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Fodder Vetch

Vicia villosa

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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, 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, 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:
1 metre tall
Fields, grassland, meadows, roadsides, wasteland.

Purple, 5 petals
Pea-like flowers, variable in colour from purple, violet to bluish-purple. The wings of the flowers are sometimes white or yellow.
Pea-like pods, up to 4cm long. Similar to Tufted Vetch but the pods of Tufted Vetch are shorter (up to 2.5cm long).
An annual plant with compound leaves. Each leaf has 8 to 12 pairs of oval to oblong leaflets.
Other Names:
Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Vicia villosa, also known as the hairy vetch or winter vetch, 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 blue 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, it is a good source of protein and minerals, and it is also used as green manure, or cover crop. It is also a food source for wildlife such as insects and small mammals.


Fodder Vetch (Vicia villosa) is a type of legume commonly used as livestock feed due to its high protein content. It is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of soils and climates, making it a versatile option for farmers and ranchers.

Fodder Vetch is a warm-season annual that produces a large amount of forage per acre, making it an excellent choice for hay production. The plant has a vining growth habit, which allows it to spread and provide ample coverage for grazing animals. The leaves are palatable to livestock, and the plant is typically ready for grazing or cutting in early to mid-summer.

In addition to its protein content, Fodder Vetch also has several other benefits for livestock. The plant is rich in essential minerals, including iron, calcium, and phosphorus, which are important for the overall health and wellbeing of animals. Additionally, Fodder Vetch has a high level of digestibility, meaning that animals are able to extract more nutrients from the plant than from other types of forages.

For farmers and ranchers, Fodder Vetch is also a cost-effective option for feeding livestock. Unlike some other forages, Fodder Vetch does not require expensive seed treatments or special planting equipment, making it an accessible option for even small-scale producers. Additionally, the plant is relatively low maintenance and can be left to grow on its own once established.

Fodder Vetch is a highly nutritious and versatile option for livestock feed that can provide numerous benefits for farmers and ranchers. Its high protein content, essential mineral content, digestibility, and cost-effectiveness make it an excellent choice for those looking to improve their livestock's diet.

Fodder Vetch is also known for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, making it a valuable crop for improving soil fertility. As a legume, the plant has a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its roots, which converts atmospheric nitrogen into a form that can be used by the plant. This process also adds nitrogen to the soil, which can then be used by subsequent crops.

This makes Fodder Vetch an ideal crop for crop rotation, as it can help to replenish soil nutrients and improve soil health for future crops. This can be especially beneficial for farmers who are looking to reduce their use of synthetic fertilizers and improve the sustainability of their farming practices.

Another important aspect of Fodder Vetch is its ability to suppress weeds. The plant produces a dense canopy of leaves and stems, which can help to suppress the growth of competing weeds. This can reduce the need for additional weed control measures, such as herbicides, which can be expensive and harmful to the environment.

Fodder Vetch is also a useful crop for improving soil structure and reducing erosion. The plant produces deep roots that can help to improve soil structure by breaking up compacted soils and increasing water infiltration. This can help to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health over time.

Fodder Vetch is a highly valuable crop for farmers and ranchers due to its high protein content, essential mineral content, digestibility, cost-effectiveness, nitrogen fixing ability, weed suppression, and soil health benefits. Whether you're looking to improve the diet of your livestock or the health of your soil, Fodder Vetch is a crop worth considering.

Fodder Vetch is also versatile in terms of its uses, as it can be used for grazing, hay production, or silage. This makes it an ideal crop for farmers and ranchers with different feeding needs and goals. For example, farmers who want to provide high-quality grazing for their livestock can plant Fodder Vetch as a pasture crop, while those who want to produce hay for winter feeding can cut the plant for hay production.

In terms of planting and management, Fodder Vetch is relatively easy to grow and maintain. The plant is well adapted to a range of soil types and can grow in soils with low fertility. However, for best results, it is recommended to plant Fodder Vetch in well-drained soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. The plant is also relatively drought-tolerant and can tolerate moderate amounts of moisture stress.

Fodder Vetch is also a good crop for intercropping with other crops, such as grains or vegetables. Intercropping is the practice of growing multiple crops in the same field, which can help to improve soil health, suppress weeds, and provide multiple yields from a single field. For example, Fodder Vetch can be planted with cereal grains, such as wheat or barley, which can provide forage for livestock and also serve as a grain crop.

In conclusion, Fodder Vetch is a versatile and valuable crop for farmers and ranchers due to its high protein content, essential mineral content, digestibility, cost-effectiveness, nitrogen fixing ability, weed suppression, soil health benefits, and ease of planting and management. Whether you're looking to improve your livestock's diet, reduce your use of synthetic fertilizers, or increase the yields from your fields, Fodder Vetch is a crop worth considering.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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