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Common Vetch: It’s Not Clover, But It’s Not Bad!

Jed Dillard, Jefferson County Extension

It’s not clover but it’s not bad!

If you have been watching anxiously for your clover to come up, you may have seen green leaves coming up whichare definitely NOT clover. Maybe you have seen them on ditch banks, in your lawn or other places you know nothing was planted. The good news it is a plant which is on your side.

It is common vetch (vicia sativa) and is a reseeding annual legume. It does not provide as much nitrogen as the clovers, but it does not take much maintenance. It requires less moisture and lime than most other legumes.  As with most plants growing wild, low input requirements are related to lower outputs and it will not provide the tonnage higher input species do.

Common vetch was introduced from Europe in the 1800’s and is adapted to many well drained soil types. It is not suited for heavy grazing, but is a useful component of the grazing diet. It has also been used in mixtures with grains, as a cover crop and in wildlife food plots. In spring, purple flowers appear, the flowers produce small bean like seed pods and these pods spring open when mature. This makes mechanical harvest difficult, but helps seeds disperse from the parent plant.

No, it is not fantastic forage producer, but in dry times like these we can use all the help we can get.

For web information on Vetch:  Forages of Florida and other forage crops go to :

For site specific recommendations, contact your County Extension Agent.


Vetch is a native legume that can be planted for cool season forage.

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