Coronilla varia (Crown Vetch)

Plant Info
Also known as: Purple Crownvetch
Genus:Coronilla
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Eurasia, N Africa
Status:
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
Habitat:part shade, sun; fields, along roads
Bloom season:May - September
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] 1-inch round clusters of up to 25 irregular pink flowers. Individual flowers are about ½ inch long and ¼ inch wide, a typical shape for a member of the pea family, with pink upper and pale pink to white lower petals. Each flower cluster is at the end of a long naked stem arising from a leaf axil.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 2 to 4 inches long and compound in groups of 12 to 25. Leaflets are up to ¾ inches wide and 1½ inches long, rounded at both ends, often with a small tooth-like point at the tip. Stems are multiple from the base, sprawling, hairless to sparsely short-hairy, branched, and riged.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a finger-like cluster of thin pods that ripen to a deep reddish brown. Each pod is up to 2 inches long, has a “tail” at the tip, and contains up to 12 seeds.

Notes:

Crown Vetch is a creeping plant that was originally cultivated as a ground cover to prevent erosion and has been widely planted along roadsides and embankments. It is a quick spreader and can form large masses, creating dense monocultures where little else grows. It spreads both vegetatively through spreading rhizomes and by seed, and is exceedingly difficult to remove once established. It not only invades disturbed areas and roadsides, but also high quality habitat. It is much more widespread in the state than the distribution map indicates, since it was intentionally planted along many highways and county roads in the past and is still sold commercially.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Stearns counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.

Comments

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

Posted by: Molly M
on: 2009-07-01 20:56:45

Hi I saw American vetch on the side of the road this evening and on the other side I saw a plant that looked very similar to it so I gathered a bunch to identify and it turned out to be purple crown vetch. Do you know why they look so similar and yet one is native and one introduced? I spotted it in white bear lake by bald eagle lake.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-07-01 22:03:47

There are a lot of plants that look similar to MN native plants, but are not native. In the case of crown vetch, as I understand it, it was actually engineered, intended to be used for erosion control. It got out of control instead and has become an invasive species.

BTW, unless it's your own property I recommend you take pictures of wildflowers you want to identify later, rather than pick them. You don't know if you're taking something harmful, or causing harm to the habitat. Besides, you could be fined if you're caught taking flowers from public lands.

Posted by: Mark - Oakdale Nature Preserve, Oakdale MN
on: 2010-06-25 17:55:05

Masses of these in several open areas of Oakdale Nature Preserve, often intermixed (but generally out-competing) Bird's-Foot Trefoil.

Posted by: mitchell - afton
on: 2010-06-29 15:37:30

I found one of these with opposite and alternate leaves, does that make it a mutant plant?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-06-29 20:45:52

There are sometimes unusual variations in species that don't necessarily mean a genetic mutation. Also, if alternate leaves are very close together they might look opposite. And keep in mind that for a species with compound leaves like crown vetch, the attachment doesn't refer to the leaflets, but the entire compound leaf.

Posted by: C. Price - Brooklyn Park at Hennepin Tech. College
on: 2010-07-05 14:16:34

These are growing in a few places on the backside of the college. I also have some growing in my backyard garden.

Posted by: Mark - Barnum MN carlton county
on: 2012-08-25 15:46:48

I have it growing in my yard. I guess it is time to go yank it out. I love this site found it about a week ago.

Posted by: Jane - Mounds View
on: 2013-07-03 11:12:19

I saw these on the path running through the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills. There is a clump of them on the west path about 4 benches in from the entrance. They are beautiful and I went back today for pictures.

Posted by: kim - bloomington/prior lake
on: 2014-03-20 11:06:45

My mother planted this on lake property in Prior Lake because grass wouldn't grow well. We attempted a water-safe herbicide to clear the entire hill, wanted plants and unwanted, but the vetch came back. It has taken over the whole hill again since our attempt and makes our native plantings struggle to thrive. That said, I like seeing it on highway hills where it blooms so pretty and causes no one harm.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-03-20 11:13:08

"causes no one harm" isn't exactly true, if you consider the habitat loss for native bees, butterflies and other insects. A crown vetch monoculture does not support much life.

Posted by: Bob - Maple Grove
on: 2014-04-25 14:59:57

The previous owner of our house planted this on the hillside and it completly took over a small field behind the hill. 3 years ago I used Crossbow herbicide and have had to reapply it the past 2 years because plants continue to grow from existing seeds. How long do the seeds survive? Will I ever be free of this pesky plant?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-04-25 16:39:37

Bob, I have read that crown vetch seeds are viable for 15 years or more. You have a long road ahead of you. :-(

Posted by: Kris - 55106
on: 2014-06-16 17:11:53

Saw a bit of Crown Vetch in a large overgrown mess that is owned by the city. Needless to say they don't do anything about the eyesore but, I noticed the cute flowers and identified them as definitely Crown Vetch.

Posted by: Frank - St. Paul, Ayd Mill Road rail corridor
on: 2014-07-10 19:12:29

Lot's of it, along with more European creeping bellflower than last year.

Posted by: Marc - Grant County
on: 2014-08-21 11:18:46

This is the worst invasive weed in Minnesota. If you find it in your prairie you must control it because it will take over every native plant and smother it and then turn an ugly brown mat in the fall. Do not be fooled by this pretty flower; it is my worst nightmare. Watch for and identify this plant early and kill it!

Posted by: Jane - Bloomington Valley Wildlife Refuge, nr Hwy. 77
on: 2015-06-13 13:46:19

I'm not positive but there is something very similar to this that tends to spring up in the Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. It lines the trails on either side. It also shows up in Lilydale.

Posted by: Jeff - Eagan
on: 2015-06-25 07:43:48

I started a native savanna praire replanting and the p. crown vetch is the absolute worst to control. It spreads with rhizomes AND seeds. I spend hours trying to stay ahead of it, but just about every day I find more of this fast growing headache!

Posted by: Zeb - Clay County
on: 2015-07-03 17:51:06

Quite common in the sandy areas of southeast Clay County. This is another case of humans moving a plant from it's native range, and then condemning the plant for doing its job too well. My honey bees and the native bumble bees really seem to like the flowers of this plant. Yes, it does tend to form a monoculture. But again, it's all relative when you consider the landscapes we have created in the name of agriculture.

Posted by: Davis - Pipestone National Monument
on: 2015-07-14 11:29:18

I know the plant was a vetch, and I think it is Crown Vetch. I will be posting a picture along with a review shortly on Trip Advisor, Pipestone National Monument. If you want I can send a couple of photos your way.

Posted by: Dianna - Goodhue County by Lake City
on: 2016-06-04 17:41:19

Found a few plants growing at edge of our wooded area this year. Took pics and compared with photos online of purple crown vetch. Looks like that is what we found. Guess we better get rid of it asap.

Posted by: Bob - Maple Grove
on: 2016-06-11 10:27:54

I posted back in 2014 about trying to eradicate the Crown Vetch in the field on our property. It is still a battle. My method over the past 3 years is to mow the field, allow the new vetch plants to grow to 2", and then spray them with Cross Bow herbicide. This works however new plants still germinate in the spring and late summer. Maybe someday it will be gone, just not this year.

Posted by: Diana - Twin Cities - New Brighton
on: 2016-07-01 12:31:02

This appears to be growing in patches throughout Silverwood Park in New Brighton - a park managed by the Three Rivers Park district. The interesting thing about this now (July 2016) is that there is an exhibit of print in the park building that illustrates the negative impacts of non-native / invasive species on our landscape. Two of the plants highlighted are crown vetch and ox-eye daisy, both of which are growing in the park. I recommend the exhibit - showing through July 31. Artist is Emily Gray Koehler.

Posted by: Tahsha - St. Paul
on: 2016-08-12 22:46:57

I believe this is all along the walking trail in Kaposia Park in St. Paul.

Posted by: SB - Pipestone NM, in Pipestone MN.
on: 2016-08-22 14:46:19

This invasive species is present at the national monument, where is it continues to be managed/reduced via physical and chemical means.

Posted by: Mani S - Minnetonka, Hennepin C, MN
on: 2017-06-14 14:54:12

I have an infestation in my suburban backyard. Thanks to your site, I realized this is a noxious weed...will be pulling them up manually

Posted by: Wanda - Chisago County
on: 2017-06-21 21:46:22

Saw a clump of it in the ditch along Hwy 8 just on the edge of Chisago City. I had just returned from nearly crossing the state from Chisago County to Ottertail County and seen vast stretches all along the freeway and county roads, so I came to your website to try find out what it was.

Posted by: Hannah - St John's University
on: 2017-07-04 13:18:36

I found this on the trail to the student beach at SJU. Thought it looked like locust leaves but thanks to this site I see it's an invasive weed! Interesting.

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