Vicia villosa (hairy vetch)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Vicia villosa
Preferred Common Name
- hairy vetch
Other Scientific Names
- Vicia dasycarpa
International Common Names
- English: fodder vetch; Russian vetch; sand vetch; winter vetch; wooly vetch; woolypod vetch; woolypod vetch
- Spanish: arvejilla vellosa; veza vellosa
- French: vesce de Russie; vesce velue
- Russian: vika ozimaâ
- Chinese: chang rou mao ye wan dou
Local Common Names
- Denmark: sandvikke
- Germany: sandwicke; zottelwicke
- Italy: vecccia velllutata
- Japan: hearii-betchi
- Netherlands: bonte wikke
- Portugal: ervilhaca-vilosa
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
V. villosa, commonly known as hairy vetch, is now present on all continents. It is considered as native to southern and central Europe, North Africa, West and Central Asia but its native range is difficult to ascertain because of its wide naturalization after cultivation for fodder production and as a cover crop. V. villosa usually spreads from cultivation to nearby sites where it can be self-maintained. It is a potential contaminant of crop seeds and can behave as an agricultural or environmental weed. Hairy vetch can alter habitat structure and reduce the abundance of native plants through competition for space. It can also poison mammals and poultry. In California, it has been evaluated as an invasive plant but its impacts in wildlands are considered minor (Cal-IPC, 2015).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Papilionoideae
- Genus: Vicia
- Species: Vicia villosa
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
According to The Plant List (2013) there are three accepted subspecific taxa: V. villosa subsp. ambigua (Guss.) Kerguelen, V. villosa subsp. microphylla (d'Urv.) P.W.Ball and V. villosa subsp. varia (Host) Corb.
Different taxonomical treatments are presented in other floras (Romero Zarco, 1999; Tison et al., 2014) where for example V. villosa subsp. ambigua is considered the independent species Vicia pseudocracca Bertol. and V. villosa subsp. varia is treated as V. dasycarpa Ten.
V. eriocarpa (Hausskn.) Halácsy is included as a synonym of V. villosa subsp. varia by The Plant List (2013), but it is considered as a separate subspecies V. villosa Roth subsp. eriocarpa (Hausskn.) P.W.Ball by ILDIS (2015) and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2015) or given species level rank as V. eriocarpa (Hausskn.) Halácsy by other sources (Romero Zarco, 1999; Tison et al., 2014).
DescriptionTop of page
V. villosa is a hairy, occasionally climbing, annual plant (sometimes biennial or perennial) reaching up to 150 cm in height. It has paripinnate compound leaves ending in a ramified tendril, with 5-12 pairs of narrowly elliptical leaflets; stipules eglandular. Papilionaceous flowers (butterfly-like corolla) are blue, violet, purple, or rarely white. The corolla is 10-20 mm and the limb of the standard is nearly half as long as the claw; the calyx gibbous at the base. The inflorescence is a dense raceme with 7-22 flowers; inflorescence peduncle equal or longer than the subtending leaf. The fruit is an elliptic legume 20-40 x (4-)6-12 mm, and brown when mature. There are 2-8 seeds per pod, 3 mm in diameter, often with a hilum measuring 1/12-1/5 of their circumference.
The three recognised subspecies of V. villosa have glabrous or appressed pubescent stems and their lower calyx-teeth are shorter than the tube (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2015).
Plant TypeTop of page
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
It is recorded as native to North Africa, southern and central Europe, West and Central Asia. Its native range is difficult to ascertain however, as it has been widely cultivated and naturalized and is now present on all continents (Ohwi, 1965; Romero Zarco, 1999; Wiersema and León, 2013; Tison et al., 2014; ILDIS, 2015; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2015). It has been widely introduced to the USA in the 1700s and since its arrival it has become one of the most cultivated vetch species.
It is likely to be present in many more countries than are listed in the Distrubtion Table.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|India||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present||Native|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Introduced|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
V. villosa has been widely introduced as a fodder crop. Since its introduction to the USA in the 1700s, V. villosa has become the most commonly cultivated vetch (Heuzé et al., 2014). Records suggest that it was first grown in the UK in 1815 and later recorded in the wild in 1857 (Biological Records Centre, 2015).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||Heuze et al. (2014)|
|Canada||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||CBIF (2015)|
|China||Crop production (pathway cause)||Flora of China Editorial Committee (2015)|
|Ethiopia||Crop production (pathway cause)||Naturalis Biodiversity Center (2015)|
|Guatemala||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||Gunn (1979)|
|Japan||Crop production (pathway cause)||Ohwi (1965)|
|Pakistan||Crop production (pathway cause)||Flora of Pakistan (2015)|
|UK||1815||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||Biological Records Centre (2015)|
|USA||1700s||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||USDA-NRCS (2015)|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
V. villosa is an important fodder crop and has been and still is deliberately introduced for fodder production to countries outside of its native range. It can spread from its site of cultivation to nearby sites (Owsley, 2011; Wiersema and León, 2013) and is a potential contaminant of crop seeds (USDA-ARS, 2015).
HabitatTop of page
It is considered a hardy species, tolerating frost, drought and flooding and can thus inhabit a range of environments including, managed and natural grasslands, agricultural land, disturbed areas, such as roadsides, and edges of cropland and abandoned fields (Lapina and Carlson, 2013).
In Africa, it occupies Mediterranean bushland and thicket, Afromontane (upland) and anthropic landscapes (ILDIS, 2015).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Scrub / shrublands||Principal habitat||Natural|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
V. villosa can be a common weed in vineyards and orchards (France, Italy), in olive (Olea europaea) plantations (Spain), and croplands; affecting maize (Zea mays) (Belgium, Portugal), grain legume crops, spring-summer vegetables (Portugal), winter crops (Belgium, Germany) and rape (Brassica rapa)(Germany) (Hyppa, 2015).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
V. villosa is reported to have a chromosome number of 2n = 14 (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015)
Flowers are usually cross-pollinated by bumble bees (Owsley, 2011), and although some self-pollination may occur; cross-pollination greatly increases seed production (Gunn, 1979). In cultivation this vetch species can be autumn-seeded and reach maturity the following July (Undersander et al., 2015). In North America, V. villosa is grown as an annual or winter annual; if it is sown in late summer the seeds germinate and the seedlings are able to develop a crown before the first snow. In spring, the stems are produced and then flowering takes place in mid-June with the pods maturing from 10-25 July. If the plant is sown in spring it will produce seeds in the same season. Further details on V. villosa development for cultivation in North America can be found in Undersander et al. (2015).
Physiology and Phenology
Flowering and fruiting in the Northern Hemisphere takes place between April and October (Tison et al., 2014; Flora of China Editorial Committee 2015) and between November and March in the in the Southern Hemisphere (Webb et al., 1988). V. villosa has allelopathic properties, conferring an advantage when in cultivation and reducing weed competition (Heuzé et al., 2014).
Information on the persistence of V. villosa seeds in the seed-bank is not consistent; according to Myers (2015) they can remain in the soil seed bank for several years, whereas a study by McKee and Musil (1984; cited by Lapina and Carlson, 2013) affirm that the seeds are viable for less than two years.
Hairy vetch is a hardy species, tolerating frost, drought and flooding (Lapina and Carlson, 2013). Although suited to wetter soils and colder winters, it can be susceptible to winter kill in colder climates without snow cover. It can be found in a range of soils but shows a preference for loamy and sandy soils (Undersander et al., 2015) and grows well on light soils that are too sandy for crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum). It is only moderately sensitive to soil acidity (Owsley, 2011).
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Preferred||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Tolerated||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Preferred||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||430||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Acyrthosiphon pisum||Herbivore||Undersander et al. (2015)|
|Bruchus brachialis||Herbivore||Plants|Seeds||not specific||Owsley (2011)|
|Helicoverpa zea||Herbivore||Undersander et al. (2015)|
|Meloidogyne||Parasite||Undersander et al. (2015)|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
The larvae of the vetch bruchid (Bruchus brachialis) feed on the seeds of V. villosa and can lead to poor reseeding of the plant (Owsley, 2011). The presence of this pest may account for why V. villosa has not been so widely planted in Mexico and Central America (Gunn, 1979). Although B. brachialis is the only pest considered to be a serious problem (Owsley, 2011), other insect pests of forage legumes such as the pea aphid (Acyrthosiphon pisum), cutworm (larvae of Noctuidae moths) and corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea) can affect V. villosa (Undersander et al., 2015).
Root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) can also cause damage to vetch species (Undersander et al., 2015) and V. villosa is sensitive to several fungal diseases.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
V. villosa is a potential contaminant of crop seeds (USDA-ARS, 2015).
It has been deliberately introduced around the world for fodder production (Gunn, 1979; Wiersema and León, 2013) and can escape cultivation to nearby sites where it can be self-maintained (Lapina and Carlson, 2013).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Economic ImpactTop of page
V. villosa can cause poisoning in mammals, including cattle and horses, and poultry (Wiersema and León, 2013; CBIF, 2015). In mammals symptoms include dermatitis and mortality has been recorded in cattle and poultry (CBIF, 2015).
In cattle, two types of syndromes have been suggested. The first syndrome, acute illness followed by death after ingesting raw seeds and the second syndrome, skin lesions, coughing and respiratory problems, and death after two weeks. In horses, symptoms include conjunctivitus and edema around the lips and eyes. Poisoning is most prevalant mid to late spring (CBIF, 2015).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
V. villosa is able to maintain and extend a stand after establishment, usually in arable land, fallow fields or road sides (Owsley, 2011). It has the potential to affect ecosystem processes, altering the nitrogen content in the soil and also soil water availability. It can cause changes to habitat structure through forming dense herbaceous layers and outcompeting native species for space. In California, it has been evaluated as an invasive plant but its impacts in wildlands are considered minor; it is primarily an agricultural weed (Cal-IPC, 2015).
Impact on Biodiversity
It is recognized as an environmental weed and can reduce the number of native species in natural plant communities through competition for space (Lapina and Carlson, 2013). Native bees may also find the flowers of V. villosa more attractive than native plants and so V. villosa may affect the pollination of native plant communities (Lapina and Carlson, 2013).
V. villosa causes poisoning in mammals and can affect cattle, horses and poultry (Wiersema and León, 2013; CBIF, 2015). In mammals, symptoms include dermatitis, and mortality has been recorded in cattle and poultry. Occasionally, poisoning has occurred where V. villosa has been used as forage for livestock (CBIF, 2015).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
UsesTop of page
V. villosa is an important species for forage production, with a high yield (Heuzé et al., 2014). It is widely cultivated as a fodder crop because of its high protein content and as it is a hardy plant which can withstand trampling. V. villosa is also used for erosion control through planting as ground cover, and as a cover crop to improve soil nitrogen content as a green manure (Ohwi, 1965; Owsley, 2011; Wiersema and León, 2013; Flora of Pakistan, 2015; Undersander et al., 2015).
Detection and Inspection Methods
Some botanical expertise is needed to identify and distinguish V. villosa from similar species. Seed identification requires the expertise of a seed identification specialist and possibly germination tests. Useful keys may be found in Flora of China Editorial Committee (2015) and Tison et al. (2014).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Commercial pollinator
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
- Soil improvement
- Green manure
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
V. villosa closely resembles V. cracca but V. cracca has a smooth stem and the limb of the standard is longer than the claw (Tison et al., 2014).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Hand pulling small stands before they seed can reduce the threat to native plants (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2015). Several treatments of a combination of mowing and herbicides should eliminate persistent stands of V. villosa (Owsley, 2011).
Clopyralid and other selective herbicides can be used to control V. villosa (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2015).
ReferencesTop of page
Atlas of Living Australia, 2015. Atlas of Living Australia. http://bie.ala.org.au/
Biological Records Centre, 2015. Online atlas of the British and Irish flora. Wallingford, UK: Biological Records Centre. http://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/
Calflora, 2016. Information on California plants for education, research, and conservation. Berkeley, California, USA: Calflora Database. http://www.calflora.org
Cal-IPC (California Invasive Plant Council), 2015. California Invasive Plants Council. Berkeley, California, USA: California Invasive Plant Council. http://www.cal-ipc.org/
CBIF, 2015. Canadian Poisonous Plant Information System. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Government of Canada. http://www.cbif.gc.ca/eng/species-bank/canadian-poisonous-plants-information-system
Centre for Invasive Species Ecosystem Health, 2015. Invasive.org. Georgia, USA: University of Georgia. http://www.invasive.org
Clark A, 2007. Managing cover crops profitably, 3rd edition. Maryland, USA: Sustainable Agriculture Network, 248 pp. http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/covercropsbook.pdf
Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015. Flora of China. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2
Flora of Pakistan, 2015. Flora of Pakistan/Pakistan Plant Database (PPD). Tropicos website. USA: St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts. http://www.tropicos.org/Project/Pakistan
Frame J, 2015. Vicia villosa Roth. Grassland species profiles. CIAT/FAO collaboration on Tropical Forages. http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/AGPC/doc/Gbase/data/pf000506.htm
HEAR, 2015. Alien species in Hawaii. Hawaii Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/AlienSpeciesInHawaii/index.html
Heuze V; Tran G; Edouard N; Lebas F; Lessire M, 2014. Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. INRA, CIRAD, AFZ, FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/238
HYPPA, 2015. Hypermedia for plant protection: Weeds. Dijon, France: INRA. http://www2.dijon.inra.fr/hyppa
ILDIS, 2015. International Legume Database and Information Service. Reading, UK: School of Plant Sciences, University of Reading. http://www.ildis.org/
Lapina I; Carlson ML, 2013. Vicia villosa weed risk assessment form. Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Natural Heritage Program, University of Alaska. http://aknhp.uaa.alaska.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Vicia_villosa_RANK_VIVI.pdf
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2015. Invasive terrestrial plants. Minnesota, USA: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialplants/index.html
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Myers DK, 2015. Agronomy Facts Sheets: Hairy vetch as an Ohio cover crop. Ohio, USA: Ohio State University. http://ohioline.osu.edu/agf-fact/0006.html
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New Zealand Virtual Herbarium, 2015. NZVH. Auckland, New Zealand: New Zealand National Herbarium Network. http://www.virtualherbarium.org.nz
Owsley M, 2011. Plant fact sheet for hairy vetch (Vicia villosa). Baton Rouge, USA: USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_vivi.pdf
Romero Zarco C, 1999. Vicia in Castroviejo (coor.), Flora Iberica Vol. VII(i). Madrid, Spain: Real Jardin Botanico, CSIC, 360-417. http://www.floraiberica.es/floraiberica/texto/pdfs/07_33%20Vicia.pdf
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ContributorsTop of page
07/04/15: Original text by:
Javier Peralta de Andrés, Herbarium UPNA, Dpto. de Ciencias del Medio Natural, Universidad Pública de Navarra, Spain
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