The cultivars of this vetch had been formerly erroneously referred to Vicia dasycarpa - e.g. Cultivars 'Lana' and 'Auburn'[
Cracca bertolonii Gren. & Godr.
Cracca dasycarpa Alef.
Cracca elegantissima Shuttlew.
Cracca varia Godr. & Gren.
Cracca varia Host
Cracca villosa (Roth) Gren. & Godr.
Ervum villosum (Roth) Trautv.
Vicia ambigua Guss.
Vicia bivonae Ser.
Vicia boissieri Heldr. & Sart. ex Boiss.
Vicia consentina Spreng.
Vicia dasycarpa Ten.
Vicia elegans Guss.
Vicia elegantissima Rouy
Vicia elegantissima Shuttlew.
Vicia eriocarpa (Hausskn.) Halácsy
Vicia glabrescens (Koch) Heimerl
Vicia glabrescens A.Kern.
Vicia godronii A.W.Hill
Vicia microphylla d'Urv.
Vicia plumosa Martrin-Donos
Vicia polyphylla Desf.
Vicia polyphylla Waldst. & Kit.
Vicia pseudocracca Bertol.
Vicia pseudovillosa Schur
Vicia reuteriana Boiss. & Buhse
Vicia salaminia Boiss.
Vicia varia Host
Vicia vulcanica Huet.
Common Name: Large Russian Vetch
Photograph by: AnRo0002
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Vicia villosa is a herbaceous annual to perennial climbing plant with much-branched stems up to 2 metres long that trail over the ground or scramble up the surrounding vegetation, attaching themselves by means of tendrils[
The plant is occasionally harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine, and was at one time occasionally cultivated[
]. It is often cultivated as a green manure and cover plant in several countries, especially N. China and in orchards in California[
This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed[
]. The plant can become a serious weed in cereals[
There is some evidence that the seed may be toxic but this has only been shown under laboratory conditions, there are no recorded cases of poisoning by this plant in Britain[
The seeds contain the anti-nutritional compound L-canavanine, a competitive inhibitor of arginine decarboxylase. This is removed by soaking the seeds in water prior to cooking and discarding the soak water[
Eurasia - Germany to Portugal, east to Ukraine and the Caucasus, through Bulgaria to Turkey and Israel; N. Africa - Macaronesia, Morocco to Egypt
Cultivated land and waste places, avoiding acid soils and shady positions[
]. Grassy mountain slopes; at elevations from 1,000 - 2,200 metres in Iraq[
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Vicia villosa is a plant of the temperate zone, where it is found at elevations up to 2,200 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 12 - 22°c, but can tolerate 2 - 28°c[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -5°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 700 - 900mm, but tolerates 300 - 1,700mm[
Species in this genus generally succeed in any well-drained soil in a sunny position if the soil is reliably moist throughout the growing season, otherwise they are best grown in semi-shade[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6 - 7, tolerating 4.9 - 8.2[
]. Established plants are moderately drought tolerant[
The plant regenerates well, except on bare, hard-setting soil surfaces[
The plant provides a good groundcover within 70 - 90 days, flowers after 115 - 190 days, and matures in 135 - 255 days[
The plant reputedly has allelopathic properties that help suppress weeds[
This species is not very deep rooting[
Plants are somewhat self-fertile, though fertilization is greatly increased with insect pollination.
The plant has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
]. No more details are given.
Used as a vegetable[
]. No more details are given.
The plant has been used as a dematological and gastrointestinal aid taken for the treatment of sores and stomach pain respectively[
Used as a spring or autumn sown green manure. The seed can be sown in September to overwinter, or as late as October for a greenhouse green manure[
]. It is grown as a cover crop in orchards in California[
It has been widely used within its native range for revegetating critical areas and stabilizing soils on roadbanks, channel banks, dikes, and dams. In these situations, it has added attractiveness because of the beauty of its flowers[
The plant has been used successfully to suppress such weeds as star thistle and medusahead, an unpalatable grass invading annual range. Because it can be established from direct seeding without seed preparation, it offers a very practical method of weed control on rough terrain[
Seed - sow in situ in spring or autumn. It has a hard seedcoat and may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing.