Spotlight on... Common Vetch

Common Vetch
Common Vetch © Roselle Chapman

in partnership with Wild Oxfordshire

Common Vetch

Common Vetch (Vicia sativa), is not just decorative but has been grown for centuries as nutritious livestock fodder. It is also used as green manure due to its ability to grow quickly and produce its own nitrates, making it a useful fertiliser.

If you take a closer look, you will see that it has tiny dark purple dots at the base of the leaf petiole. These are extrafloral nectaries, which produce a sugary nectar solution, which forms the basis of a fascinating mutually beneficial relationship with ants.

Whilst seeking out the nectar, the ants patrol the plant and predate other small, sap sucking insects and remove other larger ones, such as caterpillars. Through this relationship, the plant suffers less damage from insect pests and sets more seeds, and the ants get their protein and carbs without having to travel far.

In experiments, scientists found that when the nectaries were removed from plants, the ants stayed away from the plant and the vetches suffered more leaf damage, proving that a little extra investment in producing nectar pays off for the plant.

Isn’t nature amazing?!

Where can you find Common Vetch?

If you are passing an unmown road verge or patch of grassland, then look out for Common Vetch.

Have you seen any Common Vetch?

If you spot any wildlife when you’re out and about, share your records and photos with TVERC. By letting TVERC know what you have seen you will help protect and improve your local environment by increasing the quality and quantity of data we hold. Photographs are always helpful too, as we keep an image gallery of species found in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

Absence records are also very useful, so also let us know if you’ve been out and haven’t seen anything!

Your records can inform a variety of exciting biodiversity projects and help people make informed decisions about how to develop and manage land sustainably. We are a ‘not for profit’ organisation so rely on valuable help from skilled volunteers to improve our database.

Where should we direct our spotlight next?

If you are a recorder, a local recording group or just have an interest in a species, send us your suggestion for a species, along with some facts and a photo (if possible) to