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Bitter Vetch

Lathyrus linifolius

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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, 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, 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:
40 centimetres tall
Grassland, heathland, hedgerows, meadows, rocky places, scrub, wasteland, woodland.

Purple, 5 petals
An early flowering plant of the pea family. Reddish-purple flowers, later fading to a bluish hue. Flowers are on long stalks. The dark bluish-green sepals are joined.
Reddish brown pods, up to 4.5cm long.
Pinnate leaves. 2 to 4 pairs of slender leaflets terminating into a point. No tendrils.
Other Names:
Bitter Vetch, Flax-leaved Everlasting Pea, Heath Pea, Tuberous Pea.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Lathyrus linifolius, also known as the flax-leaved everlasting pea, is a species of flowering plant in the pea family (Fabaceae) that is native to Europe and Asia. It typically grows as a climbing vine and produces pink or purple flowers. The leaves are linear and resemble those of flax. The plant is tolerant of poor soils and can grow in a range of habitats including waste places and rocky ground. It is considered a weed in some areas and can be invasive.


Bitter Vetch (Lathyrus linifolius) is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the pea family (Fabaceae). It is an annual plant that grows in areas of Europe, Asia and North Africa.

This plant species is known for its unique and medicinal properties. The seeds of Bitter Vetch contain high levels of amino acids and are rich in vitamins and minerals, making them a valuable food source for many cultures. The seeds are also used to treat a variety of health conditions, including digestive issues and arthritis.

In terms of its appearance, Bitter Vetch has delicate, linear leaves and produces clusters of small, pink or purple flowers. It can grow up to 50 cm tall and can be found in various habitats, including rocky and dry soils, along roadsides and near agricultural land.

Despite its many benefits, Bitter Vetch is not widely cultivated, due to its bitter taste and the fact that it is a plant species that is not well-known to many people. However, with increasing interest in traditional and alternative medicine, it is gaining recognition as a valuable plant species.

Bitter Vetch is an important plant species to protect, as it is a source of food and medicine for many communities, as well as playing a role in the ecosystem by attracting pollinators and fixing nitrogen in the soil. It is important to maintain its populations in the wild and to promote sustainable use of its resources.

Bitter Vetch is a unique and valuable plant species that is worthy of recognition and protection. Its seeds are a valuable food source and its medicinal properties make it an important plant for traditional and alternative medicine.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, Bitter Vetch also has ornamental value. Its delicate, linear leaves and small clusters of pink or purple flowers make it an attractive addition to any garden. Furthermore, its tolerance for dry and rocky soils means it can grow well in areas that other plants may struggle with. This makes it a great option for those who are looking for a low-maintenance plant for their garden.

Bitter Vetch is also a hardy plant that can survive in difficult growing conditions. It can withstand harsh weather, such as heavy rain and strong winds, as well as being able to tolerate droughts. This resilience makes it a good choice for those who live in areas with challenging climates.

Despite its many benefits, Bitter Vetch is considered to be a threatened species in some parts of the world. This is due to a combination of habitat loss, over-harvesting, and the introduction of non-native plant species. In order to protect this valuable plant species, it is important to promote sustainable use of its resources and to protect its habitats.

Bitter Vetch is a valuable and versatile plant species that deserves recognition and protection. With its culinary, medicinal, and ornamental value, as well as its resilience to difficult growing conditions, it is a great option for those who are looking for a low-maintenance and useful plant for their garden or landscape. By promoting sustainable use of its resources and protecting its habitats, we can ensure that future generations are able to enjoy the many benefits of this unique plant species.

Furthermore, Bitter Vetch can also play an important role in agroforestry systems. The plant can be grown alongside other crops, such as corn, wheat, and beans, to provide additional nitrogen to the soil, which can improve soil fertility and increase crop yields. This makes Bitter Vetch a valuable addition to small-scale and subsistence farming systems in developing countries.

In terms of its medicinal properties, Bitter Vetch has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. The seeds contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antirheumatic effects, making them useful in treating conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. Additionally, the seeds have a calming effect on the digestive system, making them useful in treating digestive issues such as indigestion and constipation.

Bitter Vetch is also a valuable source of food for both humans and livestock. The seeds are rich in protein and essential amino acids, making them a valuable source of nutrition for those who live in food-insecure areas. The leaves of the plant can also be consumed as a vegetable, either cooked or raw.

In conclusion, Bitter Vetch is a valuable plant species with many benefits. Its culinary, medicinal, ornamental, and agroforestry uses make it a versatile and useful plant for both rural and urban communities. By promoting sustainable use of its resources and protecting its habitats, we can ensure that future generations are able to enjoy its many benefits.


Bitter Vetch filmed in Ravenstonedale, Cumbria on the 14th May 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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