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Crown vetch

Quick facts

Crown vetch is an invasive species. 

  • Crown vetch is found on dunes, degraded prairies, woodland edges, gravel bars along streams, agricultural land and roadsides.

  • It prefers open, sunny spaces.

  • Seeds may be moved by wildlife.

  • Creeping growth pattern allows it to form dense monocultures, covering and shading out native plants.

  • Infestations can take over acres of land over time and reduce species diversity and degrade wildlife habitat.

Crown vetch should be reported. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides detailed recommendations for reporting invasive species

many pink crown vetch plants

How to identify crown vetch

  • Perennial herbaceous legume, growing two to six feet long and arising vertical one to two feet long in a trailing/creeping growth pattern.
  • In winter and early spring, crown vetch (also known as axseed) can be easily recognized as brown unsightly patches.

Stem

  • Long stems can form a tangled mat.

Leaves

  • Pinnately, dark green, feather-like, compound leaflets on both sides of a common stalk.
  • Each stalk has 11–25 pairs of oblong leaflets occurring in odd numbers.

Flowers

  • Clustered in flat-topped, pea-like umbels of 14–20 flowers ranging from pink, lavender to white.
  • The flowers are extended stalks that grow from the leaf axils.
  • Blooms May through August.

Fruit

  • Slender, straw-colored, pointed, segmented seeds, three tenths of an inch long, round, flat and finger shaped.
  • The flowers are in pods two to three inches long, in a crown-like cluster, containing three to seven narrow seeds.

Seeds

  • Slender seeds are contained in finger-like pods.
  • They remain viable in the soil for 15 years.

Roots

  • Spread vegetatively through rhizomes.
  • They can grow up to ten feet long, contributing to extensive vegetative spread.
close up of crown vetch leaves and stem
Crown vetch leaves
close up of pink crown vetch flower
Crown vetch flowers

 

Angela Gupta, Extension educator; Amy Rager, Extension educator; Megan M. Weber, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2019

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