categoryZClimbers Climbers List 
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BUSH VETCH

Vicia sepium

Pea Family [Fabaceae]

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category
category8Climbers
category
category8Deciduous
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8bicolour
flower
flower8mauve flower8purple
flower
flower8blue
inner
inner8purple
morph
morph8zygo
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round
stem
stem8square
stem
stem8ribbed

3rd May 208, Burtons, East Lancs Rd, Swinton. Photo: © RWD
A medium height scrambling perennial, reaching up to 60cm high.


3rd May 208, Burtons, East Lancs Rd, Swinton. Photo: © RWD
Usually so entangled with other plants that it is almost impossible to make out, this specimen is entangled only with itself. With dull-purple flowers and pinnate leaves with distinctively shaped leaflets wider near the base.


The MACC, Macclesfield, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
With between 2-6 flowers in small congregations and tendrils at the end of each pinnate leaf.


Prince of Wales, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Flowers fade to first pale blue and to whitish as they age, especially on plants in the north.


Prince of Wales, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
As yet un-opened flowers, in the often quoted livery od dull-purple.


Prince of Wales, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD


3rd May 208, Burtons, East Lancs Rd, Swinton. Photo: © RWD
Each flower is bi-laterally symmetric (zygomorphic) and in the usual (for a member of the Pea Family) five parts: a large banner (aka 'standard'), two wings and two keels. In places the stems are square with a slight ribs along each corner. Flowers 12-15mm.


3rd May 208, Burtons, East Lancs Rd, Swinton. Photo: © RWD
The petals have darker purple veins. Hairs on the beetroot-coloured sepals.


Prince of Wales, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The light-blue flower has faded. The beetroot-coloured sepal tube has sepal teeth of various lengths.


3rd May 208, Burtons, East Lancs Rd, Swinton. Photo: © RWD
Typically shaped leaflets, a well-rounded rhombic broader near the base, with short white hairs and a short stipule at the apex. New, still-folded pinnate leaf upper right. Note that tendrils can also emerge from leaf junctions (lower right) and are more likely to ne branched the lower down they are.


Prince of Wales, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Bi-pinnate leaves are alternate on the stem (whereas the leaflets are oppositely-paired). Although most leaflets are characteristically broader nearest the stem, not all are, even on the same plant. Between 5-9 paired leaflets on a stalk, always ending in tendrils rather than a terminal leaflet.


Prince of Wales, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Un-typically (but quite common) shaped leaflets. Usually three tendrils at the end of a leaf, but there can be two or four or branched tendrils.


Prince of Wales, Foxfield, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Young tendrils, one branched. Leaflets hairy and not yet fully formed.


The MACC, Macclesfield, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
Usually a pair of flowers/pods in the axil where a leaf bi-pinnate branches off.


The MACC, Macclesfield, Cheshire. Photo: © RWD
The seed pods will turn black when ripe and contain between 3 to 10 seeds.


Easily mis-identified as : Spring Vetch (Vicia lathyroides) which has similarly-coloured but smaller flowers (5-9mm) and only 2-4 pairs of leaflets which grows on sandy turfs near the sea. Like Bush Vetch it also has black seed pods.

Some similarities to : Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) but that has larger flowers (10-25mm) and bright purple/red flowers with darker coloured wings. Also to Marsh Pea (Lathyrus palustris) which has blue-purple flowers and brown (rather than black) seeds pods but that grows on fens and tall damp grassland and has only 2-3 narrow leaflet-pairs that are a glaucous green, and the stems have wings (which Bush Vetch lacks).

Slight resemblance to : Alpine Milk-vetch (Astragalus alpinus) but that has pale-lilac flowers that are tipped a deep blue/purple which is quite rare and grows only on mountains. All the Tares (Hairy Tare (Vicia hirsuta), Smooth Tare (Vicia tetrasperma) and Slender Tare (Vicia parviflora)) have similarly coloured (pale to bluish lilac) but much smaller flowers and very narrow paired leaflets.

No relation to : a Bush nor to Butterfly-Bush (Buddleja davidii) or Bird-in-a-Bush (Corydalis solida) [plants with similar names].

Neither a bush nor a shrub, Bush Vetch has a bushy sprawling character that scrambles between other low plants. The stems lack wings. Flowers dull-purple (which can vary from purple and fade to pale blue). The leaves are pinnate, with between 5-9 paired leaflets, the whole leaf terminated by a tendrils which can be branched, but are more likely to be branched nearer the base of the plant. Distinctive rhomboid-shaped paired leaflets where the widest part is nearest the base (although not all leaves conform, especially if they have just un-folded). Stems can appear square in places.

Grows in hedges, scrub, woodland edges and grassy places; only rarely on dunes but then not in the North West.


  Vicia sepium  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Fabaceae  

Distribution
 family8Pea family8Fabaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Vicia
Vicia
(Vetches)

BUSH VETCH

Vicia sepium

Pea Family [Fabaceae]