Last week, Ian Bushell found and photographed bush vetch (Vicia sepium) near Puddle Corner.
Bush vetch is a perennial, leguminous, climbing plant that grows in hedgerows, grasslands and on the edges of woodland throughout the whole of England and eastern parts of Wales. Officially its conservation status is common and widespread.
At the end of each leaf stem, bush vetch has branched tendrils which curl around surrounding plants and hold the plant upright. The stems are lax and straight, not branched at all, and can grow up to a metre in length; without the support of the plants around them, they would just flop and fall to the ground.
1. Two to six flowers on a short flower stalk; 2. tendrils at the end of the leaf stem.
The flower stalks are very short with from two to six sessile flowers on each. The flowers have a distinctive blueish tinge, almost as if they are bruised and already withering; they are very similar to the flowers of common vetch (Vicia sativa) but the latter are a clear bright pink.
We are trying to encourage all sorts of vetches into the park as food plants for our invertebrates. Bush vetch flowers between May and August, and occasionally right into November; it supports a variety of generalist legume feeders such as beetles and caterpillars, while bumblebees and honeybees seek out the flowers for their nectar.
Header image: Bush vetch (Vicia sepium) by Ivar Leidus (CC BY-SA 3.0) Google Images