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Hairy Vetchling

Lathyrus hirsutus

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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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-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, 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:
60 centimetres long
Gardens, grassland, meadows, roadsides, wasteland.

Pink, 5 petals
Pink, blue or bicoloured flowers, fading to blue. The keel is creamy-white. Flowers measure between 8 and 15mm across.
The fruit is a brown, pea-like pod, 2 to 5cm (2 inches) long. The pod is covered in silky hairs. The rest of the plant is hairless.
A scrambling annual flower of grassy places. The leaves each have a pair of narrow half arrow-shaped stipules at their bases. The leaves themselves are long, narrow and pointed. Hairy Vetchling uses tendrils to climb through the neighbouring vegetation. The stems are winged.
Other Names:
Austrian Pea, Austrian Winter Pea, Caley Pea, Hairy Pea, Hairy Peavine, Rough Pea, Singletary Pea, Winter Pea.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Lathyrus hirsutus, also known as hairy vetchling or hairy peavine, is a species of flowering plant in the pea family (Fabaceae). It is native to Europe and Asia, and typically found in grasslands, meadows, and along roadsides. It is an annual or perennial plant that can reach a height of up to 1 meter. The leaves are compound and alternately arranged on the stem. The flowers are small, usually pink or purple, and arranged in loose clusters. The plant is known for its nitrogen-fixing ability, which can improve soil fertility. It is also used as forage for livestock, although it is not as widely cultivated as other vetch species. It is also a food source for wildlife such as insects and small mammals.


Hairy Vetchling (Lathyrus hirsutus) is a wildflower that belongs to the pea family (Fabaceae). It is native to Europe and Western Asia, but has been introduced to other regions of the world as a cover crop, weed, or ornamental plant.

The hairy vetchling is a herbaceous annual or biennial that grows up to 60 cm tall. It has pinnate leaves with 2 to 7 leaflets and purple, pink, or white flowers that are arranged in spikes or racemes. The flowers have a sweet fragrance and are attractive to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths. The plant produces long, narrow pods that contain several seeds.

In the wild, hairy vetchling can be found in a variety of habitats, including meadows, pastures, road verges, and waste ground. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate poor soils and a wide range of temperatures. It is also drought-resistant and can survive in dry conditions.

In agriculture, hairy vetchling is often used as a cover crop. It is known for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, which makes it a valuable plant for improving soil fertility. When the plant is incorporated into the soil at the end of its growing season, it releases the nitrogen that it has taken up into the soil, where it can be used by other plants. This can help to reduce the need for fertilizer and increase the overall health of the soil.

In addition to its agricultural uses, hairy vetchling has also been used for medicinal purposes. The plant contains a variety of compounds that have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral properties. However, it is important to note that the plant also contains toxic compounds, and should not be consumed in large quantities.

Hairy Vetchling (Lathyrus hirsutus) is a versatile and hardy wildflower that has a range of uses, including as a cover crop, ornamental plant, and medicinal herb. Its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil makes it a valuable plant for improving soil fertility, and its attractive flowers make it an attractive addition to any garden.

Hairy Vetchling is a unique and fascinating plant that has a lot to offer to gardeners, farmers, and the environment as a whole. Here are a few more interesting facts about this plant:

  1. It's a Food Source: The seeds of hairy vetchling are edible, but they should be cooked first as they contain toxic compounds. In some parts of the world, the seeds are roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The young shoots of the plant can also be eaten raw or cooked, and they have a flavor similar to sweet peas.

  2. Supports Biodiversity: Hairy Vetchling provides a vital source of nectar and pollen for many species of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. This makes it an important plant for supporting local biodiversity and maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

  3. Drought-Tolerant: As mentioned earlier, hairy vetchling is a drought-tolerant plant that can survive in dry conditions. This makes it a great choice for gardeners who want to create a low-maintenance garden that requires less watering.

  4. Companion Planting: Hairy vetchling is often grown with other crops, such as cereals, to provide nitrogen to the soil. This helps to improve the growth and yield of the crops, and can also reduce the need for fertilizer.

  5. Attractive Flowers: The purple, pink, and white flowers of hairy vetchling are not only attractive to pollinators, but they are also a beautiful addition to any garden. The sweet fragrance of the flowers makes them a popular choice for cottage gardens, wildflower meadows, and other informal planting schemes.

  6. Soil Erosion Control: Hairy vetchling is known for its strong root system, which helps to prevent soil erosion. When grown as a cover crop, the plant can help to stabilize the soil, prevent runoff, and reduce the risk of soil erosion during heavy rains or flooding.

  7. Invasive Species: While hairy vetchling is a useful plant in many regions, it can also become invasive in some areas. In these areas, the plant can outcompete native vegetation, reducing biodiversity and altering ecosystems. It is important to monitor the growth of hairy vetchling and take steps to control its spread if necessary.
  8. Medicinal Properties: Hairy vetchling has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The plant contains compounds that have been found to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral properties. The roots of the plant have been used to treat a variety of conditions, including rheumatism, gout, and respiratory problems.

In conclusion, hairy vetchling is a plant that has a lot to offer. Its versatility, hardiness, and beauty make it an excellent choice for gardeners, farmers, and anyone who wants to support biodiversity and improve the health of the environment.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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