Characteristics: Hairy vetch is an introduced annual cool-season forb. It belongs to the family Fabaceae (legume family). Many species in this family, including hairy vetch, have the ability to fix nitrogen. Hairy vetch is native to Europe and western Asia. It grows to six feet tall and has pinnately compound leaves with 10 to 20 leaflets that often terminate in tendrils. Its stems are decumbent, ascending, twining or climbing. The inflorescence consists of five to 60 white to purple flowers in a raceme, which is apparent in April to August depending on latitude (late April through May in Oklahoma). The fruit is a relatively short, fat dehiscent pod. Hairy vetch is winter hardy, and it is the only species of vetch that can be fall-seeded and reach maturity the following summer. It is naturalized in Oklahoma and reseeds under proper management.
Area of Importance: There are about 150 species of vetch, and about 25 species are native to the United States. Hairy vetch is cultivated throughout much of the United States and other temperate climates of the world. Since it is winter hardy, it is the only vetch that may survive in the upper Midwest. Hairy vetch grows well on a wide range of soil types, but it is best adapted to loamy and sandy soils. It is tolerant of soils with high pH.
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