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Wood bitter-vetch belongs to the genus Vicia , which contains about 160 species (known by the English common name 'vetch') distributed throughout the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere and temperate South America. Many of these are cultivated for food and fodder. Vicia orobus is an unusual species in the genus due to its erect habit, and the absence of the tendrils used for climbing that are typical of most Vicia species.

Vicia orobus (wood bitter-vetch)

[ILDIS]

International Legume Database and Information Service

Morphology General Habit
Perennial, Not climbing, Herb
Vernacular
Goroshek Sochevichnikovyi, Wood Bitter-vetch

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Wood bitter-vetch is an erect herb related to the world-renowned broad bean ( Vicia faba), a member of the pea and bean family (Leguminosae).

Wood bitter-vetch belongs to the genus Vicia , which contains about 160 species (known by the English common name 'vetch') distributed throughout the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere and temperate South America. Many of these are cultivated for food and fodder. Vicia orobus is an unusual species in the genus due to its erect habit, and the absence of the tendrils used for climbing that are typical of most Vicia species.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Found in Western Europe, from northern Spain to Norway, wood bitter-vetch occurs at up to 2,380 metres above sea level. A significant proportion of the world's population occurs in Great Britain and Ireland, where it is primarily an upland species usually found between 200-300 metres above sea level, reaching 430 metres in Afton Glen, but descending to sea-level north of Lochinver.

In Great Britain it grows in association with a wide range of species including Alchemilla glabra , Carex pallescens , Genista anglica , Pseudorchis albida , Rhinanthus minor , Stachys officinalis and Viola lutea , in scattered localities throughout western England, Wales and Scotland. It is local and declining in central, west and north Ireland.

A favourite habitat in Great Britain is the stony edges of small enclosed fields of unimproved grassland from which sheep are excluded in summer to allow a hay crop to grow.

Description

Vicia orobus is a hairless, long-lived perennial herb with slender, winged, erect stems. It grows to a height of 60 cm and has pinnate leaves, ending in a minute point instead of a tendril.

It flowers in early to mid-summer, from May to July. The inflorescence is short and rounded with a long stalk, and bears 6-20 flowers. The flowers are lilac-white with lilac or purple veins, and are 12-15 mm in diameter.

Pollination is normally performed by bees. The fruit is a hairless, yellowish-brown, pointed pod 20-30 mm long.

It is closely allied to Vicia cassubica L., which replaces it from central France eastwards.

Threats and conservation

Vicia orobus suffers under both overgrazing and undergrazing, as well as grassland improvement (fertilisation, re-seeding etc.) and land reclamation.

In Ireland, Vicia orobus is thought to be threatened by habitat loss, and is being protected by the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland through the Irish Threatened Plant Species Conservation Programme. It has been assessed as a species that could become endangered by 2050 due to climate change. In Wales, the Local Biodiversity Action Plan for Lowland Meadows in Powys, is also trying to conserve the species.

Conservation assessments carried out by Kew

Vicia orobus is being monitored as part of the 'IUCN Sampled Red List Index for Plants', which aims to produce conservation assessments for a representative sample of the world's plant species. This information will then be used to monitor trends in extinction risk and help focus conservation efforts where they are needed most.

Uses

None known, although other vetches have many uses, for example as forage crops. Vetches also play an important ecological role by fixing nitrogen and hence enhancing soil fertility, and are therefore economically important and used as 'green manure'. In parts of Asia and the Mediterranean the seeds of some Vicia species are eaten much like lentils. Vetches are particularly attractive to certain insects, such as Lycaenid butterflies or 'blues'.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 25 g

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One

Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive drying without significant reduction in their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)

Cultivation

In general, vetches can be cultivated successfully under a wide range of conditions, and are well-adapted for growth in poor soils. Vicia orobus is no exception, being very easy to grow, coping well with drier conditions and needing only some support, such as brushwood stakes, to grow through in the spring. Vicia orobus germinates readily from seed.

This species at Kew

Wood bitter-vetch can be seen growing in the Plant Family Beds at Kew Gardens.

Distribution
United Kingdom
Ecology
Woodland margins, heathland, meadows and rocky places; often on limestone; frequently on banks, borders and field edges.
Conservation
Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

None known, but some vetches are poisonous to humans and livestock, containing cyanogenic glycosides (e.g. common vetch Vicia sativa), or the amino acid canavanine (e.g. hairy vetch Vicia villosa).

[KSP]
Use
None known (although other vetches are grown as forage, green manure or for their edible seeds).

Native to:

Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland

English
Wood bitter-vetch

Vicia orobus DC. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Mar 1, 1981 Simpson, N.D. [176/4], United Kingdom K000790863
Mar 1, 1981 Davis, T.A.W. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790893
Mar 1, 1981 Melville, R. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790892
Mar 1, 1981 Hall, P.M. [3539], Great Britain K000790905
Lowne, B.T. [25], Great Britain K000790860
Thurston, E. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790865
Devis, H.F. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790866
Barclay, W. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790907
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790904
Arnalt, J.E. [405], Great Britain K000790871
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790890
Richards, M.A.E. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790882
Lowne, B.T. [s.n.], Great Britain K000790909
Wilson, A. [176], Great Britain K000790874
Horner, C.S. [s.n.], Great Britain K000790861
Turner, J. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790900
Gregor, A.G. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790891
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790888
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790879
Cumming, L. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790884
Nicholls, C.W. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790868
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790897
Oliver, D. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790876
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790906
Salmon, C.E. [s.n.], Great Britain K000790858
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790886
Murray, R.P. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790908
Drummond-Hay, H.M. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790899
Hall, P.M. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790873
Sprague, T.A. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790877
Richards, M.A.E. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790880
Nicoll, J.S. [10689], United Kingdom K000790898
Salmon, C.E. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790889
Barton, W.C. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790869
Lowne, B.T. [25], Great Britain K000790859
Cleminshaw, E. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790881
Devis, H.F. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790867
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790901
Wise, W. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790855
Balfour, J.H. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790902
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790896
Smith-Pearse, J.N.H. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790864
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790878
Richards, M.A.E. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790883
Butler, T. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790894
Gardiner, W. [s.n.], Great Britain K000790895
Wilson, A. [440], Great Britain K000790870
Thompson, H.S. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790857
s.coll. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790885
s.coll. [s.n.], Great Britain K000790875
Thurston, E. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790862
Jackson, N.R. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000790903
Thurston, E. [s.n.], Great Britain K000790856
Summerhayes, V.S. [1883], Great Britain K000790887

First published in J.B.A.M.de Lamarck & A.P.de Candolle, Fl. Franç., ed. 3, 5: 577 (1815)

Accepted by

  • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1968). Flora Europaea 2: 1-469. Cambridge University Press.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Allkin, R., Goyder, D.J., Bisby, F.A. & White, R.J. (1986). Names and synonyms of species and subspecies of the Viciae. Issue 3. Vicieae Database Project, Publication No. 7.
  • Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (2003). Cassell's Wild Flowers of Britain & Northern Europe. Domino Books Ltd.
  • Cooper, M.R. and Johnson, A.W. (1998). Poisonous Plants and Fungi in Britain: Animal and Human Poisoning. 2nd edition. The Stationery Office, London.
  • Enneking, D. (1995). The toxicity of Vicia species and their utilisation as grain legumes. Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) Occasional Publication No. 6, University of Western Australia, Nedlands W.A. (First edition, Enneking, D. (1994) PhD thesis, University of Adelaide).
  • Gibbons, B. & Brough, P. (2007). Philip's Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe. Philip's Limited, London.
  • Kupicha, F. K. (1976). The infrageneric structure of Vicia. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 34: 287-326.
  • Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, J. M. (eds) (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Lopez, L. (2010). Vicia orobus. Assessment using IUCN Categories and Criteria 3.1 (IUCN 2001). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • National Botanic Gardens of Ireland (2010). Threatened Plants in Ireland. (Accessed September 2010).
  • Roden, C.M. (1995). Wood bitter-vetch Vicia orobus DC on lake islands and limestone heath in Co. Galway and Mayo. Irish Nat. J. 25: 128–134.
  • Sell, P. & Murrell, G. (2009). Flora of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol. 3. Mimosaceae-Lentibulariaceae. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Stace, C. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles. Third Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Stewart, A., Pearman, D. A. & Preston, C. D. (1994). Scarce plants in Britain. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1968). Flora Europaea 2: 1-469. Cambridge University Press.

International Legume Database and Information Service

  • Cheffings, C. (2004). New Plt. Status Lists for G. B. BSBI News 95: 36-43.
  • Roskov, Yu. R. (1997). Editing data for CD publication.

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
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International Legume Database and Information Service
International Legume Database and Information Service (ILDIS) V10.39 Nov 2011
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Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
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