Yellow Vetches with Pinnate Leaves

Common Kidney Vetch Horseshoe Vetch Horseshoe Vetch Wild Liquorice

What are they?

This group of yellow-flowered plants consists of species that are mostly short annuals or low-growing perennials in the pea family. This family is one of our largest and contains a wide array of species, but all with the 'classic' pea flower. Most species on this page are named vetches and have pinnate leaves, that is to say leaves that are made up of a series of opposite pairs of leaflets. The leaves often terminate in a twining tip known as a tendril, which may be simple or forked.

Where are they found?

This is a diverse assemblage of species but most are to be found in grassy habitats such as roadsides, grassy meadows and heaths and grassy banks.

Identification

Leaf structure and overall flower features will get you into the right area to start with - especially whether the flowers are solitary or in clusters. If present, it is also worth noting details of the seed pods.



Common Kidney Vetch      Anthyllis vulneraria

Native. A common and often abundant plant on grassy heaths in Breckland and on eroding cliffs in northeast Norfolk. Occasional elsewhere, especially where included as part of a sown seed mix. Flowers June to September. A low-growing perennial plant to 40cm - less when growing in cropped turf. Flowers appear in tightly crowded heads, their bases with a distinctive thick coat of white hairs which persists when the flowers go to seed. A deeply fingered, leafy bract surrounds the base of the flowers. Leaves blue-green in colour.

Common Kidney Vetch Common Kidney Vetch Common Kidney Vetch Common Kidney Vetch
Habit
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf


Horseshoe Vetch      Hippocrepis comosa

Native. A rare plant of chalky grassland, confined to a few protected sites in Norfolk and Suffolk but becoming more common west of the region where there is more surface chalk. Flowers May to July. A low-growing perennial plant to 40cm - less when growing in cropped turf. A delicate plant with relatively small leaves and flowers arranged in a regular, circular cluster atop an upright stalk. Fruits distinctive, the pods being made up of a series of horseshoe-shaped loops, with each horseshoe containing a seed.

Horseshoe Vetch Horseshoe Vetch Horseshoe Vetch Horseshoe Vetch
Habit
Flowers
Leaf
Seed pods


Yellow Vetch      Vicia lutea

Native. A rare plant of coastal shingle in southeast Suffolk. Flowers June to August. A low-growing annual plant, straggling to 60cm in height but often less. A typical Vicia species with pinnate leaves, the leaves ending in forked tendrils. Flowers pale, creamy yellow with darker veins; usually solitary but sometimes two or three together. Fruits a typical pea pod, but hairy on the outside.

Yellow Vetch Yellow Vetch
Habit
Flowers


Hairy Yellow Vetch      Vicia hybrida

Introduced from southern Europe. A rare casual with a handful of old records from the region. Flowers June to August. A low-growing annual plant, straggling to 60cm in height but often less. A typical Vicia species with pinnate leaves, the leaves ending in tendrils. Flowers pale, creamy yellow with a yellow patch on the standard; typically solitary in the leaf axils. Fruits a typical pea pod, but hairy on the outside.

Hairy Yellow Vetch Hairy Yellow Vetch
Habit
Flowers


Meadow Vetchling      Lathyrus pratensis

Native. Widespread throughout much of the region in grassy places. Flowers May to August. A scrambling perennial that may reach over a metre in height when climbing over shrubby vegetation. Leaves are pinnate but reduced to just a single pair of leaflets, each leaf then having extensive tendrils at the tip which are used for climbing. The leaf stipules are much enlarged and spear-shaped; they are often more obvious than the leaves themselves and create the impression of spear-shaped leaves. Fruits a narrow pea pod, becoming black when ripe.

Meadow Vetchling Meadow Vetchling Meadow Vetchling Meadow Vetchling
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf
Leaf stipule


Fodder Pea      Lathyrus annuus

Introduced from southern Europe. A rare casual, reported just a couple of times from Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Flowers June to August. A scrambling annual that may reach over a metre in height when climbing over shrubby vegetation. Leaves are pinnate but reduced to just a single pair of narrow, linear leaflets, each leaf then having extensive tendrils at the tip which are used for climbing. The leaf stipules are small with two, linear lobes. The stems are strongly flattened and winged.

Fodder Pea Fodder Pea Fodder Pea Fodder Pea
Habit
Flowers
Leaf section
Stem


Wild Liquorice      Astragalus glycyphyllos

Native. A rare plant of shady banks on chalky soils. Flowers July to August. A spreading perennial that may reach a metre in height. Flowers cream-coloured, sometimes appearing white from a distance. Leaves are pinnate with rounded leaflets, the leaves having no tendrils at the tips.

Wild Liquorice Wild Liquorice Wild Liquorice Wild Liquorice
Habit
Flowers
Leaf
Seed pods