Wood Vetch; Vicia sylvatica

I could vaguely remember having seen this vetch at some point in the past, it has quite stunning flowers and they are also quite large for the vetch group, so it is a flower you would remember. However where and when was not in my memory store and I also did not  have any photos on  my computer hard drive.

So I kept my eyes peeled but not with any success, thus  I resorted to the technique of consulting the archives of local Naturalist trusts and I found in the records of the Gwent Naturalist trust that Wood Vetch was to be found on the roadside banks along the road to the south of Tintern. As always that narrows it down but still it is several miles of roadside and bear in mind there are two sides to a road. However I was also looking for some Common Wintergreen and that was also in the records as growing under a beech tree at the bottom of the 365 steps a local beauty spot with a car park which is along this same road. So I was trying to kill two birds with one visit.

First I looked for the wintergreen and there are quite a few Beech trees growing in the region of the base of the 365 steps. I checked out most of them with no luck. Then I went hunting for the Wood Vetch, I wandered down the road in the Chepstow direction but found nothing nothing, I was checking both sides of the road, I decided to continue a little further, down to a bend in the road and almost at the end of my designated search area I came across some vetch. Not in flower but large dark green clumps of it. The leaves made up of quite a few leaflets and each leaflet with a little spine at its end. Also a tendril which branched at the end of each leaf. All good signs of it being Wood Vetch. This was back in April, I took some photographs of the plants with close ups of the leaves and these confirmed that it was indeed Wood Vetch.

I returned a few days ago ( beginning of June) and the plants had developed into quite impressive mounds, the stems seem to pile up on one another, there was nothing in the immediate vicinity for them to grow up and climb through, which I suspect they would have done if some bushes were growing close by.You can see in one of the photographs that the stems are twisting around one another and even around a very thin grass stem.

Just a few were flowering, most were in bud. The ones closest to the road and thus receiving most light were in bloom. The ones further back did have buds so in a few weeks time they will be in bloom and the area could look quite impressive.


I photographed some of them and as you can see they are large for the Vetch family also at first sight they are white but closer inspection shows subtle shades of light blue and then there are blue to purple lines running down through the main upright petal making it quite beautiful.

This is a perennial plant and you can buy seeds and potted plants of it from a few garden centers but I am surprised it is not more commonly available, with its shade tolerance and ability to climb up or scramble over rocks and dead trees, it is ideal for difficult area in a garden.

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