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Narrow-leaved Vetch

Vicia sativa nigra

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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, Horseshoe Vetch, 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, 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:
75 centimetres tall
Grassland, heathland, rocky places, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside, wasteland.

Purple, 5 petals
Pinkish-purple, pea-like flowers that are dark veined in their centres. Similar to Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) of which Narrow-leaved Vetch is a subspecies of. However, Narrow-leaved Vetch petals are uniformly coloured.
Brownish-yellow, downy pea-like pods, between 2.2cm and 4cm long. The pods are smaller than those of Common Vetch.
The leaves are pinnately divided into 3 to 8 pairs of opposite leaflets. The ends of the leaves have branched tendrils. The tips of the leaflets have a notch in them, but the leaflets of the lower leaves have a stipule instead. Narrow-leaved Vetch has narrower leaves than Common Vetch. The stems are often angular and grooved.
Other Names:
Black Vetch, Spring Vetch.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Vicia sativa nigra, also known as black vetch or spring vetch, is a subspecies of the common vetch (Vicia sativa). It is a flowering plant that is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. The plant is typically grown as a cover crop and forage for livestock. It is known for its nitrogen-fixing ability, which can improve soil fertility, and its deep taproot, which can help to break up compacted soils. The plant also has dark purple-black seed pods and leaves, which give it its "black" name.


Narrow-leaved Vetch: A Versatile and Nutritious Forage Crop

Vicia sativa nigra, also known as Narrow-leaved Vetch, is a hardy and nutritious forage crop that is often used as a cover crop or green manure. This legume is native to Europe and has been cultivated for centuries for its use in animal feed and soil improvement.

Narrow-leaved Vetch is an annual plant that can grow up to 2 meters in height. It has long, narrow leaves and small, purple or white flowers that bloom from May to June. The plant is a nitrogen fixer, meaning that it can absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into a form that can be used by other plants. This makes it an excellent cover crop for improving soil fertility.

In terms of nutrition, Narrow-leaved Vetch is high in protein, fiber, and minerals, making it an excellent food source for livestock such as sheep, cattle, and goats. The crop is often sown in pastures to provide extra nutrition for grazing animals during the winter months, when other forages may not be available.

Narrow-leaved Vetch is also a popular cover crop due to its ability to suppress weeds and reduce soil erosion. When planted in the fall, the crop will overwinter and provide ground cover to protect the soil from winter weather. In the spring, the crop can be mowed down or incorporated into the soil as green manure, which will provide nitrogen and other nutrients to the next crop.

In addition to its benefits as a forage crop and cover crop, Narrow-leaved Vetch is also a valuable resource for honeybees and other pollinators. The plant's small, nectar-rich flowers are an important food source for these beneficial insects, making it an ideal choice for farmers and gardeners who want to promote healthy populations of pollinators in their area.

Narrow-leaved Vetch is a versatile and nutritious crop that is well-suited for a variety of agricultural and horticultural applications. Whether you're looking to improve soil fertility, provide extra nutrition for livestock, or support the health of pollinators, this hardy legume is an excellent choice.

Additionally, Narrow-leaved Vetch is a drought-tolerant crop that can grow well in a variety of soils, including sandy and clay soils. This makes it a great choice for farmers and gardeners who need to conserve moisture and protect their soil from erosion in dry regions.

The crop is easy to establish and requires little maintenance. It can be sown by broadcast seeding or drilled into the soil using a drill seed machine. Once established, it will grow quickly and produce a dense canopy of foliage that will protect the soil and provide shade to other crops.

One of the key advantages of Narrow-leaved Vetch is its ability to establish a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria known as rhizobia. These bacteria form nodules on the roots of the plant, where they convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by the plant. This process increases the amount of nitrogen available to other crops, improving soil fertility and crop yields.

In terms of pest and disease management, Narrow-leaved Vetch is relatively resistant to most common pests and diseases. However, it is important to rotate crops and avoid planting the same crop in the same area year after year to prevent the buildup of disease pathogens in the soil.

In summary, Narrow-leaved Vetch is a highly valuable crop for farmers and gardeners due to its versatility, nutrient content, and soil-improvement properties. Whether you're looking to grow food for livestock, protect your soil from erosion, or support the health of pollinators, this legume is an excellent choice.

It's also worth mentioning that Narrow-leaved Vetch has a number of potential uses beyond agriculture. For example, the plant's seeds can be used as a source of food for both humans and wildlife, and its leaves and stems can be used to make a variety of herbal teas and medicinal remedies.

In the world of textiles, Narrow-leaved Vetch is an important source of fiber that can be used to make clothing, ropes, and other products. The plant's fibers are strong, durable, and have a natural resistance to decay, making them a valuable resource for traditional cultures and indigenous communities.

Finally, Narrow-leaved Vetch is a popular choice for gardeners and landscapers due to its attractive flowers and ornamental value. The plant can be grown in a variety of settings, from large-scale agricultural fields to small home gardens, and is often used as a visual barrier or for erosion control.

In conclusion, Narrow-leaved Vetch is a versatile and valuable crop with a wide range of potential uses. From improving soil fertility and providing food for livestock to serving as a source of fiber and ornamental value, this legume is a valuable resource for farmers, gardeners, and communities around the world.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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