Identifying Crown Vetch
- Creeping, spreading growth habit
- Compound leaves with 15 to 25 oblong leaflets per leaf
- Pinkish-white flowers occurring in clusters from May to August
Crown vetch (Coronilla varia) is a perennial herbaceous plant in the pea/legume family. Native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, southwest Asia and northern Africa, it was initially brought into the United States for erosion control during the 1950s. After its introduction, additional uses included livestock forage, green fertilizer and ornamental ground cover. Planted widely throughout the United States, crown vetch is now naturalized in all but four states. Planting of crown vetch continues today primarily along roadsides and other rights of way to stabilize banks and prevent erosion. Found most frequently within disturbed areas, it also commonly populates open fields, waste grounds and gravel bars along streams. Crown vetch tolerates a variety of environmental conditions and grows in dry to moist
soils. However, it prefers open, sunny areas and is intolerant of full shade. Creeping stems, growing 2 to 6 feet long, result in large clumps of crown vetch. Leaves are compound, consisting of 15 to 25 (always odd numbered) oblong leaflets 1 to 2 inches long. Pea-like, pinkish-white flowers occur in clusters at the end of long stalks and bloom from May through August. The flowers develop into long, narrow, flattened pods containing slender seeds. Crown vetch seeds prolifically, with a persistent seed bank remaining viable for up to 15 years. Spreading vegetatively, rhizomes can reach lengths of 10 feet, rapidly expanding stands of crown vetch.