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Horseshoe Vetch

Hippocrepis comosa

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Fabaceae (Pea)
Also in this family:
Alpine Milk-vetch, Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot, Birdsfoot Clover, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bithynian Vetch, Bitter Vetch, Black Broom, Black Medick, Bladder Senna, Broad Bean, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea, Bur Medick, Burrowing Clover, Bush Vetch, Clustered Clover, Common Broom, Common Gorse, Common Laburnum, Common Restharrow, Common Vetch, Crimson Clover, Crown Vetch, Dragon's Teeth, Dwarf Gorse, Dyer's Greenweed, False Acacia, Fine-leaved Vetch, Fodder Vetch, Garden Lupin, Garden Pea, Goat's Rue, Grass Vetchling, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil, Hairy Greenweed, Hairy Tare, Hairy Vetchling, Hairy-fruited Broom, Haresfoot Clover, Hop Trefoil, Hungarian Vetch, Kidney Vetch, Knotted Clover, Large Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Lucerne, Marsh Pea, Meadow Vetchling, Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea, Narrow-leaved Vetch, Nootka Lupin, Norfolk Everlasting Pea, Orange Birdsfoot, Petty Whin, Purple Milk-vetch, Purple Oxytropis, Red Clover, Reversed Clover, Ribbed Melilot, Rough Clover, Russell Lupin, Sainfoin, Scorpion Senna, Scottish Laburnum, Sea Clover, Sea Pea, Sickle Medick, Slender Bird's-foot Trefoil, Slender Tare, Slender Trefoil, Small Melilot, Small Restharrow, Smooth Tare, Spanish Broom, Spanish Gorse, Spiny Restharrow, Spotted Medick, Spring Vetch, Strawberry Clover, Suffocated Clover, Sulphur Clover, Tall Melilot, Toothed Medick, Tree Lupin, Tuberous Pea, Tufted Vetch, Twin-headed Clover, Two-flowered Everlasting Pea, Upright Clover, Upright Vetch, Western Clover, Western Gorse, White Broom, White Clover, White Lupin, White Melilot, Wild Liquorice, Wood Vetch, Yellow Oxytropis, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Vetchling, Zigzag Clover
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Cliffs, grassland, rocky places, sea cliffs.

Yellow, 5 petals
The flowers of Horseshoe Vetch are similar looking to Bird's-foot Trefoil. They are grouped together in circular clusters of 3 to 6 flowers.
Dark green or blackish, slender, pea-like pods. The curvy pods have joints which are said to resemble horseshoes joined together.
Slender, multi-pinnate, folded leaves with 4 or 5 pairs of oval, green leaflets.
Other Names:
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Hippocrepis comosa, also known as Horseshoe Vetch, is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the Fabaceae family and is known for its small, yellow, pea-like flowers that bloom in the spring and summer. It is a low-growing plant, typically reaching up to 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) tall. It is commonly found in grassland, rocky areas, and other wild areas. It is not commonly used for medicinal or other practical purposes, and there is little scientific research on its potential benefits. It is often considered an endangered species in some countries and is protected by law.


Horseshoe Vetch, also known as Hippocrepis comosa, is a beautiful and versatile plant native to Europe and Asia. This plant is known for its unique horseshoe-shaped flowers, which are a beautiful shade of yellow, and for its ability to grow in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, meadows, and forests.

One of the most important benefits of Horseshoe Vetch is its role in supporting biodiversity. This plant provides a valuable source of food and habitat for a wide range of insects, including bees, butterflies, and moths. This makes it an important part of the ecosystem, as it helps to support the survival of these important pollinators.

Another benefit of Horseshoe Vetch is its hardiness and ability to grow in challenging conditions. This plant is capable of growing in soils that are nutrient-poor, making it a great choice for areas where other plants may struggle to thrive. It is also tolerant of drought conditions and is able to persist in areas where water is limited.

Horseshoe Vetch is also a great choice for those looking to add a touch of color to their garden or landscape. The yellow flowers of this plant are a bright and cheerful addition, and they bloom from early spring to late summer, making them an attractive and long-lasting option.

Horseshoe Vetch is a versatile and beneficial plant that offers a range of advantages. From its role in supporting biodiversity to its ability to grow in challenging conditions, this plant is an excellent choice for anyone looking to add a touch of beauty and versatility to their garden or landscape.

In addition to its aesthetic and ecological benefits, Horseshoe Vetch is also useful for medicinal purposes. The plant has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a range of ailments, including respiratory problems, digestive issues, and skin conditions. The plant contains various active compounds, such as flavonoids and alkaloids, that are believed to be responsible for its medicinal properties.

Furthermore, Horseshoe Vetch has also been shown to have a positive impact on soil health. This plant is known to fix nitrogen in the soil, which helps to improve soil fertility and promote the growth of other plants. This makes it a great choice for gardeners who are looking to improve the health of their soil and support the growth of a diverse range of plants.

Despite its many benefits, Horseshoe Vetch is considered an invasive species in some areas. This is because it has the ability to spread quickly and displace native vegetation. To avoid this, it is important to monitor the growth of Horseshoe Vetch and to control its spread, if necessary. This can be done by removing any seeds or seedlings that appear outside of the desired growing area.

Horseshoe Vetch is a valuable and versatile plant that has a range of benefits for both the environment and for human health. Whether you're looking to add a touch of color to your garden, support biodiversity, or improve soil health, this plant is definitely worth considering. Just be sure to monitor its growth and control its spread, if necessary, to ensure that it doesn't become an invasive species.

In addition to its ecological, medicinal, and horticultural benefits, Horseshoe Vetch is also important for cultural reasons. In many cultures, this plant has been associated with good luck, love, and happiness. It has been used in traditional rituals and ceremonies, and is often included in bouquets or as a decorative element at weddings and other special events.

In recent years, Horseshoe Vetch has gained popularity as a food source as well. The young leaves of this plant are edible and can be used in a variety of dishes, such as salads, soups, and stews. The seeds of this plant are also edible and can be used to make flour or as a substitute for coffee.

Despite its many benefits, Horseshoe Vetch is considered a threatened species in some regions, due to habitat loss and overgrazing by livestock. This highlights the importance of protecting and conserving this valuable plant. To support the survival of Horseshoe Vetch, it is important to protect its natural habitats and to promote sustainable land management practices, such as controlled grazing and the planting of cover crops.

Horseshoe Vetch is a multi-faceted plant that offers a range of benefits for the environment, human health, and culture. Whether you're interested in its horticultural, medicinal, or cultural benefits, this plant is a valuable and versatile species that is well worth considering. By protecting its natural habitats and promoting sustainable land management practices, we can help ensure the survival of this valuable plant for generations to come.

Moreover, Horseshoe Vetch is a great choice for wildlife gardening and providing food for birds. The seeds of this plant provide a valuable source of food for birds, such as finches, sparrows, and buntings, during the winter months when other food sources may be scarce. This makes Horseshoe Vetch an important addition to any wildlife garden or bird-friendly landscape.

In terms of cultivation, Horseshoe Vetch is relatively easy to grow and care for. This plant prefers well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade, but is otherwise quite adaptable. It can be propagated through seed or cuttings, and once established, it requires very little maintenance.

It is important to note that Horseshoe Vetch can become invasive if allowed to spread too freely, so it is recommended to plant it in a contained area, such as a rock garden or a raised bed, to prevent it from spreading into other parts of the garden. It can also be controlled by removing any unwanted seedlings or cutting back the plants at the end of the growing season.

In conclusion, Horseshoe Vetch is a beautiful and versatile plant that offers a range of benefits for both the environment and for human enjoyment. Whether you're looking to support biodiversity, improve soil health, or provide food for wildlife, this plant is definitely worth considering. With its easy care and attractive appearance, it is sure to become a valuable addition to any garden or landscape.


Horseshoe Vetch filmed at Scout Scar, Cumbria on the 26th May 2023.


Music credits
Spanish Summer by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

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