Vicia villosa ssp. varia (Host) Corb.

Woolly Vetch


CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 1

© SRTurner

Family - Fabaceae/Faboideae

Habit - Taprooted annual or biennial forb.

Stems - Sprawling to clambering or climbing (by means of tendrils on leaves), to 1 m, glabrous or sparsely pubescent with incurved to loosely appressed hairs 0.5-1.0 mm long..

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_stem.jpg Stem, node, and stipule.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, even-pinnate, stipulate, with 12-18 leaflets, the petiole absent or to 3 mm long, the terminal tendrils branched. Stipules 5-8 mm long, lacking a glandular spot, with a narrowly triangular basal lobe, the margins otherwise entire. Leaflets mostly 10-25 mm long, 2-4 mm wide, those of the lower leaves not strongly reduced, narrowly oblong-lanceolate to narrowly elliptic or linear, rounded to more commonly angled or tapered at the base, variously rounded to bluntly or sharply pointed at the tip, the midvein often extended as a minute, sharp point at the very tip, the surfaces glabrous or sparsely appressed-hairy.

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_leaflets1.jpg Leaflets adaxial.

© SRTurner

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_leaflets2.jpg Leaflets abaxial.

© SRTurner

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_leaf.jpg Pressed leaf.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Axillary racemes, the stalk densely hairy, 3-9 cm long, the flowers 10-25, each with a stalk 1-2 mm long. Flowers nodding.

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyces often bluish-or purplish-tinged, the tube 2-3 mm long, the base strongly oblique and conspicuously pouched on 1 side, the attachment appearing lateral, the lobes 0.5-3.0 mm long, strongly unequal, the upper pair short and triangular to broadly triangular, the lowermost 2-3 mm long, much longer than the upper pair, narrowly triangular to lanceolate-triangular, or more or less hairlike above a short, triangular base, glabrous to sparsely hairy. Corollas papilionaceous, 12-16 mm long, blue to purple or rarely pink or white, the keel and wings sometimes lighter than the banner, the banner bent or curved upward toward the tip, strongly curved around the wings and keel. Stamens with the fused portion 9-10 mm long, the free portion 1.5-3.0 mm long. Style with a dense ring of short hairs at the base and a patch of dense short hairs on the lower side near the tip.

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_calyx.jpg Calyces.

© DETenaglia

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_white_flowers.jpg White form.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Compressed legumes 25-30 mm long, 7-10 mm wide, short-stalked, sometimes finely hairy when young, glabrous at maturity, straw-colored to light brown at maturity, 3-7-seeded. Seeds 3.5-5.0 mm long, dark reddish brown to greenish brown or nearly black, often with darker mottling, more or less circular in outline, not or only slightly flattened, the attachment scar not raised, dark brown, inconspicuous, extending less than 1/4 the circumference of the seed.

Vicia_villosa_ssp_varia_fruit.jpg Fruit.

© DETenaglia

Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Fields, pastures, levees, roadsides, railroads, open disturbed areas.

Origin - Native to Europe.

Lookalikes - V. villosa ssp. villosa, V. americana.

Other info. - This rather striking species is found in scattered locations throughout Missouri, often along roadsides, and in similarly scattered fashion throughout the continental U.S. It is probably more common than collection records indicate, as it tends to be ignored by many botanists. It is easily recognized by its showy inflorescences of numerous pendent flowers, which are usually purple. The plants typically clamber on other vegetation by means of tendrils. They can grow very aggressively and form large monospecific tangles of plants.

The subspecies shown on this page, ssp. varia, has stems and calyces which are glabrous or only sparsely and inconspicuously pubescent. The other Missouri form, ssp. villosa, which appears to be somewhat more common in the state, has stems which are conspicuously hairy. Some authors have elevated these entities to the species level, or have combined them into a single taxon. Alternate names for the plant on this page, or very closely related forms, include V. villosa var. glabrescens W.D.J. Koch and V. dasycarpa Ten.

Photographs taken off Hwy 19 near Salem, MO., 5-18-03 (DETenaglia); also near Labadie, Franklin County, MO, 5-26-2013, and at Marais Temps Clair Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 5-31-2021 (SRTurner).