hairy vetch

(Vicia villosa ssp. villosa)

Conservation Status
hairy vetch
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Weed Status

Hairy vetch is listed as an invasive terrestrial plant by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. However, it is not currently regulated in Minnesota.


Hairy vetch is a trailing or climbing annual or biennial forb that rises from a 12 to 36 long taproot and spreading rhizomes. It often forms colonies.

The stems extend 16 to 40 and are much branched. They are angled with ridges on the angles and are covered with long, soft, shaggy, spreading hairs. They are weak, reclining on the ground or climbing on adjacent vegetation.

The leaves are alternate, 2½ to 6 long, and pinnately divided into 5 to 12 pairs of leaflets. Each leaf has a tendril in place of a terminal leaflet and an even total number of leaflets. The tendril has 2 or 3 branches. The main axis of the leaf (rachis) is covered with long, soft, spreading hairs. There are a pair of conspicuous, lance-shaped, ¼ to ½ long, leaf-like appendages (stipules) at the base of each leaf stalk.

The leaflets are narrowly oblong to lance-shaped linear, short-stalked, to 13 16 long, and to ¼ wide. They are alternate to almost opposite. The leaf tips are angled or tapered to a short, sharp, abrupt point at the tip. The upper and lower surfaces are densely hairy. The margins are untoothed.

The inflorescence is a dense, spike-like, unbranched cluster (raceme) of 10 to 40 nodding flowers crowded on one side of the central axis. The raceme is on a long stalk rising from a leaf axil. The stalk is covered with long, soft, spreading hairs.

Each flower is ¾ to 1 long and is attached to the central axis by a short stalk (pedicel). There are 5 green to purple sepals (calyx) fused for most of their length into a bell-shaped, 1 16 to long, hairy tube, then separated into 5 teeth. The lower 2 teeth of the calyx are much longer than the upper 3 teeth and are covered with very long, soft, shaggy hairs. The calyx is conspicuously swollen at the base and protrudes beyond the point at which the pedicel is attached. The appearance is of the pedicel attached to the side, not the end, of the calyx.

The 5 petals are variable in color, and can be bluish-violet, purple, or rarely white (f. albiflora). They form a butterfly-like corolla, typical of plants in the Pea family. They are organized into a banner petal at the top, two lateral wing petals, and between the wings two petals fused into a keel. The banner is notched at the tip and is usually darker in color than the remaining petals.

The fruit is a hairless, ¾ to 13 16 long pod containing 2 to 8 seeds.




Trailing or climbing, 12 to 36 long


Flower Color




Similar Species


American vetch (Vicia americana) stems are hairless. The leaflets hairless or sparsely hairy. The flower clusters are much smaller, with 2 to 9 flowers each.

Common vetch (Vicia sativa) leaflets are conspicuously squared off and indented at the tip. The flowers appear singly or in pairs on short stalks rising from the leaf axils.

Cow vetch (Vicia cracca ssp. cracca) foliage is hairless. The calyx is not swollen, and the pedicel appears to be attached to the end, not the side, of the calyx.


Fields, disturbed sites.




June to August


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 28, 29, 30.




Native to Western Asia and Europe. Introduced and widely naturalized throughout North America.





  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Fabales (legumes, milkworts, and allies)  


Fabaceae (legumes)  
  Subfamily Faboideae  
  Tribe Fabeae (peas, vetches, and allies)  
  Genus Vicia (vetches)  
  Subgenus Vicilla  
  Section Cracca  
  Species Vicia villosa (hairy vetch)  

Subordinate Taxa






Vicia villosa var. alba

Vicia villosa var. villosa


Common Names


hairy vetch

fodder vetch

Russian vetch

sand vetch

winter vetch

woollypod vetch









The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.



The group of outer floral leaves (sepals) below the petals, occasionally forming a tube.



A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.



On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antennae. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



The main axis of a compound leaf, appearing as an extension of the leaf stalk; the main axis of an inflorescence.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



A small, leaf-like, scale-like, glandular, or rarely spiny appendage found at the base of a leaf stalk, usually occurring in pairs and usually dropping soon.



Prostrate on the ground and creeping, but not rooting at the tip.

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Other Videos
  Vicia villosa, excelente forrajera apícola
Luis Velazquez

Published on Nov 13, 2012

De la familia de las leguminosas, excelente forrajera, fijadora de nitrógeno. Se la usa mucho en Misiones como cubierta verde en yerbales para contrarrestar el desarrollo de otras hierbas. También es una excelente opción durante la primavera para las abejas.

  Vicia villosa
David Smith

Published on Jun 13, 2014

  Hairy Vetch - Cover Crop Solutions

Published on May 18, 2012

CCS Hairy Vetch has been developed by Steve Groff, Pennsylvania no-till farmer and cover crop innovator, as an excellent choice for farms requiring winter hardiness in a cool season legume.

  Free Nitrogen Fertilizer | Wild Hairy Vetch
Greenhorn Gardening

Published on Apr 1, 2013

Here's in a native vetch-type plant that grows in late winter. I see it often around the area. It's great for fixing nitrogen in your soil. It's a weed that does a great service to your garden.

  Hairy Vetch as Green Manure

Uploaded on Sep 15, 2009






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