Now Blooming: Purple Vetch

Now blooming in several areas of the park, especially in the northeast quadrant, is this legume native to southern Europe and North Africa.  Known as Purple Vetch or Reddish Tufted Vetch, its Latin name is vicia benghalensis.  It’s easy to confuse with another plant commonly known as Purple Vetch, namely vicia americana, which has hairless flowers. The species pictured here has the hairy stems and flower parts characteristic of benghalensis.  (Some East Coast varieties are called Hairy Vetch.) Both vetches grow next to each other and sometimes intertwine at some points in the park.  As legumes, they help to fix nitrogen in the soil and are useful in agriculture when intelligently applied. Both may be grown as cover for burned or disturbed soils, such as construction sites.  The whole of Cesar Chavez Park is a former construction site, originally built as the municipal dump, and then covered over with clean dirt to make a park.

 

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