Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide

Common Vetch: Vicia sativa

Weed Description:  A trailing or climing summer annual vine with leaves that are divided into many leaflets.  The vetches are common weeds of roadsides, pastures, landscapes, ornamentals, and some of the winter annuals are weeds of winter small grains.  Common vetch is found throughout Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama.

Seedlings:   No distinct cotyledons emerge.  First true leaves have 1 pair of oppositely arranged linear leaflets.

Leaves:  Each leaf is arranged alternately along the stem and occurs on a petiole.  Leaves are divided into 8 to 16 leaflets that are arranged oppositely from one another (pinnately compound leaves).  Leaflets are oblong to elliptic in outline, either without hairs (glabrous) or with some short hairs, approximately 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches long.  Stipules normally occur at the base of the leaf petiole.  These stipules range from 2 to 10 mm in length, appear to be 'toothed,' and have brown to purple glandular nectaries (stipules are illustrated in the picture below).  Older leaves develop tendrils that help in climbing.

Roots:  A fibrous root system.

cvetch13.jpg (18026 bytes) Stems: Stems climb on other vegetation or trail along the ground.  Stems may reach as much as 3 1/2 feet in length.  Stems may have short hairs or may be without hairs (glabrous).
Flowers:  Occur in the area between the stems and leaf petioles (leaf axils).  Flowers occur in pairs and on flower stalks (peduncles) that range from 2 to 6 mm in length.  Flower petals are usually purple in color but may be rose or sometimes white in color.  Flowers are approximately 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches long.

Fruit:   A flat pod (more correctly called a legume), from 1 1/2 to 3 inches long and 5 to 8 mm wide.

vicia8-26.jpg (109958 bytes) Identifying Characteristics:   The leaves that are divided into 8 to 16 leaflets, the distinct stipule that occurs at the base of the leaf petiole, and the climbing or trailing growth habit are all characteristics that help to distinguish common vetch from most other weed species.   Many other annual and perennial vetches occur in Virginia and the southeastern United States.  They are primarily distinguished by leaflet shape and flower characteristics.