Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest
American vetch is a drought tolerant climbing vine excellent for sunny and partially shady locations. It is a common plant in the Pacific Northwest. You can quite often see it at the ocean beaches. Vetch often can be found growing amongst other tall flowers and grasses. It will support itself using tall grasses such as rye and other types of sedge’s.
American vetch is a native perennial climbing vine that grows to approximately 60 cm tall. Each plant has a single stem. Tendrils emerge from the end of the multiple leaflets to help secure the plant to the climbing structure.
The purple flowers, which are gathered together in flower stalks of up to 10 flowers, appear in late spring and give way to 2.5 to 4 cm pods about one month after flowering. Each pod contains two or more brown seeds.
A poultice of the leaves can be used to treat spider bites, an infusion of the plant has been used as eyewash and an infusion of the tops has been used as a wash in sweat houses. First peoples would get horses to ingest smoke from burning the plant to increase the horses’ endurance. American vetch is an excellent grazing and fodder plant for game birds, small mammals, black bear and black tail deer. Horses, sheep, and cattle will browse on the aerial portions of American vetch.
Growing in disturbed sites it can be planted to help restore roadsides, former mine sites and disturbed range lands. Use this plant as a native alternative in landscaping.
It can be found growing from the western arctic south to Texas, the only place it can not be found is the far southeast of the states and the eastern arctic.