Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Crown Vetch

The mowed fields are growing rapidly and I’m enjoying the opportunity to observe the growth without it being covered by dead stalks and leaves. I’m seeing a lot of plants that would normally be missed, some of which are not a pleasant sight. I found another invader adding its green to the landscape.

This is Crown Vetch, an invasive legume that has been commonly planted along the roadsides to help control erosion. This county had a program about 30 years ago that seeded many miles of roadside Crown Vetch. Unfortunately, the plant does not stay put, and has moved off the roadsides and across the adjoining fields. It can quickly eliminate competition through shading and will produce large, dense mats of vetch.

It’s odd how many of our most aggressive invasive plant species were once considered valuable conservation plants that any conscientious landowner would find a place for. Multiflora Rose, Autumn Olive, and Bush Honeysuckle were all widely distributed and recommended as conservation plants and are now categorized as noxious invasive species.

Roads are incredibly effective at allowing seed to move long distances and colonize new land. If you’ve ever coated your vehicle with dust from a gravel road, you know how easily something on the road surface can be attached to your car. Every time I pull off the side of a narrow road to allow an approaching car to get by, I wonder what I might be picking up in the tires to take home with me. Even the rush of air created by a passing car can move seeds along.

My fence does a good job of keeping out stray cows and 4-wheelers, but not plants. This road was not a part of the Crown Vetch planting program. An intersecting road was a program participant and is probably the source of my infestation. This is yet another plant I’m going to have to battle in order to protect the native plant population.


  1. It's frustrating, isn't it? We are being invaded by Purple Loosestrife and Angelica. Beautiful as they are, they are taking over. People love the purple loostrife and cut it for display or transplant it into their gardens. When I share it's story, they just blow me off and tell me they can control it in their yard:). In the meantime, I've waged ward against it on my property and the surrounding area, not that it does much good! ~karen

  2. The Crown-vetch here has seemed to have lessen but Autumn Olive has taken over fields that are not cut or maintained and Loosestrife is ramped on sides of the main highways!! Years back Bristle Locust was planted for erosion on the new highways--I loved it--- got some and planted it ---what a mistake that was I still mow over sprigs trying to come up to this day!!!

  3. Karen - I understand your frustration. I keep working at eliminating invasives, but I know the best I can ever hope for is temporary control. As I cut and spray, the neighbors wonder what I have against the pretty flowers. Explaining just reinforces their idea that I'm crazy, but probably not dangerous.

    grammie g - Thirty years ago, I helped plant Autumn Olive as part of a local Conservation District project. It makes me wonder how many acres are now contaminated because of my efforts.