KIDNEY VETCH

LADY'S FINGERS

Anthyllis vulneraria

Pea Family [Fabaceae]  

month8May month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8yellow
 
inner
inner8purple
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZclustered
 
stem
stem8round
 

rarity
rarityZrare
(ssp. corbierei) 
rarity
rarityZscarce
 (ssp. lapponica)

1st June 2017, near Coalport, Shropshire. Photo: © RWD
A very long raft of Kidney Vetch.


1st June 2017, near Coalport, Shropshire. Photo: © RWD
With a few interloping white Oxeye Daisy flowers.


7th June 2005, Strandline, south of Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A stretch of Vetch.


7th June 2005, Strandline, south of Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Showing typical vetch-type leaves.


21st May 2007, Stockton Brook locks, Caldon Canal, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
A small clump helpfully overhanging the towpath edge.


7th June 2005, Strandline, south of Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The florets grow amidst a fluff of fine hairs looking like cotton-wool.


21st May 2007, Stockton Brook locks, Caldon Canal, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are finely hairy and pointed.


21st May 2007, Stockton Brook locks, Caldon Canal, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Typical pea-like yellow flowers.


8th June 2007, near Dockray, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
Some plants are very hairy.


2nd July 2015, dunes, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The very hairy leaves just below the flower-head are 4- or 5-fingered and close together. The stem is covered in short white appressed hairs.


14th July 2010, Freshfields Dunes, Sefton Coast, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Flowers withering, turning to seed.


8th June 2016, old dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


8th June 2016, old dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


2nd July 2015, dunes, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The two keels of the flowers are usually well hidden within the two wings. Spent flowers remain on the flower-head and turn a tan-brown and the wings part slightly to reveal the small keel within (top, middle).


7th June 2005, Strandline, south of Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
After flowering the seeds are amidst cotton downy fibres.


7th June 2005, Strandline, south of Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Kidney Vetch always has a fuzzy look.


3rd Sept 2005, Helsby Hill, Helsby, Sandstone Trail. Photo: © RWD
Going to seed at the end of season.


19th Aug 2017, dunes, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The seeds lying on the sand.


19th Aug 2017, dunes, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
When 'finished' the whole plant dries and goes brown curling itself into a ball which will catch the wind like so-called 'tumbleweed' does in the American deserts. Tumbleweed can be any plant which breaks away from its roots in Autumn. They are rolled along by the wind to places far from where they grew, with some ripe seeds still attached. By this means plants which do this are able to spread far afield.


19th Aug 2017, dunes, Crosby, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Some of the roots are still attached on this 'tumbleweed' - which assumes a round cage-like structure.


21st Sept 2013, Marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
End of season. The basal leaves are often hidden by a mass of flowers, now exposed.


21st Sept 2013, Marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Basal leaves a glaucous greyish-green is irregularly lobed (sometimes very deeply so - lower left) on a stalk as long as the leaf.


21st Sept 2013, Marshside, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Leaves thick and often fleshy. Uppersides matte, leaf stalks and underside hairy (lower leaf).


8th June 2016, old dunes, Hightown, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are on the ends of long bare stalks with the odd leaves here and there. Side-branches are thinner and have a pinnate leaf beneath.


1st June 2017, near Coalport, Shropshire. Photo: © RWD


29th June 2014, promenade, Southport, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD




The Red form

6th June 2016, coastal fringe, Anglesea, Wales. Photo: © Sally Tolladay
The red form of Anthylis vulneria, but, growing in Anglesea. This is probably not Anthylis vulneria var. coccinea which Prof. Prof. Clive Stace says grows in West Cornwall and Pembrokeshire. There is also a pink form.




A pink and pale-yellow form

9th June 2018, Keen of Hamar, Unst, Shetlands Photo: © Jill Stevens
With both pink flowers and pale-yellow flowers.


9th June 2018, Keen of Hamar, Unst, Shetlands Photo: © Jill Stevens
See Keen of Hamar or Serpentinic Rocks for some reasons why plants groing on the Keen of Hamer often differ in form to the same species growing on mainland Britain.


Distinguishing Feature : A flower-head consisting of a small ping-pong-sized fuzzy balls with numerous small yellow Pea-Family like flowers protruding from what looks like a ball of cotton wool. Very distinctive. A unique feature were it not for the fact that Kidney Vetch exists as 5 sub-species, all looking much the same (see below).

Easily confused with : five other sub-species of Kidney Vetches, if you can find them. Sub-species, according to BSBI. Two are in decline and have not been spotted in the UK for decades, the others are still around in some places. Luckily, none of the others are to be found where your Author found the most abundant of Kidney Vetches, the one detailed here.

Kidney Vetch is highly variable, with flowers varying from pale to deep yellow, orange or scarlet-red. It is quite possible that the photos from the Caldon Canal represent the sub-species anthyllis vulneraria ssp. polyphylla, but since your Author can find no photographs of this sub-species, it can only be an educated guess based on nothing more than the BSBI distribution map.

BSBI distribution of sub-species anthyllis vulneraria ssp. polyphylla. On the other hand, it might not be.

There are 5 sub-species of Anthyllis vulneraria :

  • ssp. carpatica which occurs in only a few hectads scattered around the UK except Eire.
  • ssp. corbierei which hasn't been seen since 2009 and then only in one hectad near Penzance. [RRR]
  • ssp. lapponica which occurs in a few scattered hectads in Scotland and especially Eire near Wexford. [RR]
  • ssp. polyphylla which occurs in only a few hectads scattered around the UK except Eire. Is more leafy with bigger leaves than ssp. vulneria
  • ssp. vulneraria which is the modal species.
which may explain away most of any observed variability. However, these sub-species are themselves variable and several specimens should be examined before any conclusion is reached (if any can be). They differ only in subtle ways to do with the hairs, whether appressed or not, the calyx whether tipped with red or not, the colour shade of yellow of the corolla, the exact arrangement of the leaflets, and whether the leaves look 'kind of' succulent or not. All airy-fairy stuff.

Update: apparently the authenticity of any sub-species is in doubt taxonomically, there may be just two sub-species, but even those are uncertain.

On top of that the ssp. vulneria appears to be sub-divided into differing varieties:

  • var. coccinea
  • var. langei
  • var. iberica
  • var. pseudovulneria the modal variety.
which differ in even more subtle ways from ssp. vulneria.

So the Author hopes the Reader will forgive him for not identifying the exact sub-species and variety that the above specimens represent, although it seems a good bet that most are of ssp. vulneraria var. pseudovulneria. Maybe...

It prefers a dry habitat, on sea cliffs and mountain ledges or open limy grassland. The specimens proliferating at the Southport locality are all on very sandy vegetation-covered soils just above the high-water mark, so it will be salt-tolerant.

Almost the whole plant, especially the flowers and flower-heads, are covered in long soft white hairs. This is not a pappus, however, the seeds are not, as far as your Author knows, borne by the wind. Gale Force 10 or Hurricane maybe...

Often grows close to the sea above the high-water mark, or on sea cliffs or dry and open chalky grassland. Also on mountain ledges, although your Author has never seen it there, but maybe that is because he tends to avoid dangerously steep places on mountains.


  Anthyllis vulneraria  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Fabaceae  

Distribution
family8Pea family8Fabaceae  family8Leguminosae

 BSBI maps
genus8anthyllis
Anthyllis
(Kidney Vetch)

KIDNEY VETCH

LADY'S FINGERS

Anthyllis vulneraria

Pea Family [Fabaceae]  

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