Vicia villosa subsp. varia

Scientific name

Vicia villosa Roth subsp. varia (Host) Corb.

This is one of four subspecies of Vicia villosa, ssp. eriocarpa, ssp. pseudocracca, ssp. varia and ssp. villosa.


Vicia dasycarpa Ten.
Vicia villosa Roth subsp. varia (Host) Corb.
Vicia villosa Roth subsp. dasycarpa (Ten.) Cavill.


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Fabeae. Also placed in: Papilionaceae

Common names

Belorussia: garoshak kasmaty
China: chang rou mao ye wan dou, mao er tiao zi, mao tiao cai, mao ye tiao zi, rong jia ye wan dou
Denmark: glat vikke
English: cardyne vetch, Corbière hairy vetch, fodder vetch, hairy vetch, lana vetch, smooth vetch, sand vetch, thick fruited vetch, winter vetch, woollypod vetch, woolly vetch
Finland: ruisvirna
French: vesce de cerdage, vesce variable, vesce variée, vesce velue, vesce à gousses velues, vesce bigarrée
Georgia: bandzhgvliani tzertzvela
Germany: zottel-wicke, bunte wicke
Italy: veccia vellutata
Japan: birodo-kusa-fuji
Poland: wyka
Russia: goroshek mokhnatyi, mazariche paroasa
Spanish: arvejilla menuda, veza velluda
Switzerland: luddvicker

Morphological description

Herbaceous, self-regenerating, cool season annual (rarely biennial), prostrate when young, 30 - 70 cm deep in mature sward, scrambling and climbing to 1.2 m on vegetation scaffold.  Shallow taproot system with strong lateral branches.  Stems finely ridged, pubescent, to 2 m long.  Leaves pinnate, with branched terminal tendril.  Leaflets hairy, usually 12 - 16 (- 20), alternate to nearly opposite, narrowly oblong, obtuse and mucronate, 10 - 25 mm long, (2 - ) 4 - 6 (- 8) mm wide, petiolule 1 - 2 mm long; stipules with narrow basal lobes.  Raceme 7 cm long on peduncle 6 cm long, axillary, dense, (5 -) 10 - 25 (- 30)-flowered, secund, pubescent in the bud.  Flowers (10 -) 12 - 15 (- 18) mm long; calyx irregular, the tube 2.0-4.0 mm long, gibbous at the base on the upper side, the pedicel inserted ventrally, the lower teeth linear-acicular, about 2 mm long; corolla purplish pink, standard and wings light purple (sometimes pink or white), keel pale pink to white with a dark purple spot at the tip.  Pod oblong-rhomboidal, 20 - 30 mm long, 7 - 10 mm broad, beaked, covered with fine appressed hairs; fawn coloured and mostly dehiscent when mature (indehiscent types being selected); (2 -) 3 - 5( - 8) seeds.  Seeds globular to compressed globular, 3-5 mm in diameter, blackish brown with obscure mottling; hilum 1 - 2 mm long, not prominent.  18,000 - 28,000 seeds/kg.


Africa: Algeria, Canary Islands, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia
Asia: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Russian Federation (Checheno-Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, Krasnodar, North Ossetia, Stavropol), Syria, Turkey
Europe: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France (incl. Corsica), Germany, Greece (incl. Crete), Krym, Lithuania, Hungary, Italy (incl. Sardinia, Sicily), Portugal, Romania, Spain (incl. Baleares), Switzerland, Ukraine.

Found in bushland & thicket, disturbed upland areas; also in cultivated fields, waste places, and roadsides, most abundant in sandy soils.

Widely naturalised in Mediterranean, temperate and subtropical regions.


Used as a grazing or conserved fodder (hay/silage) crop, a green manure, or ground cover in vines and orchards.  Not suitable for grain due to low seed yields and seed toxicity.  It reputedly has allelopathic properties that help suppress weeds.


Soil requirements

Adapted to well-drained sands to heavy clays with pH from (5.0 -) 6.0 - 7.0 (- 8.0).  Although tolerant of acid/low fertility conditions, it is intolerant of high levels of exchangeable aluminium, and performs best in near neutral soils of at least moderate fertility.  It has some degree of salt tolerance.  The species regenerates well except on bare, hard-setting soil surfaces.



Grown in areas with average annual rainfall (350 - ) 500 - 700 (- 1,000) mm, often where clovers and medics do not do well.  Has moderate drought tolerance, and does not tolerate waterlogging.


Found naturally at altitudes from 0 to 3,000 m ASL, and between about 30° and 50° N.  It has been successfully grown elsewhere in areas with 24 hr average temperature as low as 8.4° C (S.D. 1.3) (Bolivia, 18° 48' S, 3,900 m ASL) and up to 19.4° C (S.D. 4.2) (Australia 29° 40' S, 70 m ASL).  In warmer climates, it produces most of its growth in autumn, winter and spring.  However, it is fairly dormant over winter in colder climates, but can survive freezing conditions for days.


Moderate shade tolerance.

Reproductive development

It is a self-fertile species.  In temperate areas, plants flower from late spring to mid-summer, commencing and finishing earlier in the subtropics, with some variation among cultivars.  Flowering behaviour in the high altitude tropics appears to be somewhat controlled by wet season onset.
In the high Andes of Bolivia, it was able to flower and set seed in five months.


The stand should not be cut or grazed before commencement of branching, since early defoliation can kill young plants.  The general recommendation is to graze from about the 10 - 15-node stage through to flowering.  Grazing later than this can cause poisoning problems, even death, of the grazing animal.  If the legume is to be used as a self regenerating annual, it must be managed to facilitate seed set.  This means avoiding or reducing grazing from flowering onwards, particularly in the first year, in order to build up a seed reserve in the soil.  It is very tolerant of mowing, providing it is cut no lower than 12 - 15 cm, and not within two months of seed set.  It is best cut in full bloom for hay production.  Leaves and stems dry rapidly and swaths can usually be gathered within a day or two if weather is suitable.



Not applicable.



In cooler areas, V. villosa ssp. dasycarpa is best sown in autumn so young plants are well established before the onset of extreme cold.  In warmer environments, it should be sown once the heat of the warm season declines, perhaps late autumn-early winter.  In intermediate environments, it can be sown year round providing moisture is available.  In very high altitude tropics (say >2,000 m), where temperatures are suitable year round for growth of this species, it is best to sow immediately prior to the beginning of the wet season.  Most varieties have high levels of hard seed, making some type of scarification necessary in hand-harvested seed.  Seed should be inoculated with pea/vetch inoculum such as Rhizobium leguminosarum strain SU303 used in Australia.  Recommended sowing rates vary significantly, from (6 -) 10 - 15 (- 30) kg/ha when sown alone, and 4 -8 kg/ha in mixtures.  Heavier sowing rates are suggested for broadcast ((15 -) 30 - 60 kg/ha) over drilling (10 - 30 kg/ha).  Seed is sown at 1 - 3 cm depth, with shallower sowings in clay soils and deeper sowings in sandy soils.  Broadcast sowings should be harrowed or lightly disced after planting.  Seedlings are initially slow to develop.


Annual applications of 10 - 15kg/ha of phosphorus help maintain soil P levels in more fertile soils, but rates up to 50 kg may be needed on calcareous or ironstone soils, or other soils with inherently low available P levels. Deficiency of sulphur and trace elements can be indicated from foliar symptoms or soil tests if available.

Compatibility (with other species)

Compatibility with other species may be somewhat compromised by its reputed allelopathic properties, which have the advantage of suppressing weeds, but may also suppress beneficial species.

Companion species


Grasses: Avena sativa, Digitaria eriantha, Lolium multiflorum, Panicum coloratum, Phalaris aquatic, Setaria incrassata.

Legumes: other Vicia spp., Medicago spp.

Pests and diseases

Vicia villosa ssp. varia is mostly tolerant of or resistant to arthropod pests and the various diseases afflicting other cool season legumes.  The only pests to cause much harm are heliothis budworm (Helicoverpa punctigera, Lepidoptera : Noctuidae), lucerne seed web moth (Etiella behrii, Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) and cowpea aphid (Aphis craccivora, Homoptera: Aphidae).  Lucerne flea (Sminthurus viridis, Collembola: Sminthuridae) can be a pest in young plants.  Reports on susceptibility to bluegreen aphid (Acyrthosiphon kondoi) vary.  It is resistant to spotted alfalfa aphid (Therioaphis trifolii f. maculata) and pea weevil (Sitona lineatus Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and tolerant of red-legged earth mite (Halotydeus destructor, Acari: Tydaeidae).
Root rots of seedlings caused by various soil borne fungi can cause poor emergence and reduced establishment of the crop, especially under cold and wet conditions.  Some genotypes are resistant to a number of diseases that afflict other Vicia spp.: chocolate spot/botrytis (Botrytis viciae), rust (Uromyces vicia-fabae) and Ascochyta (Ascochyta fabae), although botrytis can still affect stands during very wet weather.  It can be a host of Sclerotinia minor, which causes disease in subsequent alternative crops.  Resistance to rootknot (Meloidogyne spp.) and cyst (Heterodera spp.) nematodes is present , but not universal in the species.

Ability to spread

Seeds are large and not readily dispersed, other than ballistically as seedpods dry and dehisce.

Weed potential

It is primarily a weed of disturbed sites, which can include grain crops following a green manure crop of the legume.  It is important to plough the green manure in before seed maturity to avoid this problem.

Feeding value

Nutritive value


Crude protein levels of the tops range from about 20% - 30%.  IVDMD at pre-flowering has been measured at 82%, NDF at 32%, ADF at 27%.


It is generally considered unpalatable to cattle in the early stages of growth or on first exposure to the plant, but is often well-eaten by sheep at any stage.  Cattle may take a few days to accept it.


Vegetative material is generally considered safe for ruminant consumption, but there are many references to poisoning in cattle, pigs and poultry from eating seeds of V. villosa ssp. varia.  Seed contains various toxic principles, including high quantities (> 2.0 percent) of canavanine, which can reduce feed intake of pigs.  Symptoms in cattle include ill-thrift, dermatitis and diarrhoea.  Although mortality has been observed in cattle grazing green crops, it predominantly occurs during seed formation.  Notwithstanding, the species is still widely valued as a fodder for ruminants.  Incidence of bloat is rare.

Production potential

Dry matter

V. villosa ssp. varia has higher dry matter production than V.sativa.  DM yields of >3 t/ ha have been achieved at 18 weeks and >6 t/ha at 24 weeks, and annual yields of up to 12 t/ha.

Animal production


No information


2n = 14.  V. villosa ssp. varia is an out-crossing but self-fertile species.  Therefore, regeneration of particular genotypes requires the use of procedures that provide isolation from foreign pollen.

Seed production

V. villosa ssp. varia has lower grain yield than Vicia sativa.  Pre-emergent chemicals are available for control of grasses and some broadleaf weeds in seed crops, but there is no satisfactory chemical for post-emergent broadleaf control.  Crops can be grazed lightly during autumn and winter, but stock must be removed as soon as flowers appear.  Seed crops can be harvested by hand or using conventional open-front headers with crop-lifters, but seed is likely to shatter if harvesting is delayed.  Harvest the seed as soon as the plants, pods and seeds are dry enough to thresh.  Hand-harvesting is best carried out in the morning before pods dry in the heat of the day.  A live trellis such as Avena sativa sown at 10 - 15 kg seed/ha can facilitate harvest by lifting the otherwise prostrate crop.  Seed yields of over 1 t/ha have been recorded, but commercial seed crops yield are mostly of the order of (150 -) 300 - 600 kg/ha seed.  Insect damage and difficulties in harvesting tend to reduce yields.  Hard seed content in most cultivars is often >80%.

Herbicide effects

V. villosa is susceptible to cloransulam-methyl, flumetsulam, diclosulam, S-metolachlor, and 2,4-D amine, but fairly tolerant of other pre-plant incorporated or pre-emergence herbicides including benefin, diclofop-methyl, imazamox, imazaquin, imazethapyr, pendimethalin, S-ethyl dipropylthiocarbamate, and trifluralin.  Susceptible to post-emergence chemicals, glyphosate, paraquat and diquat, as well as to most broad-leaf herbicides used in cereal crops.


  • Adapted to acid/low fertility soils
  • High nutritive value
  • Good pioneer species 
  • Long growing season.
  • Low bloat risk in cattle
  • Good for soil improvement
  • Ease of establishment



  • Poor palatability, especially when young
  • Slow winter growth
  • Susceptible to heavy grazing pressure at establishment and in the spring.
  • Potential weed of winter crops
  • Seed toxicity
  • Allelopathic (can also be an advantage)

Other comments

V. villosa ssp. varia can stimulate germination of the hemi-parasitic Orobanche, without itself being parasitised.  This characteristic can be put to good effect in reducing populations of the parasite in cropping areas.

Selected references

Coraglio, J.C., Vieyra, C.A. y Nienstedt, E.F. (2001) Obtention of the "Tolse F.C.A." cultivar of the Vicia dasycarpa (Ten.). Agriscientia XVIII, 59 - 62.
Hakyemez, H., Altinok, S. and Sevimay, C.S. (1997)Adaptation of woolypod vetch (Vicia villosa ssp. dasycarpa (Ten.) Cav.) lines under Ankara conditions. Ankara University Faculty of Agriculture Journal of Agricultural Sciences 3, 1 - 5.
Hollowell, E.A. (1960) Registration of Varieties and Strains of Vetch (Vicia spp.). Agronomy Journal, 52, 407.
Kernick, M.D. (1978) Indigenous arid and semiarid forage plants of North Africa, the Near and the Middle-East. FAO Technical Data Vol. IV. Rome. pp 521 - 568.
Peet, R.L. and Gardner, J.J. (1986) Poisoning of cattle by hairy or woolly-pod vetch, Vicia villosa subspecies dasycarpa. Australian Veterinary Journal 63, 353 - 388.
Sims, B.G. and Rodríguez F. y (2001) Forage production and erosion control as a complement to hillside weed management.  International Workshop on Integrated Management for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) Cali, Colombia 28-31 August 2001.

Internet links



Country/date released


Auburn USA 1959 Selected and developed by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station as a forage and cover crop.
CapelloA Australia 1998 An early maturing, soft-seeded cultivar, bred through induced mutation of germinating seed of 'Namoi' using EMS (ethylmethane sulphonate), followed by recurrent mass selection.  In each cycle, spaced plants were selected for vegetative production, flowering time, seed yield and percentage soft seed.  The seed parent had 80% hard seed while 'Capello' had 80% - 90% soft seeds, making it more suitable for short-term cropping rotations.  The low percentage of hard seed reduces the likelihood of volunteer plants causing weed problems several years after use in the rotation.  Outcrossing has reduced the level of soft-seededness.
Haymaker Plus A Australia 1998 An early maturing, free-seeding cultivar, bred through recurrent mass selection of 'Namoi'; also selected for strong vegetative growth.  'Haymaker Plus' is distinguished from its seed parent by its earlier and uniform flowering, and higher seed yield.
Kuhak-96 (Couhak?) Pakistan 1997 Selected from ICARDA germplasm, IFLVD-683, to be sufficiently cold tolerant for autumn sowing and productive in the arid highlands of Balochistan.  It grows slowly in the autumn, which enabled it to survive extreme cold, and given warm spring temperatures and adequate precipitation, proved a highly productive forage crop, producing 8.3 t/ha of dry matter and 1.1 t/ha of seed.
Lana USA 1956 Composite of three elite lines selected from PI 117430 from Adana, Turkey (37° 1' N, 20 m ASL, AAR 648 mm).  It is an early-maturing variety (about 1 week earlier than 'Auburn'), with good seedling vigour and rapid growth.  Selected and developed by the SCS Plant Materials Center, USDA, in cooperation with the Agronomy Department of UC, Davis for rangeland use in California, and now used in other states including Hawai'i.
Namoi Australia 1972 Derived from CPI 15095, introduced from Izmir, Turkey, and selected in Western Australia from other lines of V. villosa ssp. dasycarpa for early maturity, general vigour, and high seed production.
Oregon USA No information
Tolse F.C.A Argentina 2001 Selected in Córdoba Province from R.I.-250 from USDA, for drought and cold tolerance, vigour, growth period, insect and disease tolerance, and larger seed size.

A  Denotes that this variety is protected by Plant Breeder's Rights.

Promising accessions


Promising accessions



None reported.