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Weed Identification

common vetch



Scientific Name

Vicia sativa

Other Common Names:

garden vetch


Trailing or climbing vine


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 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).

Identifying Characteristics

A trailing or climbing 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. 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.

Flower Seed Head

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.

Seed Fruit

Fruit: A flat pod (more correctly called a legume), from 1 1/2 to 3 inches long and 5 to 8 mm wide. Seedlings: No distinct cotyledons emerge. First true leaves have 1 pair of oppositely arranged linear leaflets.

Where Found

Common vetch is found throughout Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama.

Growth Habit

upright and nonwoody

Thorns or Spines

not present

Approximate Flower Diameter


Dominant Flower Color


Flower Symmetry

bilateral symmetry

Leaf Hairs

has hairs

Leaf Shape


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Margin


Leaf Structure


Leaf Stalk

shorter than leaf

Stem Hairs

no hairs

Stem Cross Section

round or oval

Milky Sap

not present

Life Cycle

summer annual


not present

Plant Type