Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Vetches are vexing.

This image illustrates the issue. From artist and designer Henny Donovan, the stencil is called "Wild Vetch". Do you see? Wild Vetch ~ as if there was only one sort of vetch and "wild vetch" was its name and that was that.

Alas, I attended a guided tour of the wildflowers of Leighton Moss (Silverdale) a couple of Fridays ago and Iris (the guide) informed us otherwise. Why, within the space of several yards we came across at least two different vetches (tufted and bush). I hate when that happens.

On my subsequent walks, I resolved to try to figure out the difference. Which vetches had I been photographing? Remembering (incorrectly) that it had to do with the stems, perhaps the stems of one was hairy and the other smooth, I examined vetch after vetch. The damn things all looked the same to me. I plucked them up and brought samples home for further scrutiny. Again, the damn things all looked the same. I tried to match the samples against the illustrations in my reference texts. They all looked the same. I honestly couldn't tell what sort of vetches those d... well, you see now why I found them vexing.

Side-by-side comparison with Tufted Vetch on the left and Bush Vetch on the right

Side-by-side comparison

THEN, Cooper (our Norfolk Terrier) insisted on travelling in a different direction one day and LOW AND BEHOLD! a vetch. A different vetch! I mean different from all the vetches that I've been examining so closely.

I thought I'd pee my pants.

So I gathered up more specimens and carted them all home and here we can quite clearly see the Tufted Vetch on the left and the Bush Vetch on the right.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium)
Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium)
Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium)

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