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Hairy Vetch has attractive flowers in long racemes, usually in off-shades of pink or blue. There are several Vicia spp. (Vetches) that occur in Illinois, although botanists disagree among themselves over the exact number. For example, several varieties of Hairy Vetch have been identified, but Mohlenbrock (2002) considers some of these varieties to be distinct species. Hairy Vetch can be distinguished from other vetches by the presence of spreading hairs on its stems, the large number of flowers on its racemes (5-20 pairs), and the shape of its calyx (lower teeth much longer than the upper teeth; a swollen base that protrudes behind the pedicel). Some vetches with a similar appearance to Hairy Vetch include Vicia cracca (Cow Vetch) and Vicia dasycarpa (Smooth Vetch). However, Cow Vetch is a perennial plant that has appressed hairs on its stems and the calyx of its flowers doesn't have a protruding swollen base. Smooth Vetch is virtually identical to Hairy Vetch, except that it is largely lacking in hairs of any kind. This latter species is sometimes considered a variety of Hairy Vetch.

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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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