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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs


Scientific Name: Tufted vetch, Vicia cracca L., 

Other Names: vesce jargeau, Bird vetch, jargeau, vesce multiflore, petits-oiseaux 

Family: Legume or Bean Family (Leguminosae)  

General Description: Perennial, reproducing by seed and by spreading underground root-stocks.

Habitat: Tufted vetch occurs throughout Ontario in cultivated fields, pastures, waste places, roadsides and gardens.

Stems & Roots

  • Stems 40cm-2m (16-80in.) long, weak, wiry, trailing on the ground or climbing on nearby objects.
  • Leaves alternate (1 per node), pinnately compound with 8 to 12 pairs of bristle-tipped leaflets and branching tendrils at the end; the plant climbing by means of these tendrils. 

Flowers & Fruit

  • Flowers bluish-purple, pea-like, about 12mm (1/2in.) long, often 30 or more crowded together on one side of a long bare stalk.
  • Seedpods pea-like, 10-25mm (2/5-1in.) long by 4-6mm (1/6-¼in.) wide, partly flattened, light brown, containing 2 to 8 rounded to oval reddish-brown seeds.
  • Seeds 2.5-3mm (1/10-1/8in.) across and marked with a prominent, long, whitish or reddish-brown scar.
  • Flowers from early June to late autumn. 

Often Confused With/Distinguishing Characteristics
Often confused with Hairy vetch; however, tufted vetch is a perennial and has smaller seedpods than hairy vetch.  The differences are not easy to spot, though.  The biggest clue is that hairy vetch is a cover crop that is grown on purpose, so it should be more uniform than the patchy tufted vetch.

Tufted vetch is distinguished by its spreading underground rootstalks, compound leaves with 8 to 12 pairs of leaflets and branching tendrils, many flowers clustered on one side of a long stalk, and its flattened, brownish seedpods containing up to 8 rounded seeds, each with a scar extending ¼ to 1/3 of the way around it.


Vetch Vetch flower Vetch seedling
Click to enlarge.