American Vetch

Percy Folkard, BC FLNR
Scientific name: 

Vicia americana Muhl. ex Willd.

Native Legume
Annual precip. min (mm): 
Annual precip. max (mm): 
Seed size: 
Seeds per kg: 
PR Suitability note: 
American vetch is found in native plant communities in the Peace Region.
Key considerations: 
Scarification may be required to improve germination. Maybe suitable for site rehabilitation when there is native plant community objective, and a legume is desired. However, may be difficult to establish.
General Description: 

American vetch is a long-lived, cool season, native perennial legume. It has climbing or trailing tendrils; the name vicia is from the Latin vincio meaning to bind or climb. It is commonly found throughout British Columbia. Its common names include American vetch, wild vetch, stiffleaf vetch, and wild pea. Currently recognized subspecies are Vicia americana ssp. americana and Vicia americana ssp. minor Hook.

It has rhizomatous roots and forms symbiotic root nodules with nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria. It forms a single trailing or climbing stem 15 to 100 cm (6 to 39 in.) tall, and occasionally hairy. Leaves are simple with 8 to 18 leaflets each about 35 mm (1.4 in.) long.

Flowers are bluish purple to reddish purple and pea-like. They have 3 to 9 flowers in a loose terminal cluster. Seed pods are hairless.

Native to British Columbia.
Found from Northwest Territories south to New Mexico, from British Columbia and California east to New Brunswick.
Habitat and climate: 
Common in moist to mesic meadows and open forests. American vetch is common in fescue grasslands and mixedwood forest areas. It also grows along fence lines and road sides. It is listed as an indicator species in BEC classifications for northern British Columbia. It increases and persists with pioneer early-successional stands of deciduous and mixed stands, particularly in the Boreal White and Black Spruce zones. Creamy peavine is also found in association on sites in the Sub-Boreal-Spruce zone on dry to mesic sites with average to above-average nutrient status. This species is associated with medium nutrient status in medium to drier areas of the Sub-Boreal-Pine-Spruce zone.
American vetch is used as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop, as a legume in native seed mixtures for revegetating disturbed areas, and for wildlife and livestock grazing. First Nations used the leaves for poultices, and the pods and seeds for food.
Recovery after use (rating): 
Recovery after use: 
Not tolerant to heavy or continuous grazing; decreases with overgrazing.
Forage yield (rating): 
Forage yield: 
Low yielding but valuable forage for grazing both wildlife (mule deer, grizzly bear, black bear, small mammals, game birds) and livestock (cattle, sheep, horses).
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Highly palatable for mule deer, black or grizzly bears, small mammals, and game birds.
Longevity (rating): 
Invasiveness (rating): 
American vetch is noted as potentially invasive in some regions of the United States. It is not on the E-flora Invasive Plant List for British Columbia.
Competitiveness (rating): 
Weed resistance (rating): 
Erosion control (rating): 
Erosion control: 
Some erosion control value if established.Considered winter hardy where it is adapted in the lowland, steppe, and montane zones.
Drought tolerance (rating): 
Winter hardiness (rating): 
Soil texture preference (rating): 
Soil texture preference: 
Prefers fine or clay soils to medium-textured or loamy soils. It prefers moist to dry soils and full sun.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance : 
Prefers a neutral range of pH levels from 5.9 to 7.2.
Shade tolerance: 
Pests and/or disease threats: 
The vetch bruchid (Brachus trachialis) is an insect pest that may negatively affect natural reseeding in pastures. Also susceptible to Botrytis fungus.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
Ease of establishment: 
Low seedling vigour
Application requirements: 
Spring or fall seeding.
Suggested mixtures: 
In pasture situations, can be mixed with a taller-growing grass or fall rye so that it can climb. Should be mixed with other suitable native species for native plant community restoration, or where native species are desired.
Management considerations: 
Scarification (scratching or etching) of the seed will decrease the germination time from 14 to 7 days, but will not improve overall germination. Managed grazing is required to maintain American vetch in the plant community.