Botanical Name: Vicia cracca
Species: V. cracca
Habitat :Vicia cracca is native to Europe and Asia. It occurs on other continents as an introduced species, including North America, where it is a common weed. It often occurs in disturbed habitats, including old-fields and roadside ditches.
Vicia cracca is a perennial climber growing to 1.8 m (6ft). It sends out sending out noose-like branched tendrils from the tips of its leaves when it contacts another plant and securely fastens itself. This can cause “strangling” of smaller plants. An individual plant may reach a length (or height) of 2 m with a white taproot, which may extend up to 1 m. The leaves are 3–8 cm long, pinnate, with 8–12 pairs of leaflets, each leaflet 5–10 mm long.
The plant is fast-growing and flowers prolifically, sending out 10 to 40 flowered one-sided racemes cascading pea-flower shaped purple to violet flowers from the leaf axil during its late spring to late summer flowering period. The flowers are mostly visited by bumblebees; when the flowers drop off and tiny bright green seed pods 10–20 mm long, start to form. Cow vetch is very similar to hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), but is distinguished from the latter by its smooth stem.
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 black. 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.
It is in flower from May to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies.The plant is self-fertile.
It can fix nitrogen …..CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.
Succeeds in any well-drained soil in a sunny position if the soil is reliably moist throughout the growing season, otherwise it is best grown in semi-shade. This species has occasionally been cultivated as a food plant, but yields are too low to make it very worthwhile. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
Propagation : Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in situ in spring or autumn.
Edible Uses: Seed – cooked. They are boiled or roasted. Leaves and young stems – cooked. Used as a potherb. The leaves are a tea substitute.
Medicinal Uses: The cooked plant is used as a galactogogue.
Other Uses : 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. Cow vetch is also much appreciated by bees and butterflies as a source of nectar. The plant may also be used to curb erosion.
Owners of pet birds such as budgerigars often use cow vetch as a nutritious food; the birds are especially fond of the seeds but may also eat the foliage.
Its utility as a cover crop and source of green manure has encouraged the introduction and naturalisation of cow vetch far beyond its native range. In North America the plant is naturalised from southern Canada to northern South Carolina; it is considered an invasive weed in some areas and its sale may be regulated.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.