Russian Vetch

Vicia villosa Roth.

Synonyms - Vicia villosa ssp. dasycarpa (Woolly-pod Vetch)

Family: - Fabaceae


Vicia is the Latin name for vetch.

Villosa refers to it hairy or villous nature.

Other Names:

Woolly-pod Vetch



An often hairy, running, annual to perennial herb or vine with leaves that have 6-8 pairs of leaflets and a terminal, branched tendril. Clusters of narrow, purple pea type flowers produce short fat pods with 3-5 dark mottled seeds.



Two. Remain underground if buried. Round.

First leaves:

The first leaves have a small residual tendril and 1-2 pairs of spear shaped leaflets with a pointed tip, smooth edges, a tapering base, green nodes and a few scattered hairs. The stipule is small and parallel sided.



Twining branched tendril at the end of the leaf which has 4-12 pairs of leaflets that are opposite to somewhat alternate. Overall the leaf is 50-110 mm long.

Stipules - Smooth edged, 8 mm long

Petiole - of leaf very short. Petiole of leaflets, none to very short.

Blade of leaflet - Narrowly oval, 5-30 mm long by 2-8 mm wide. Tip round pointed with a small spine where the midrib extends beyond the blade. Sides convex. Base tapered. Surface hairy to hairless.


Up to 1000 mm long. Hairy.

Flower head:

Long dense spikes like racemes of 2-30 flowers arising from leaf axils. Flowers are rarely single. Flower head stalk 25-70 mm long.


Purple pink pea type, occasionally with white or yellow wings, 10-20 mm long.

Ovary -

Calyx - 10 mm long. Unequal teeth.

Petals - Purple-pink and sometimes with white or yellow wings.

Stamens -

Anthers -


Oblong pod, 20-40 mm long by 6-12 mm wide with 2-8 seeds. Hairy or hairless.


Blackish brown and mottled, globular, 3-5 mm diameter. Yellow flesh when split. Surface smooth and hairless and occasionally with a few large dimples.


Taproot. Perennial rootstock on some subspecies.

Key Characters:

Stipules 3-6 mm long without glands, smaller and narrower than leaves

Leaves ending in a tendril.

Leaflets even in number, 2 to many pairs

Apex of leaflets usually shortly mucronate

Racemes mostly 10-30 flowered, rachis no extended beyond the last flower.

Peduncle 25-70 mm long

Flowers10-20 mm long

Pods 20-50 mm long

For Subspecies

ssp villosa -

Leaflets mostly 10-35 mm long by 2-8 mm wide

Stems with dense spreading hairs.

Racemes 10-20 flowered

Flowers 10-20 mm long

Calyx teeth longer than tube.

Pod glabrous

ssp eriocarpa = Vicia dasycarpa

Leaflets mostly 5-15 mm long by 1-5 mm wide

Stems with glabrous or sparsely hairy, sometimes appressed-pubescent.

Racemes 5-20 flowered

Flowers 10-16 mm long

Calyx teeth shorter than tube.

Pod pubescent at least when young.

ssp microphylla

Leaflets mostly 3-10 mm long by 1-4 mm wide

Stems with glabrous or sparsely hairy, sometimes appressed-pubescent.

Racemes 2-6 flowered or 2-10 flowered with purple violet or white wings.

Flowers 10-16 mm long

Calyx teeth shorter than tube.

Pod glabrous or pubescent

ssp varia

Leaflets mostly 10-30 mm long by 2-8 mm wide

Stems with glabrous or sparsely hairy, sometimes appressed-pubescent.

Racemes 10-30 flowered

Flowers 10-16 mm long

Calyx teeth shorter than tube.

Pod glabrous

ssp pseudocracca

Leaflets mostly 5-20 mm long by 1-5 mm wide

Stems with glabrous or sparsely hairy, sometimes appressed-pubescent.

Racemes 2-10 flowered

Flowers 10-16 mm long

Wings usually yellow

Calyx teeth shorter than tube.

Pod glabrous

Adapted from Gwen Harden.


Life cycle:

Annual or perennial. Woolly-pod Vetch (Vicia villosa ssp. dasycarpa) is an annual. Seeds germinate in the autumn to winter and the plant grows over the cooler months, flowers in spring and dies back in summer.



By seed.

Flowering times:

Winter to Spring in NSW.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Perennial rootstock.


4 subspecies are recognised.

Woolly-pod vetch (Vicia villosa ssp. dasycarpa)


Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed.

Origin and History:

Europe, West Asia, Middle East.







Plant Associations:





Weed of crops and gardens.


Stock may suffer from grain poisoning on dense mature areas especially after rain.





Management and Control:

Grazing normally provides control.


Eradication strategies:

Prevent seed set for 5 years by grazing, mowing, pulling or applying herbicides.

Hand spray with 1 g of chlorsulfuron(700g/kg) plus 25 mL wetting agent in 10 L of water or boom spray with 20 g/ha chlorsulfuron(700g/kg) in autumn to early winter each year. Hand pull survivors in spring before seed set.

For small infestations and in grass dominant areas an annual application of 10 mL Tordon®75-D in 10 L water in early winter gives excellent control of existing plants and has residual activity to control seedlings.

In bushland, 200 g/ha Lontrel®750 or 50 g/ha Logran® applied in early winter provides reasonably selective control. For hand spraying use 25 mL wetting agent plus 4 g Lontrel®750 or 1 g Logran® in 10 L water. Repeat annually for several years.

Plant tall growing perennial species to reduce re-invasion.

Metsulfuron also provides good control but is less residual and less selective. It is relatively tolerant to glyphosate.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported

Biological Control:

Related plants:

Broad Bean (Vicia faba var. major)

Common Vetch (Vicia sativa ssp. sativa) has leaves are divided like a feather into 3-10 pairs of small narrow leaflets, each 8-30 mm long. It has pink to purple pea flowers, each 10-20 mm long and either single or in few-flowered clusters. The seed pod is narrow, slightly flattened and 30-50 mm long.

Hairy Vetch (Vicia hirsuta) has an elongated inflorescence of several small flowers each only 2-3 mm long and small, 6-9 mm long hairy seed pods.

Horse Bean (Vicia faba var. equina)

Narbon Bean (Vicia narbonensis)

Narrow-leaved Vetch (Vicia sativa ssp. nigra)

Narrowleaf Vetch (Vicia sativa ssp. angustifolia)

Purple Vetch (Vicia benghalensis, Vicia atropurpurea)

Russian Vetch (Vicia villosa ssp.)

Slender Vetch (Vicia tetrasperma)

Spurred Vetch (Vicia monantha)

Tick Bean (Vicia faba var. minor)

Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)

Woollypod Vetch (Vicia villosa ssp. dasycarpa)

Vicia disperma

Vicia lathyroides

Plants of similar appearance:

Clover has trifoliate leaves


Pea has stipules about the same size as the leaflets

Lathyrus has a single pair of leaflets




Bodkin, F. (1986). Encyclopaedia Botanica. (Angus and Robertson, Australia).

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

Harden, Gwen J. (1991). Flora of NSW. (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney). Volume . P. Diagram.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO handbook of Australian Weeds. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #1049.13.

Moerkerk, M.R. and Barnett, A.G. (1998). More Crop Weeds. R.G. and F.J. Richardson, Melbourne. P102. Diagrams. Photos.


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