Crown Vetch (Securigera varia)

Crown Vetch 

Crown Vetch is a vine also known as Purple Crown Vetch, Crownvetch and Axseed of the genus Securigera and species varia. This plant is also listed by some authorities as the genus/species, Coronilla varia. It is in the Pea Family (Fabaceae) and the order Fabales. The order and family name comes from the Latin for "bean". The genus name, Securigera, is Latin for "carrying an axe." The other genus name, Coronilla, refers to a crown. The species name indicates that the plant varies in color. The pea-like flowers can be any combination of white, pink or purple. They are grouped in rounded clusters about one inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter that resemble crowns, whence the common name. As shown in the photograph, the flower heads are at the top of curved stems connected to the vine at the leaf axes. The upper petals of each flower, called standard petals, are pink to purple. The side petals, called wings, are often white. This plant flowers from June to August.

The leaves are compound, pinnately divided into 15 or more ovate leaflets arranged opposite along the leaf stalk with the one leaflet extending from the end of the leaf stalk. The leaflets are less than an inch (2.5 centimeters) long. The compound leaves are up to four inches (10 centimeters) long.

The fruit is a seed pod containing reddish-brown seeds.

The root system is a rhizome.

This plant is noted for its nitrogen fixation, thereby enriching the soil. It is also useful for stabilizing soil.

Crown Vetch can be confused with Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Bird Vetch (Vicia cracca), Cow Vetch (Vicia craccea ssp. tenuifolia) and Winter Vetch (Vicia villosa). However, these latter plants have elongated flower clusters and Red Clover has distinctly different leaves. Cow Vetch is not native to Maine.

 

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