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Kidney Vetch

Anthyllis vulneraria

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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, 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 tall
Grassland, heathland, meadows, mountains, riverbanks, roadsides, rocky places, sand dunes, sea cliffs, seaside, waterside.

Yellow, 5 petals
Yellow pea-like flowers which grow in clusters, sometimes orange and very occasionally red. Each flower has a hairy calyx which contains the sepals, making it look woolly. Flowerheads are very attractive to insects such as bees.
The fruit of Kidney Vetch is a small leguminous pod commonly referred to as a "seedpod" in the UK. These pods typically contain multiple seeds and are slightly curved, resembling a miniature kidney in shape, hence the plant's name.
The leaves are alternate along the stems. Small stipules present. The leaves can be stalked, or stalkless. They are compound leaves, made up of 1 to 5 pairs of leaflets. The terminal leaflet is usually the largest. The oval to linear leaflets are sparsely hairy. Not toothed.
The fragrance of Kidney Vetch is subtle and often described as earthy or herbal in the UK. While not particularly strong, some people may detect a faint, pleasant scent when near the plant, especially when it's in bloom.
Other Names:
Butter Fingers, Double Pincushion, Fingers and Thumbs, Lady's Fingers, Lamb's Foot, Lambs Toes, Woundwort.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Anthyllis vulneraria, also known as Kidney Vetch or Lady's Fingers, 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. The leaves are compound and the plant has a characteristic tendril, which it uses to climb on other plants or structures. 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. Historically, it has been used in folk medicine as a remedy for wounds and skin irritations, but there is no scientific evidence to support these uses. It is also considered an endangered species in some countries and is protected by law.


Kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae). It is native to Europe and Asia, but has also been introduced to other parts of the world as an ornamental plant or as a soil fixer. Kidney vetch is a hardy, low-growing plant that forms a dense mat of foliage and produces bright yellow flowers from late spring to early summer.

Botanical Characteristics of Kidney Vetch

Kidney vetch is a low-growing plant that typically reaches a height of 20-30 cm. It has a creeping, branching habit and forms a dense mat of leaves that are green, oblong and have a smooth, slightly glossy surface. The plant produces an abundance of bright yellow flowers that are typically 1.5-2 cm in diameter. The flowers are arranged in clusters at the end of the stems and are usually held above the foliage. Kidney vetch blooms from late spring to early summer, and after pollination, the flowers are replaced by small, brown, cylindrical seed pods.

Ecological Importance of Kidney Vetch

Kidney vetch is an important plant for wildlife, particularly for pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths. The plant provides a source of nectar and pollen for these insects, which are vital for the pollination of other plants. Additionally, the seeds of kidney vetch are an important source of food for some bird species, particularly linnets and skylarks.

Soil Fixation Properties of Kidney Vetch

Kidney vetch is a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means that it has the ability to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. This process helps to improve the fertility of the soil, making it more productive for other plants. Kidney vetch is often used in agroforestry and land reclamation projects as a green manure crop, as it helps to improve soil fertility and structure.

Growing Kidney Vetch

Kidney vetch is an easy plant to grow and is suitable for a wide range of soil types and conditions. It prefers well-drained soils and full sun, but can tolerate some shade. The plant can be propagated from seeds, which should be sown in autumn or spring. Once established, kidney vetch is a low-maintenance plant that requires little attention.

Medicinal Properties of Kidney Vetch

In addition to its ecological and soil improvement properties, kidney vetch has also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, skin conditions, and respiratory problems.

The leaves and stems of the plant contain tannins, which have astringent properties that help to reduce inflammation and soothe skin irritations. The plant has also been used as a expectorant, helping to clear mucus from the respiratory system. In addition, kidney vetch has been used to treat wounds and promote the healing of cuts and bruises.

While modern medicine has largely replaced the use of kidney vetch for medicinal purposes, the plant is still valued for its traditional healing properties and is used in some communities as a home remedy for minor ailments.

Conservation Status of Kidney Vetch

Kidney vetch is not considered to be an endangered species, and the plant is widely distributed throughout its native range. However, it is important to maintain populations of the plant to ensure its continued availability for future generations. In some regions, the loss of habitat due to urbanization and other development activities is threatening the survival of wild populations of kidney vetch.

Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration and protection, are important to ensure the continued survival of the plant and the benefits it provides to wildlife and the environment. In addition, growing kidney vetch in gardens and other cultivated areas can help to promote the survival of the species and ensure its continued availability.

Kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) is a versatile and valuable plant that has numerous benefits for wildlife, the environment, and human health. Whether you are interested in its ecological or medicinal properties, or simply looking for a low-maintenance ornamental plant, kidney vetch is definitely worth considering.

Cultivation of Kidney Vetch for Ornamental Purposes

In addition to its ecological and medicinal benefits, kidney vetch is also grown for its attractive yellow flowers and low-growing habit. The plant is a popular choice for rock gardens, wildflower meadows, and other low-maintenance landscapes, and is often used as a groundcover in areas where grass is difficult to grow.

Kidney vetch is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and low maintenance, making it an ideal choice for gardeners who are looking for a plant that will provide both beauty and versatility. The plant is drought-tolerant and can grow in a wide range of soil types and conditions, but prefers well-drained soils and full sun.

When growing kidney vetch for ornamental purposes, it is important to choose a suitable location where the plant will receive adequate sunlight and have enough room to spread and form a dense mat of foliage. The plant should be spaced about 30 cm apart, and if necessary, it can be trimmed back after flowering to maintain its compact habit.

In conclusion, kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) is a versatile and valuable plant that has numerous benefits for wildlife, the environment, and human health. Whether you are interested in its ecological or medicinal properties, or simply looking for a low-maintenance ornamental plant, kidney vetch is definitely worth considering.

30 Kidney Vetch Facts

  1. Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) is a perennial flowering plant belonging to the Fabaceae family.
  2. Its common name "Kidney Vetch" is derived from the shape of its seed pods, which resemble a kidney.
  3. This plant is native to Europe, including the UK, and parts of Asia and North Africa.
  4. Kidney Vetch typically grows in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, heathlands, coastal cliffs, sand dunes, rocky slopes, and meadows.
  5. It is known for its ability to thrive in poor, nutrient-deficient soils.
  6. The flowers of Kidney Vetch are small and come in various colors, including yellow, orange, pink, and red.
  7. Its flowers are arranged in dense clusters atop elongated stems.
  8. Kidney Vetch flowers attract a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other insects.
  9. The plant has a long history of medicinal use, with various parts being used in traditional herbal remedies.
  10. It has been used historically to treat wounds, stop bleeding, and soothe skin irritations.
  11. Kidney Vetch has also been used in traditional medicine to treat respiratory ailments and digestive issues.
  12. Some Native American tribes used Kidney Vetch as a food source, consuming its young leaves and shoots.
  13. The plant has been used in traditional dyeing practices to produce yellow and green hues.
  14. Kidney Vetch is sometimes used in soil stabilization and erosion control projects due to its deep root system.
  15. In agriculture, it is occasionally used as fodder for livestock.
  16. The plant is known for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, improving soil fertility.
  17. Kidney Vetch is a larval food plant for several butterfly species, including the Small Blue and Dingy Skipper.
  18. In some regions, Kidney Vetch is considered a threatened or endangered species due to habitat loss and degradation.
  19. The plant is known by various other common names, including Lady's Fingers and Woundwort.
  20. Kidney Vetch has been used in traditional folklore and herbalism for its purported magical properties.
  21. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant in wildflower gardens and naturalistic landscapes.
  22. Kidney Vetch is a hardy plant that can tolerate drought and harsh environmental conditions.
  23. The plant spreads both by seed and by creeping rhizomes.
  24. It has a relatively long flowering period, typically from late spring to early autumn.
  25. Kidney Vetch is adaptable to a wide range of soil pH levels.
  26. Some species of Anthyllis are used in Mediterranean cuisine as a flavoring agent or garnish.
  27. Kidney Vetch has been studied for its potential use in ecological restoration projects.
  28. The plant has been mentioned in literature and poetry throughout history, often symbolizing resilience and endurance.
  29. Kidney Vetch has been introduced to various regions outside of its native range as an ornamental or medicinal plant.
  30. Conservation efforts are underway in some areas to protect and restore habitats where Kidney Vetch grows.


Kidney Vetch filmed in Silverdale, Lancashire on the 27th May 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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