Biological Name:

Vicia spp. (Vetch)

Natural Habitat:

Vetch is a type of legume that is commonly found in fields and meadows throughout the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America.


Vetch also known as Vicia is a plant that is native to grassland and prairie regions of North America. It is a perennial herb that can grow up to two feet tall and it has small oval-shaped leaves and small blue or purple flowers that bloom in the summer. The plant is known for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and it is often used as a cover crop or forage crop for livestock.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is the vetch used for?
A: Often, common vetch is used as a green manure which, when incorporated into the soil, provides valuable carbon, and nitrogen for rotation crops such as wheat and barley.

Q: Is vetch toxic to animals?
A: Animals grazing the green vetch develop a severe granulomatous disease affecting many organs. The seeds of hairy vetch when eaten in quantity by cattle and horses cause nervous signs and death. The seeds of Vicia sativa have been reported to contain cyanide.

Q: What is another name for vetch?
A: Vicia sativa, known as the common vetch, garden vetch, tare or simply vetch, is a nitrogen-fixing leguminous plant in the family Fabaceae.

Q: Can you eat vetch seed?
A: The seed pods are edible (much like peas or beans) and although rarely eaten now, there is evidence to suggest ancient people commonly cultivated them for food. Like other legumes, it is very high in protein. It has been used medicinally to treat eczema and skin irritations.

Q: Can humans eat common vetch?
A: Most of the plant is edible and some species actually taste decent. Common vetch is one of the better ones. The young shoots are edible raw, but better cooked. Vetch is a pretty good potherb, if you go for the younger leaves.

Q: Why do farmers grow vetch?
A: Vetch is a well known legume also known as common vetch or tares. It scrambling, smothering growth habit and frost tolerance make it a very useful winter cover crop or green manure. Used as an over-winter green cover and soil improver, it can also be grazed by livestock.

Q: What are the benefits of vetch?
A: Benefits. Hairy vetch fixes large amounts of nitrogen (N) that help meet N needs of the following crop, protects soil from erosion, helps improve soil tilth, and provides weed control during its vigorous growth in the spring and when left as a dead mulch at the soil surface.

Q: Is vetch toxic to dogs?
A: The toxin in hairy vetch responsible for the symptoms is not known. The toxin appears to cause an immune-mediated disease as prior exposure or sensitization is necesary for the disease to develop. Animals grazing the green vetch develop a severe granulomatous disease affecting many organs.

Q: Do bees like vetch?
A: There are many different types of vetch, but hairy vetch and crown vetch are among the two most popular ones for bee-attracting cover crops.

Q: Which vetch is poisonous?
A: Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) is a legume that grows throughout United States and toxicity has been reported mostly from the midwestern states and California. The common species affected are cattle and horse.

Q: Are vetches toxic?
A: Vetch seeds are poisonous; they contain cyanogenic glycosides and a diglucoside that can cause a neurologic disease. Although hairy vetch (V. villosa) and purple vetch (V. benghalensis) seed are the most toxic (being very closely related), other vetches have toxic seeds too, including common vetch (V.

Q: Is vetch poisonous to humans?
A: The vetches grown as forage are generally toxic to non-ruminants (such as humans), at least if eaten in quantity. Cattle and horses have been poisoned by V. villosa and V. benghalensis, two species that contain canavanine in their seeds.

Q: Is vetch good for the garden?
A: Few legumes contribute as much nitrogen or biomass to the garden. Vetch produces an abundance of vining stems and fine foliage that help protect soils from wind and rain, while improving structure and adding nutrients. Plant vetch as a cover crop or green manure and reap the rewards of healthy, thriving soil.

Q: Is vetch hard to get rid of?
A: The plant is tolerant of many site conditions and grows in sun to part shade and in dry sandy soils to moist clay loams. Vetch has purple flowers and produces green bean-like seed pods. The weed has a tap root that breaks easily, making it difficult to remove when weeding by hand.

Q: Is vetch toxic to chickens?
A: In addition, vetch contains vicine and convicine, which are responsible for a disease called favism. In poultry, there are undesirable changes in the blood and liver of chickens There is a breakdown of red blood cells leading to anemia.

Q: Is vetch an invasive plant?
A: Range: Crown vetch is native to Europe, Asia and Africa. Since its introduction to the U.S., it has spread throughout the country. It is currently reported as invasive in many states, especially through the center of the country and along the eastern seaboard.

Q: Is vetch a good ground cover?
A: Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia) – An extremely fast and aggressive plant, Crown vetch produces a quick ground cover for erosion control with white to pink flowers. This legume should be planted for erosion control in certain hard-to-reach areas such as steep, dry, rocky slopes and low fertility soils.

About the author

Samuel is a gardening professional and enthusiast who has spent over 20 years advising homeowners and farm owners on weed identification, prevention and removal. He has an undergraduate degree in plant and soil science from Michigan State University.