. - Crow Wing county
on: 2018-06-11 16:38:11

I have this growing sporadically around the perimeter of my yard, not so much as to be a pest. Kind of an interesting plant and Blossoms are fairly attractive.

Posted by: Dottie Jones
on: 2021-03-26 12:02:51

these weeds are all over my front attractive watching the little bean pods grow a d crack question is are this food for the birds?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-03-27 08:03:15

Dottie, just about anything is potentially food for birds (or pollinators), but there are much better alternatives than this. Pick a native species.

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